There’s way too much death lately in American society. After the terrorism incident in New York, and then Sunday’s Texas church shooting, which appears to be motivated by a domestic family situation, it would be easy for a university administrator to let the noise of the day obscure a real problem on campus.
Thank goodness that didn’t happen at Florida State on Monday.
After the death of 20-year-old Andrew Coffey, a Pi Kappa Phi fraternity pledge on Friday, there was only one thing a responsible university president could do.
And FSU President John Thrasher did it—he banned all Greek life indefinitely on campus.
“I want to send a serious message, I really do,” Thrasher reportedly said. “We’ve got a serious problem.”
But all of us know, the problem of bad, felonious behavior isn’t limited to FSU. It’s everywhere there’s a Greek presence, and most notoriously at places like Penn State, where Tim Piazza, 19, of Lebanon, New Jersey, died in February after a night of binge drinking at Beta Theta Pi house.
It’s at New York’s Baruch College , where Pi Delta Psi, an Asian American fraternity and perhaps a positive sign of diversity, showed how quickly Greek life can go negative. This year four frat brothers pleaded guilty to murder in connection with the death of 18-year-old student Chun Hsien Deng who was murdered in Pennsylvania during a hazing event when he was blindfolded, weighted down and beaten as he crossed a frozen path.
Suspending and banning frats is just the first step. Justice is still hard to come by.
In the Penn State case, the most serious charges were thrown out in September. In the Baruch College case, the four students pleaded guilty to lesser charges of voluntary manslaughter and are expected to be sentenced on Dec. 4.
The new FSU case was actually off-campus, and the frat has been suspended. As I write, no arrests have been made.
But President Thrasher’s school-wide ban of Greek life was an important move to send a serious message.
This isn’t just limited to the one frat, Pi Kappa Phi. It’s the whole Greek ethos.
It’s all bad. And it doesn’t happen if it’s alcohol-related or not. This is about exhibiting poor judgment and endangering students.
What happened to the 20-year old Andrew Coffey could have happened to any pledge, as long as the frats feel they can do as they please. The behavior frats encourage through the initiation process only establishes a reckless pattern for a student’s career, and maybe even goes further than the four years at school.
An indefinite Greek life ban surely doesn’t go far enough.
Not when we’re talking murder.
Unless frats significantly change their approach to hazing, only a permanent ban makes sense. And not just for FSU, but all college campuses.
As an administrator, you’ve got students for whom you’re responsible. How many dead ones do you want on your watch each semester?
Emil Guillermo is a veteran journalist and commentator. He writes for the civil rights group AALDEF at http://www.aaldef.org/blog
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