Florida State University lays down new law for fraternities and sororities

Florida State University announced Monday it's changing the way Greek organizations do business as ...

Posted: Jan 30, 2018 7:20 AM
Updated: Jan 30, 2018 7:20 AM

Florida State University announced Monday it's changing the way Greek organizations do business as nine men await prosecution in the death of Pi Kappa Phi fraternity pledge Andrew Coffey.

For now, a ban on booze -- not just at fraternity and sorority events, but at any social event held by the school's 700 recognized student groups -- remains in effect.

Rules come after students arrested in connection to hazing death, cocaine trafficking

Andrew Coffey died of acute alcohol poisoning at a fraternity event, police say

If student organizations comply with new regulations, FSU may allow social events later this semester, President James Thrasher said in announcing the new policies. Thrasher suspended Greek activities after Coffey's death.

Fraternity pledges who died in 2017

According to a grand jury presentment, Pi Kappa Phi was under a liquor ban -- meaning it could serve only beer and wine -- but pledges were told the ban was lifted for the November party and someone gave Coffey a bottle of high-proof bourbon.

Coffey died of acute alcohol poisoning, and at one point in the night had a blood-alcohol level of .558 -- almost seven times the .08 blood alcohol level that can bring a charge of driving under the influence in Florida for a person over age 21, an autopsy and tests on his body fluids showed.

Coffey's death isn't the only factor driving the changes in FSU's Greek life. Also in November, two fraternity members -- one of them a Pi Kappa Phi, according to local media -- were arrested on cocaine trafficking charges.

"I've said all along that in order for there to be real change on campus, students must be part of the solution. Our students are now beginning to fully understand the serious obligation they have to behave responsibly," Thrasher said in a statement.

Among the changes announced:

An online "scorecard" that allows people to report a variety of bad behavior, including hazing, stalking, vandalism, harassment, discrimination or drug or alcohol abuse. Hazing includes "forced or coerced consumption of alcohol, deprivation of food or sleep, beating or paddling in any form, personal servitude or kidnapping or abandonment" Faculty and staff will be added to student review panels that hear cases of alleged misconduct Fraternities and sorority chapters must maintain a 2.5 GPA Members must perform 10 hours of community service per semester Additional dues will be required to provide educational programs, as well as to hire staff to work with the Greek system A cap on social events featuring alcohol -- four for fall semester and six for spring -- and requirements that, at such events, fraternities or sororities use third-party vendors, provide food and hire security guards approved by campus police. New rules for Greek tailgates Members must be trained in hazing prevention and leadership development

"If we see that something isn't working the way it should, we will consider changing it. This is a process, and we will be vigilant in making sure new guidelines and policies continue to protect the health and well-being of our students." said Amy Hecht, the vice president of student affairs who is spearheading the plan.

Coffey, a junior studying civil engineering who wanted to enlist in the Navy following graduation, was discovered without a pulse the morning after a November 2 party. Rather than call 911, the fellow Pi Kappa Phi pledge who found him texted five fraternity brothers, and no one called police for 11 minutes, according to a grand jury presentment last month.

At least a dozen pledges vomited that night, and Coffey passed out and had to be carried to a couch, prosecutors alleged, saying that no one was "forced" to drink but it was clear pledges risked ostracism if they didn't.

As Coffey lay unconscious on the couch, fraternity members kept drinking and playing pool around him, spurring Coffey's mother to say her son "died alone in a room full of people."

"The brothers, pledges, and (fraternity) officers were more concerned about getting in trouble than they were about trying to save Coffey's life," the grand jury said at the time, recommending prosecutors pursue charges related to hazing and underage alcohol abuse.

The nine men taken into custody in Coffey's death -- all of whom were affiliated with Pi Kappa Phi, according to police -- were later charged with college hazing causing injury or death.

The grand jury decried what it called the "overall glib attitude of Andrew Coffey's so-called brothers towards this very serious matter," as well as the fraternity's "culture of secrecy."

Of the 88 people investigators sought to interview, 48 of them -- including seven of the nine members of the fraternity's leadership council -- refused to speak with police, while others appeared to be "speaking off a script," the presentment claimed.

"They presented many of the same answers as each other and volunteered much self-serving information without being asked," it said.

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