Two years after the hazing death of a fraternity pledge, Florida State University President John Thrasher said Thursday a “major culture shift is underway” as a result of university policies and a new state anti-hazing law.
“Our efforts are working. Students and parents are more educated about what constitutes hazing and are more likely to report incidents … and police and prosecutors now have stronger laws to enforce,” Thrasher told the Capital Tiger Bay Club in Tallahassee.
The tougher anti-hazing law was approved by Florida lawmakers this spring and went into effect in October.
FSU officials and the parents of Andrew Coffey, a Pi Kappa Phi pledge who was found dead after an alcohol-filled party in November 2017, played a key role in passing the legislation (SB 1080) --- known as “Andrew’s Law.”
Under the law, prosecutors can pursue third-degree felony charges against people who plan or recruit others to participate in hazing incidents that result in permanent or serious injuries or death. People can receive immunity if they call 911 or campus security to report the need for medical assistance during hazing incidents.
Thrasher, a former state House speaker and senator, said Andrew’s Law has “definitely made a big difference” on campus. But he could not say with certainty if the new law has been applied to any specific incidents at the university.
“I’d have to ask the state attorney,” he told reporters. “I think he has a couple of those incidents under investigation, so I am not privy to talk about it.”
What he appeared to know for sure is that the culture is changing on campus.
After’s Coffey’s death, the university temporarily suspended all Greek life and considered reforms to combat dangerous drinking.
“The suspension gave us time to develop new policies and procedures and in support of what I believe is a healthier, safer environment for our university,” Thrasher said, while also giving credit to national fraternity organizations for acting against hazing.
Thrasher, however, acknowledged fraternity misconduct continues to be a challenge for the university. He pointed to recent news articles, noting the suspensions of a fraternity and a sorority at FSU.
The Tallahassee Democrat newspaper reported the separate suspensions of Delta Tau Delta Fraternity and Theta Nu Xi Multicultural Sorority due to hazing-related incidents. The Democrat reported that Delta Tau Delta was suspended by its national office, while Theta Nu Xi was suspended by the university.
Thrasher acknowledged the reports and argued a “major culture shift is underway” and that efforts to continue combating misconduct need to be “incremental” to work.
“As long as I am president, FSU will be unyielding in our efforts to punish those who cannot abide by the rules and do not put the health and the safety of their members and pledges first,” Thrasher said.
“If they are about service, and philanthropy and fellowship, they will survive. It is that simple,” he added.