Student's death highlights drunker side of Temple's Spring Fling

Posted: April 19, 2013

BERKS STREET near 16th, just west of Temple's main campus, looked hungover Thursday afternoon.

Abandoned plastic cups dotted its sparse lawns and a cracked Keystone Light cup leaned against Carver High School's fence. A lonely, half-full cup of beer sat forgotten on a windowsill on 17th Street, next to a trash can full of bottles.

It was a sobering morning-after, as the neighborhood, booming with off-campus housing, recovered from a Temple Spring Fling that was marred by tragedy.

Ali Fausnaught, 19, a freshman at West Chester University and native of Brownstown, Lancaster County, plunged three stories to her death Wednesday afternoon at a house party on 18th Street. She had been visiting her boyfriend, a Temple student, during the university-sponsored event, which brings hundreds of vendors, games, and giveaways to the North Philadelphia campus each spring.

But for most students, the real celebration happens just a few blocks west, where off-campus house parties and alcohol are synonymous with the annual festivities.

"It's basically an excuse to party," said junior Jake O'Hara, of Carlisle Street near Norris.

He was echoed by many of his fellow students, who said that any Temple student knows that Spring Fling isn't about the bounce houses and freebies strung along Liacouras Walk.

"I'm pretty sure everyone can agree that it gets a little crazy and out of hand," said junior Anna Kulczyki, 21, on Norris Street. "Everybody wants to be in the spring-fling spirit, but at the same time, they go a little overboard. There were a lot of rooftop parties."

These rooftop hangouts are a new trend, said students throughout the neighborhood. With binge drinking and little space, off-limits roof tops offer prime locations.

But, as in Fausnaught's case, these locations can easily turn from fun to fatal. Police sources told the Inquirer that the partygoers had used a ladder to access the roof through a skylight. Alcohol was present at the party, but police have not said if Fausnaught was drinking. She was posing for a picture when she tripped at the roof's ledge, the paper reported.

Students report that her plunge was not the first.

"We saw a guy fall off a roof probably like two months ago," said Alex McKinley, 21, of Norris near 20th. "Same height as [Fausnaught], but he didn't die."

"We knew someone from a frat who did the exact same thing," a friend chimed in.

As Fausnaught's death brings some of the less-official Spring Fling celebrations to light, Temple's Dean of Students, Stephanie Ives, said that the administration is taking it into account.

"We are very concerned about high-risk drinking whenever and wherever it occurs, and are constantly evaluating the benefit and impact of all programming on campus," she said in a statement.

- Staff writers Morgan Zalot

and Dana DiFilippo

contributed to this report.

On Twitter: @AliMarieWatkins

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