With classes starting at George Mason University (GMU) in less than a week, a Virginia mother often thinks about her son’s friends beginning their junior year without him.
Parents of the late GMU student Tristan Medina are speaking out against drug and alcohol culture at universities after their son died after taking a drug last year.
Medina was just beginning his sophomore year when he ran and crashed through a dorm building window at the Fairfax County campus after taking LSD. He had purchased the drug from Alejandro Porrata, a member of his fraternity, Sigma Alpha Epsilon.
“When you lose a child, there’s triggers. There’s certain emotions, and it’s just a roller coaster of grief,” said Jill Medina, Medina’s mother.
A judge sentenced Porrata to three years in prison for selling Tristan the drugs.
“I can hear Tristan’s voice say ‘Mom, you just need to forgive him. He made a mistake, just like I did. If you can forgive me, then you need to forgive him,” Jill Medina said.
Both parents said they believe more needs to be done to change college culture.
“My son did not create this culture, he walked into it,” Tristan’s father, Bernhard Medina, said. “They’re looking for friends. They walk into a culture like this and they become easy prey.”
Jill Medina wrote a personal message on Facebook for students and their parents, telling them to "think before you act.” She said that peer pressure among youth is rampant.
"I want them to hear Tristan’s story,” Jill said. “You see all these other people doing all this stuff without consequences, so ‘Hey, why can’t I do it? One time’s not going to hurt.' Well, Tristan’s one time did hurt. He lost his life.”
Tristan’s parents still want more details on what that led to their son’s death, but his cellphone, laptop and wallet still remain in GMU police custody.
His parents said they wondered what the university is doing to prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future.
“I think George Mason needs to step up and answer some of those things that we don’t know,” Bernhard Medina said.
A GMU spokesman said several people from the university have reached out to the Medinas, including the police chief.
The school said in a statement that the school takes enforcement of drug and alcohol policies very seriously:
"George Mason University has clear policies regarding alcohol and drug use on campus and takes enforcement of these policies very seriously. Students who violate these policies will face severe consequences, including criminal charges. The former student who was convicted of dealing drugs in relation to this incident was sentenced to three years in prison.
The court file on the criminal case, which was sealed during the investigation, is now public. The university cannot release documents that include information about students because those are protected under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) (20 U.S.C. § 1232g; 34 CFR Part 99), the Federal law that protects the privacy of student education records.
The university police department is still in possession of Tristan Medina’s computer and cell phone, as they are evidence and there is still the possibility of an appeal in the criminal case."
But Medina's parents want action more than they want words.
“My son is gone,” Bernhard Medina said. “At this point, I just don’t want anything like this to happen again.”