Florida State suspends all sororities and fraternities following death of student

Andrew Coffey
Posted at 3:30 PM, Nov 06, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-06 11:04:19-05

TALLAHASSEE, FL (WTXL/RNN) - Florida State University president John Thrasher announced the indefinite suspension of all fraternities and sororities at a news conference Monday after the death of a student three days ago.

The suspension is effective immediately and prevents the organizations from accepting new members.

Thrasher began the 2 p.m. ET news conference by expressing his condolences for the death of Andrew Coffee, 20, who was a pledge at Pi Kappa Phi fraternity.

"Losing a member of the Florida State University family is hard," Thrasher said. "There are no words to describe the pain that Andrew's family, and his friends, and certainly the FSU family are experiencing right now. Our heart goes out to them as they grieve."

Coffee was found unresponsive at an off-campus party on Friday morning. He died at the scene. Authorities are investigating if alcohol was a factor, but no cause of death has been determined.

Thrasher said the school administration is focused on making sure the campus is a safe place for students and believes that message is not getting through to them, so the school “needs to take a pause.”

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the student's family and friends," said Pi Kappa Phi Chief Executive Officer Mark E. Timmes. "We appreciate the partnership and support from the Division of Student Affairs during this difficult time."

Underaged drinking is not permitted at FSU, and WTXL reports that fraternities and sororities are educated on these guidelines.

Thrasher also banned alcohol at all student events, including those outside of the Greek community, which includes more than 700 organizations.

"There was no indication we were going to have a death," said Thrasher. "Now we know it can happen. Unfortunately, we've got to take steps with our stakeholders, who are our students, to make sure this never happens again."

Here is the news release from FSU:


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida State University President John Thrasher announced today he is imposing an indefinite interim suspension on all fraternities and sororities at FSU effective immediately.

The action follows the death three days ago of Andrew Coffey, a pledge at Pi Kappa Phi, who was found unresponsive after attending a party, and the arrest today in an unrelated case of Garrett John Marcy, 20, who was charged with the sale and trafficking of cocaine. Marcy is a member of Phi Delta Theta fraternity.

FSU has received national recognition for its innovative programs designed to curb high-risk behaviors. These model programs are emulated by other universities and aggressively encourage students to report incidents they think might be hazing. The university has dozens of programs that work with Greek organizations to educate them on the values they are expected to reflect, providing tools and resources to assist student leaders and advisors in effectively managing their organizations.

Thrasher has been an active participant in establishing expectations for FSU’s student organizations and holding them accountable. He has routinely held meetings with student leaders to discuss campus culture and clearly communicate the university’s expectations for student organizations.

But the president said this pause is needed to review and reflect on the loss of a young life.

“For this suspension to end, there will need to be a new normal for Greek Life at the university,” he said. “There must be a new culture, and our students must be full participants in creating it.”

Thrasher also instituted a ban on alcohol at all Recognized Student Organization events during the indefinite interim suspension. FSU has more than 700 such organizations outside of the Greek community.

In the coming weeks, the Division of Student Affairs will create and implement new measures in collaboration with students and other stakeholder groups, said Vice President for Student Affairs Amy Hecht. “To ensure the future of fraternity and sorority life, innovative practices will need to redefine our Greek community so that it positively contributes to the full well-being of students,” she said.

The timetable for lifting the suspension is up to the student community, Thrasher said.

“They must work with us and demonstrate they fully understand the serious obligation they have to exercise responsible conduct,” he said.

During the interim suspension, fraternity and sorority chapters will be prohibited from holding new member events, council or chapter meetings, chapter organized tailgates, chapter events such as socials, philanthropy, retreats, intramurals, organized participation in Market Wednesday and organized participation in Homecoming.

They will be allowed to remain as residents in their fraternity or sorority house and will have meal service. They can attend leadership classes, judicial and conduct hearings, and risk management education workshops offered by the university.

Failure to comply with the terms of the interim suspension could result in immediate disciplinary action.

“Like most universities, we worry about alcohol and drug abuse and other dangerous behaviors, and we are doing all we can to educate our students,” Thrasher said. “But all of our student organizations — Greek organizations and the other recognized student organizations on campus — must step up. They will have to participate in the solution.”

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