FSU bans Greek life after death of fraternity pledge

Fraternity pledge Andrew Coffey was found dead Friday morning

By Corley Peel - Reporter, Jake Stofan - Tallahassee corespondent, News Service of Florida

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Florida State University imposed an indefinite ban Monday on all campus Greek life following the death of a 20-year-old fraternity pledge after an off-campus fraternity party.

The ban comes three days after the death of Andrew Coffey, a pledge at Pi Kappa Phi, who was found unresponsive Friday morning by officers answering a call to a home on Buena Vista Drive.

FSU President John Thrasher also announced a ban on alcohol at events run by the school's more than 700 recognized student organizations.

“Unfortunately, we have got to take steps in a serious manner with our partners and stakeholders and students to make sure it doesn't happen again," Thrasher said. "That's my pledge to our students, to their parents and, certainly, to this community.”

In announcing the suspension, Florida State also pointed to an unrelated case in which 20-year-old Garret Marcy, a member of Phi Delta Theta fraternity, was arrested on a drug-trafficking charge. 

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

The suspension of Greek activities will prevent fraternities and sororities from such things as holding events for new members, holding council or chapter meetings, holding organized tailgates and holding socials. Students who reside in sorority and fraternity houses can continue living there for now.

A news release said the timetable for ending the suspension was not clear, as the university's Division of Student Affairs works with students and other groups.

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

Coffey was found unconscious about 10 a.m. Friday after attending an off-campus fraternity party the night before. A cause of death has not yet been released.

While there are indications alcohol may have played a role in Coffey's death, investigators are still awaiting the results of an autopsy, Tallahassee Police Chief Michael DeLeo said Monday.

DeLeo said investigators have interviewed more than 50 people, and plan to interview more people.

On campus Monday night, fraternity and sorority members stayed tight-lipped about the suspension as many were told by their organizations not to talk to media.  

Students had mixed reaction to Thrasher's unprecedented decision. FSU student Alex Aull said he was shocked when he heard about the ban. 

“I thought it was kind of drastic because it was all of a sudden. But, obviously, it was a terrible incident that happened," Aull said. "I think it could happen to anyone in college, but I do think fraternities and sororities have a higher likelihood.”

Aull added that he hopes Greek students will be allowed to participate in school events again soon. 

But other students voiced support for the decision, saying the suspension on Greek life is needed.

“People are dying and once people are dying it becomes that much important," said FSU student Geranice Dorce, who is not a sorority member. “Changes need to happen and I just appreciate that President Thrasher is firm on this and hopefully that encourages people to implement a safer environment.”

Dorce said she hopes the suspension will be a change for the better for her fellow Seminoles.

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