Florida State just banned all Greek life activities, signalling a mounting problem with fraternities and sororities

Penn StateJeff Swensen/Getty ImagesFlorida State, Penn State, and LSU all suspended Greek organisations in 2017.
  • Florida State has indefinitely suspended the school’s 55 fraternities and sororities following the death of a pledge.
  • In a separate incident, a student was charged for the sale and trafficking of cocaine.
  • Many colleges and universities are grappling with hazing deaths, and seeking solutions to tamp down on abuse.

Florida State University indefinitely suspended the activities of all Greek organisations Monday following the death of a pledge and a separate arrest of a fraternity member on charges of drug trafficking.

Andrew Coffey, a Pi Kappa Phi pledge, died last Friday, and Garrett John Marcy, a Phi Delta Theta brother, was charged on Monday with the sale and trafficking of cocaine in an unrelated incident.

Florida State’s president, John E. Thrasher, suspended the school’s 55 fraternities and sororities, citing the need for a culture change at the school.

“The message is not getting through,” Thrasher said at a news conference, The New York Times reported. “There must be a new culture, and our students must be full participants in creating it.”

The suspension of all Greek organisations continues a trend among university officials following a suspected hazing death.

After the February hazing death of Penn State sophomore Timothy Piazza, 19, university officials suspended fraternities and sororities from holding social activities during the spring semester. The Penn State Board of Trustees also passed a package of new rules designed to change fraternity and sorority culture.

But by October, there had already been another suspected incident of related to fraternity social activities when police found a student unconscious
near the Delta Tau Delta house. The student had allegedly been drinking at the Delta Tau Delta house. The university has since suspended the fraternity.

And in September, Louisiana State University freshman Maxwell Gruver, 18, died after participating in a fraternity hazing game where he had to drink alcohol when he answered a question incorrectly.

LSU issued a one-month suspension on all Greek life. It lifted the ban in October, before reinstating it after discomfort from the LSU community that the ban had been lifted too soon.

In these instances, there seems to be a familiar playbook that colleges call on to reform the culture on campus. They institute a period of suspension, while Greek organisations recommit to following school policies against hazing. But after a period of time, similar activities creep back onto campuses. It’s a trend that John Hechinger wrote about in “True Gentlemen,” which looked into the history of American fraternities.

Hechinger noted that permanently banning Greek organisations on college campuses has worked in some instances.

“It is a simple and elegant solution that has succeeded at a handful of private campuses with the commitment and wealth to offer genuine social alternatives,” Hechinger wrote. But at public universities — like Florida State, Penn State, and LSU — a permanent ban on Greek life is much less likely.

“Public universities — governed by the First Amendment — would no doubt be barred from restricting the right to freedom of association,” Hechinger wrote.

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