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Colleges' Responsibility for Student Safety

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Kristine's Role in Her Sad Fate

Kristine indeed made a number of wrong decisions that evening, but when compared with the actions of others and the overall on goings that night, one can rightly conclude that Kristine acted prudently, as the State Police investigator said “Kristine was the least irresponsible of the group.”  One only needs to consider the relative caution that Kristine exhibited that night to conclude that with any sign of College intervention, Kristine would not have been placed in the position to make that final fatal decision, to go on the snowmobile.

Despite being among scores of heavily drinking students, post-mortem testing showed Kristine had minimal alcohol in her system, substantiating very limited use.  Although her traveling companions rode snowmobiles earlier in the evening, the fatal ride was her first ride and occurred only after she saw the others return from safe rides.   If she was at all anxious to ride, she would have been one of the first to ride at 4:30 a.m. not the last.  However, after witnessing seemingly safe rides and experiencing probable peer pressure, Kristine unfortunately overrode her better judgment, with fatal consequences.

Evidence of Kristine’s actions and expectations that weekend come from three sources: 1) facts included in the court record, 2) information derived from conversations with Kristine’s Pennsylvania traveling companions who were with her throughout the weekend and her friend from Simmons College who Kristine dined with on Friday evening, and 3) judgments of her parents based upon the overall facts available. 

Facts in the Court Record: In the volumes of documents resulting from the litigation process, very little relates to Kristine other the time immediately prior to accepting the snowmobile ride.  This is reflective of one reporter's reaction after reading the police reports that Kristine was not at the center of anything.  The facts in the related to the actions of Kristine are:

1)  Kristine likely engaged in a moderate consumption of alcohol to the extent she considered necessary to remain social.  Post-mortem tests showed that Kristine had a blood/alcohol level too low to place a measurement, confirming a conscious attempt to stay away from the excesses of that night, when one considers the extreme consumption portrayed by others in the testimony.

2) Although the Paul Smith's student from Pennsylvania who drove the snowmobile was legally intoxicated with a blood/alcohol level of 10.3, witness testimony stated that his overt intoxication was greatly diminished from earlier in the evening to the extent that the owner of snowmobile agreed to allow him to drive.

3)  At least two of Kristine's three traveling companions rode snowmobiles multiple times during the evening.  The third, Kristine's roommate may have also ridden that evening, but this was not confirmed.

4) Kristine was the last of the three traveling companions to accept a ride at 4:30a.m. after she saw the others return  with Joshua after what they testified to be short, safe rides.  One of the three testified that Joshua may have taken Kristine on a longer ride since she was to only one who had not previously ridden.

Information from discussions with friends: From Kristine's Simmons' friends, we learned how excited she was to reconnect with the friends she made in her freshman year at Simmons College in Boston (located near Northeastern where one of the Pennsylvania friends was to be picked up).  Also, from Kristine's roommate, we were told how Kristine and the roommate stayed together throughout Saturday night and Kristine's caution approach to the ongoing events.

Impressions of Parents:   The latter category consists of three overall impressions.

The first explains why Kristine was awake throughout the night to the point of following the group to the bonfire for those 4:30am rides.  From the time most children are young, they are told that when in a strange and/or crowded place, stick with someone you know.  Amanda told us how Kristine and she stuck together throughout the night, approaching the bonfire arm in arm, not certain whether the ice was melting.  With the remainder of the group deciding to go to the bonfire at 4:30am, Kristine likely would have preferred to stay in and sleep, but that would have been imprudent while at a unfamiliar, predominately male campus. 

The second is that going to Paul Smith’s was not the prime motivation for jointing her roommate that weekend, but rather the opportunity to visit her Simons College roommates in Boston during their first stop on Friday night to pick up a Pennsylvania friend. 

Finally, Kristine was most likely very reluctant to go on any snowmobile ride that evening as evidenced by not taking rides earlier in the evening like the other Pennsylvania traveling companions and being the last of the traveling companions to accept a ride, only after seeing the others return from safe rides.  

Unfortunately, we cannot ask Kristine whether these parental impressions are valid; however, they are more than justified by the overall court record and conversations with the Simmons’ friends and Pennsylvania traveling companion.

 

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In loving Memory of Kristine Guest