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BOG Panel Backs FSU's Greek Ban; Thrasher Says Critics 'Out of Touch'

John Thrasher

Members of Florida's public university governing system are throwing their support behind Florida State University’s move to ban all social Greek organizations. The decision comes after the recent death of a fraternity pledge.

FSU President John Thrasher took a swipe at critics of his decision to ban Greek letter organizations Thursday:

“I’ve had some incredible emails supportive and non-supportive from people who are frankly, out-of-touch with the realities of what college life is about today.”

An FSU spokesman says student organizations are already coming forward to offer solutions to the problems and at least 20 meetings have taken place so far this week with more than 700 students. Thrasher got support from the state university system’s Board of Governors, with members of the group’s academic committee formally voting to support FSU's Greek ban, with board member Ed Morton raising the possibility it should extend to all universities:

“Should we consider a time out of these kind of activities systemically until we figure this out and set and establish appropriate ground rules for this entire system?” he said.

That was only a suggestion but other university presidents say they also back Thrasher. Florida International University, the University of South Florida, and the University of Florida say issues with student organizations in general have all cropped up on their campuses. But while many are voicing support for the move board member Alan Levine also urges caution: especially when it comes to lumping all Greek letter organizations together.

“I’m glad it started a dialogue about the cultural issues which I do think extend beyond the Greek system and just hope we don’t throw out the good with the bad because I think the Greek system is of enormous value."

And it is, in more ways than one. Hank Nuwer is a journalism professor at Franklin College and runs a website that tracks hazing deaths. He says schools that ban Greek letter groups run the risk of losing alumni support—which also means money.

“They will lose alumni participation but it can come back quickly," he said, citing what happened at Alfred University when that school banned greek life. "I have the dean doing an essay on what the effect was to get rid of Greek organizations…Certainly more schools are thinking about it.”

At least three other universities have banned Greek organizations on their campuses this year. Ball State, Penn State and Louisiana State Universities have taken similar action. The Florida Board of Governors wants to hold a more formal conversation on the issue at its January meeting in Tallahassee. And Florida A&M University’s interim president Larry Robinson says talks should extend to student-run groups in general.

“The problem is bigger than fraternities and sororities. That’s something you have to keep in mind. And so any organization where membership is part of it, national studies have shown hazing is a part of their existence so you really have to think much bigger.” 

Robinson would know. FAMU’s "Marching 100" band was suspended several years ago after the hazing death of a drum major. And since then Robinson says the school has actively monitored all its student-run groups.

FSU’s move banning social Greek organizations and imposing a ban on alcohol for all student-run groups comes in the wake of the death of a 20-year-old pledge who was found dead following an off-campus party. His death remains under investigation. In separate cases two fraternity members were arrested for dealing drugs.