FSU among multiple universities working towards change following student deaths

By: Julie Montanaro | WCTV Eyewitness News
November 16, 2017

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- Florida State University is one of at least four schools reeling from incidents this year where students have died due to alcohol, hazing, or both.

Florida State, Penn State, LSU, and now Texas State, have lost a student this year to what some consider a “pervasive problem."

“At least 18 drinks in one hour and 22 minutes”, stated Stacy Parks Miller, Centre County District Attorney. That was the shocking revelation this week at Penn State, as prosecutors leveled charges against even more members of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity. All were tied to the night drunken pledge Tim Piazza broke his skull falling down a flight of stairs.

Jim Piazza, the father of Tim, said, “We’re making holiday plans without our son Tim, because of your actions.”

We are still waiting to find out what happened to Florida State student Andrew Coffey. The Pi Kappa Phi pledge was found dead at a house off Buena Vista drive on November 3.

Tallahassee Police Chief Michael Deleo said, “Although there are indications alcohol may have been a factor in this case, we are awaiting the results of an autopsy and no cause of death has been determined.”

One FSU student explained, “It’s a tragedy that happened.” When asked if they were shocked by it, they responded, “No, because fraternity and sorority parties can get a little crazy and out of hand.”

Coffey’s death, and a subsequent drug raid, not only led to the closure of Pi Kappa Phi, but a temporary halt to all Greek activities and a ban on campus groups serving alcohol.

When students were asked about their thoughts on President Thrasher’s decision, opinions were split. Some claimed that not all fraternities were at fault, one admitted that something had to be done, and one student said that although they understand the reasoning, it “still kinda sucks”.

President Thrasher admitted, “We can’t police 42,000 students, and I don’t intend to do that. That’s not what we’re here to do. We’re here to educate them. But on things like this, they’ve got to be a part of the solution."

“I don’t think that’s the solution,” claimed Attorney Doug Fierberg, in response to the ban. Fierberg has represented nearly 50 parents nationwide whose children have been targets of campus assaults and fraternity hazing. He’s skeptical the ban will yield anything but a short hiatus in the party culture.

“They’re dangerous, have been dangerous, and are not known to be able to solve their own problems,” said Fierberg. “In the 1980’s, fraternities were the sixth worst insurance risk in the country, just behind hazardous waste haulers."

A friend of Maxwell Gruver, the student who lost his life at LSU, asked, “If you’re supposed to be a club full of friends and life-lasting relationships, why did his life have to end so early?”

LSU resumed social activities a month after Gruver’s death, but the President ordered an alcohol ban within days after discovering some students hadn’t “absorbed the severity and seriousness” of the current situation.

When asked if banning alcohol at fraternities and sororities is on the table, FSU President Thrasher responded, “I don’t know. That’s what we’re going to have this conversation with them about."

“Drew’s parents have expressed their hope that his death will be a catalyst for change,” Thrasher continued.

Coffey’s family hopes that “no family will ever have to experience the avoidable heartache of losing a child in the most shining moments of their lives.”

Jordan Doersam, a friend of Coffey, stated, “It’s been really rough. Nothing prepares you for losing one of your best friends. We’re all just trying to get through it.”

Penn State, which is led by former FSU President Eric Barron, is making drastic changes this year.

The university is assuming oversight of fraternities and sororities, delaying rushing for freshmen, limiting the number of socials with alcohol, hiring compliance monitors, and posting Greek Chapter score cards online.

FSU is telling us that all these options are under consideration, but no decisions have been made.

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