Texas Tech and Lubbock police are investigating whether Tech students consumed alcohol on the way back from a petroleum engineering field trip Oct. 22 following a fatal accident involving one of the students that day.
Jeena Elizabeth Roberts, 21, a petroleum engineering major, was arrested Oct. 22 for intoxicated manslaughter and intoxicated assault, according to a Lubbock Police Department offense report.
According to the report, Linda Smaltz, 54, was killed in the accident at 400 Marsha Sharp Freeway.
Sgt. John Hayes of the Lubbock Police Department said Roberts told authorities she had been drinking on a bus on the way back from a class field trip.
Roberts refused to identify the professor who allegedly allowed the drinking when reached by phone late Wednesday.
A student who was on the field trip said the professor in question is Marshall Watson. Watson is an assistant professor in the petroleum engineering department at Tech.
The student, who asked to remain anonymous, said Roberts was not the only student drinking alcohol on the trip but would not confirm if Watson knew about the drinking.
The field trip was for students in Watson’s natural gas engineering class.
E-mails and phone calls made to Watson on Wednesday were not returned. On Thursday, Watson declined to comment when he was spoken to outside of a classroom while he was on his way to his office. He did not deny he was on the field trip or that he allowed alcohol consumption by students.
The alleged drinking that occurred on the bus was not illegal, Hayes said, and it is unlikely the professor on the trip will be charged criminally at this point. However, it is unsure whether the professor will be disciplined by Tech.
Chris Cook, Tech director of communications, said he could not comment about any facet of the field trip, including potential punishment for any professor who allowed alcohol consumption, because it is the subject of a police investigation.
Jon Strauss, interim dean of the Edward E. Whitacre Jr. College of Engineering, said he could not comment about the situation, either. He did not deny Watson’s involvement, but he said, “This is a really serious problem.”
Javad Hashemi, interim director of the department of petroleum engineering, said in a prepared statement it would be inappropriate to comment at this time. He did not deny Watson’s involvement.
Roberts did not wish to comment further. Intoxicated manslaughter is a second-degree felony with the potential for two to 20 years in prison, and intoxicated assault is a third-degree felony, with a potential penalty of two to 10 years in prison, Hayes said.
Watson received his Ph.D. from Tech in petroleum engineering.