Greek Life Halted At Florida State University Amid Alcohol, Cocaine Issues

By Kelly Burch 11/09/17

Authorities say there are indications that alcohol may have played a role in the fraternity pledge's death. 

students walking past Robert Manning Strozier Library at Florida State University

Florida State University has suspended all fraternity and sorority activity on campus after a freshman died following a fraternity party, and another fraternity member was arrested on charges of selling and trafficking cocaine. 

It's a dramatic move on a campus where 22% of undergrads—more than 7,500 students—participate in Greek life, according to USA Today. However, the university’s president said that it is warranted. "I want to send a serious message, I really do," said John Thrasher, president of FSU. "We've got a serious problem.”

The move was prompted in part by the death of 20-year-old Andrew Coffey, who was found unresponsive on Friday morning, after attending a house party a mile from campus. Coffey was a Pi Kappa Phi fraternity pledge.

“Although there are indicators that alcohol may have been a factor in this case, we are waiting for the results of an autopsy, so no cause of death has been determined,” said Tallahassee Police Chief Michael DeLeo.

Thrasher said that the campus needs to acknowledge the loss and the actions that lead to it. "This pause is needed to review and reflect on the loss of a young life and to implement serious changes," Thrasher said, according to Fox News. "For this suspension to end, there will need to be a new normal for Greek life on campus. They must participate in that culture.”

Another factor that may have played into the decision was the arrest of Garrett John Marcy, a member of Phi Delta Theta. The 20-year-old was charged Monday with the sale and trafficking of cocaine.

Under the ban, fraternities and sororities are prevented from holding new member meetings, participating in school events, and holding chapter meetings. 

In addition to putting limits on Greek life, Thrasher temporarily banned all recognized student organizations on campus from serving alcohol at their events. He said that campus student organizations need to figure out how to better combat substance use and abuse. 

“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,” he said. 

According to ABC News, Thrasher seemed frustrated by the situation. "I just feel like for whatever reason, the message is not getting through," he said. "Unfortunately we've got to take steps with our students, to make sure this never happens again.”

John Armstrong, who was president of Florida State's Beta Theta Pi chapter in 1998, said that he understands the reason for the suspension of Greek life. 

"Unfortunately, there has been a rash of instances similar to this, so I can understand the reason for the response," he said. "I hope that it's a short-lived response. It might be a good idea for people to take a step back and reflect on what values we truly want to portray in the Greek system.”

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.