Greek life remains massive at huge schools such as Florida State University. But lately, Greek life seems to generate nothing but nightmares for the institutions. The latest terrible frat-related headlines came three days ago in Tallahassee, where Andrew Coffey, a 20-year-old Pi Kappa Phi fraternity pledge from Pompano Beach, died at a frat party, likely after drinking himself into a stupor.
Now, FSU President John Thrasher has taken an extraordinary step: banning all fraternities and sororities from campus. According to a news release Thrasher and the school sent out today, the school's massive Greek apparatus has been suspended "indefinitely" from FSU.
Thrasher mentions that Greek organizations might one day return to the school. But the university maintains that frats would need to undergo massive institutional change to be allowed back into university life, and the school will face pressure from women who've been raped and assaulted at frat parties (and the parents of frat brothers who've died of alcohol poisoning) to kill the organizations for good.
“For this suspension to end, there will need to be a new normal for Greek life at the university,” Thrasher said today. “There must be a new culture, and our students must be full participants in creating it.”
Oddly, his statement today centered on only high-risk drinking at FSU
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Until today, FSU had the largest Greek population in the state, with 5,800 members (compared to 5,200 at the University of Florida.) Thrasher, a former GOP state senator, is himself an FSU alum who pledged to the school's Sigma Phi Epsilon chapter.
Complete fraternity bans have been debated for years. As more women have come forward with tales of sexual assault and harassment, many activists, celebrities, and former frat brothers have called the Greek system outdated, useless, and an incubator for binge-drinking and sexual assault. Even actor and frat-bro hero Will Ferrell, who rose to fame by playing a frat member who never grows up in Old School, has since called for Greek life to be abolished.
FSU officials certainly aren't happy to have yet another dead student on their hands. Earlier this fall, Pennsylvania State University came under the microscope after profiles in the Atlantic and Time magazines explained in harrowing detail how that school's Greek system failed Tim Piazza, a frat pledge who
Details are still emerging about Coffey's death. According to the Tallahassee Democrat, the FSU civil-engineering student was found "unresponsive" in an off-campus home just before 10:30 a.m. Friday. Police believe alcohol likely played a role in his death. The fraternity has been punished for hazing and alcohol violations multiple times in the past five years, and neighbors reported seeing a raucous party occurring at the home the previous night.
Police have reportedly interviewed more than 50 people already.