By: Elizabeth Klein
Florida State University has decided to suspend Greek life due to two recent incidents that occurred under the system. The first was the death of a student on campus last Friday. The 20-year-old Pi Kappa Phi pledge, Andrew Coffey, died at a party the night before, and police believe alcohol was involved. The second incident was the arrest of Garrett John Marcy, a member of Phi Delta Theta, for the sale and trafficking of cocaine. In response, the FSU president, John Thrasher, issued an indefinite suspension of the university’s 55 fraternities and sororities. In a press conference last week, he stated, “For this suspension to end, there will need to be a new normal for Greek life at the university. There must be a new culture, and our students must be full participants in creating it.”
FSU is not the first university to have problems with its Greek community. Alcohol abuse and hazing practices have always caused problems for colleges and their students. Each year on campuses nationwide, more than 1,700 students die of alcohol-related causes. This is especially prevalent in hazing practices, which often make new pledges perform dangerous tasks and drink fatal amounts of alcohol to gain admission to a fraternity or sorority. One recent example of this was the death of Timothy Piazza, a Beta Theta Pi pledge at Penn State. He, along with a group of other students, were forced to engage in numerous drinking-related hazing activities in the events leading up to his death. Over the course of the night, Piazza sustained multiple bruises and internal injuries from stumbling from intoxication and even falling down the stairs. As he became more and more intoxicated, members of the fraternity were indifferent, propping him up when he passed out but not calling 911. When Piazza awoke the next morning, he attempted to leave the frat house but fell, clutching his abdomen. The fraternity members walked past him, only stopping to post a picture of him on Snapchat. Not for five more hours did anyone call 911, and by then, Piazza had already sustained a fatal amount of internal injuries. He died the next day, and Penn State placed restrictions on its Greek life, banning Beta Theta Pi permanently.
Greek life also fosters a community that can become a source of sexual assault. Every year, about 97,000 college students between ages 18 and 24 claim to have experienced alcohol-related sexual assault or rape. These statistics are correlated with students’ participation in their university’s Greek community; researchers of fraternity culture ultimately agree that fraternities are not safe places for women, as fraternity members are three times more likely to commit rape than non-Greek students. Research shows that alcohol is a large risk factor in sexual assault, so it’s probable that a combination of excessive drinking and a fraternity culture of “male peer support” causes fraternity members to commit sexual assault at higher rates. The result of this is a rape-prone environment existing on college campuses, which endangers all students, both Greek and non-Greek. To combat this issue and the immoderate drinking problem within fraternities and sororities, schools like FSU and Penn State are choosing to eliminate their Greek community rather than continue to put their students in harm’s way.
While many students are upset to see their fraternities and sororities go, suspending Greek life might be the best option for universities. Until colleges know that fraternities and sororities can be safe places for their members, participators in Greek life must reevaluate the culture of their community. Whether or not other schools will follow FSU’s lead is unclear; however, it’s certain that changes must be made for Greek life to progress safely for all students.