FSU Rolls Back Parts Of Greek Ban

Jan 29, 2018

Florida State University President John Thrasher is rolling back portions of a ban on Greek life after the hazing-related death of a student. Fraternities and sororities will now have to meet stricter rules to stay on campus.

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Florida State University’s fraternities and sororities are getting back some of their privileges. Recruitment and philanthropic events are back on the table. Social events and alcohol at school functions are still banned for now. President John Thrasher made the announcement Monday.

“Some of the best leaders we have on campus come out of our Greek community. They really do. And we want them to preserve that. But on the other hand they’ve got to buy in and understand that that kind of activity is putting fraternities and sororities around the country on the precipice of being extinguished,” Thrasher said.

He says the school’s Greek organizations have worked with the administration to come to an agreement. But Thrasher says he still needs to see more evidence that the groups’ can police themselves.  

“Hazing and alcohol. They need to change. And that’s why we’ve not actually lifted the ban on alcohol,” Thrasher said.

"They've got to buy in and understand that that kind of activity is putting fraternities and sororities around the country on the precipice of being extinguished." - FSU President John Thrasher

To prove they’re serious, fraternities and sororities will have to comply with a slate of changes, effective immediately. Chapters have to hire a police officer or security guard to be at all social events and tailgates. There’s a new cap on the number of events the organizations can host when serving alcohol. Students will have to do risk management training, and the university will hire more staff for its office of Greek life. And organizations will have to maintain an average 2.5 GPA, says Vice President Amy Hecht.

“All of these measures are going to continue to be assessed and evaluated. I will be creating a Greek advisory council to help me assess and evaluate and make recommendations as we move forward,” Hecht said.

FSU can set rules for the official organizations, and to some extent, monitor what goes on on campus. But many of the university’s 7,000 Greek students hang out informally, and live together, some in off campus housing. Do four roommates having a beer after work constitute a Greek social event? Hecht says it’s not always clear.

“Some organizations use the number three. Some use five. I think for us it’s the perception. And at all time you are a member of these organizations. These values that you espouse are with you no matter whether you’re on campus, off campus, in state, out of state,” Hecht said.

And the FSU police department’s oversight is limited. It generally doesn’t patrol off campus parties, says Chief David Perry.

"So we don't monitor. That's a misnomer." - FSU Police Chief David Perry

“So we don’t monitor. That’s a misnomer,” Perry said.

FSU Police Chief David Perry says it’s partly a staffing issue.

“We again are putting it back on the student and their behavior to make the right decision, make the right choice. If the police department receives a call for service, we’re obligated to at least go and at least investigate the call of service up until certain parameters when were dealing with people and their personal space and private properties,” Perry said.

And that’s important. The incident that spurred the ban didn’t happen at a frat house. Pi Kappa Phi pledge Andrew Coffey died after drinking a bottle of bourbon at a fraternity event at a rented house off campus. Nine members of the organization have since been charged with felony hazing. And the chapter has been shut down at FSU.

But for the rest of Greek life, President Thrasher says he has to trust them to implement the needed changes.

“I don’t know if there will be. But I will say the difference now and the difference then is we had a tragic death. And that group is no longer here. And I think others are beginning to realize that that kind of activity, that kind of hazing is not going to work at Florida State University. Because we’re not going to tolerate it and I hope the national organizations aren’t going to tolerate it,” Thrasher said.

There’s no set timeline for when the Greek groups might regain the rest of their privileges, but it could happen as soon as this semester.