Tampa Bay colleges have reputation for party culture, Eckerd College now facing lawsuit

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) – Parents have filed a lawsuit against Eckerd College more than a year after their daughter’s fatal fall from a theater ladder the morning of her graduation.

Rebecca Lavin-Burgher’s mother, Elaine Marie Burgher, claims in the lawsuit that school officials should have known “that after ingesting alcohol and/or drugs, students regularly accessed the rooftops of the buildings on campus.”

According to witnesses, Lavin-Burgher ingested alcohol, cocaine and marijuana prior to her fall.

While Eckerd College may have a reputation for fostering a party environment, other institutions in the Tampa Bay area have seen their share of arrests.

8 On Your Side dug into annual campus safety reports of colleges around the Tampa Bay area.

The data in the annual reports only reflects interactions between campus security or the on-campus safety and law enforcement.

Although some higher-education institutions had no reported issues, some schools – such as the University of Tampa – saw hundreds of drug and alcohol violations and referrals over the last year.

The University of South Florida also reported numbers in the hundreds for drug and alcohol violations and referrals in 2018, reporting a total of 184.

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2019 drug and alcohol reports from local colleges

Source: Annual Safety and Fire reports

Eckerd College’s drug violations have decreased steadily over the last few years, starting at 145 reported violations in 2016, and falling to 87 in 2018.

Despite that decrease, the lawsuit cites Eckerd’s ranking by The Princeton Review as No. 4 for “Reefer Madness.” The suit also mentions the school’s ranking “America’s 12th Druggiest College” in 2011 by The Daily Beast.

It alleges that the college “created a culture of drinking and drugs” and asks for a trial and damages upwards of $15,000.


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