TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida State University has lifted its ban on alcohol and social functions by fraternities, sororities and student organizations, months after the death of a fraternity pledge at an off-campus party.
Vice President of Student Affairs Amy Hecht said the lifting of the ban with four weeks to go in the university’s spring semester gives everyone a chance to assess the new rules and what changes might need to still be made before the fall semester begins in late August.
“The students have stepped up and shown responsible behavior over the past couple months. Now we’ll see what happens over the next four weeks,” Hecht said. “That gives the summer to refine things and have an even better system in place for the fall.”
Florida State President John Thrasher suspended all fraternities and sororities Nov. 6, three days after the death from alcohol poisoning of 20-year old Andrew Coffey. Fraternities and sororities were reinstated Jan. 29. Besides Coffey, other similar deaths occurred last year at Penn State, Louisiana State and Texas State. The other three also suspended Greek activities but have reinstated them.
The alcohol ban was officially lifted Monday via an email sent by Hecht to students. Under new rules announced in January, events must be registered through the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life. They also are required to have security present as well as using a third-party vendor for food and alcohol. Social events with alcohol are limited to four per chapter or organization during the fall semester and six in the spring, and include chapters taking risk management training.
Alan Levine, a member of Florida’s Board of Governors, said during Wednesday’s meeting in Jacksonville that he had reservations about Thrasher’s initial steps but now has a greater understanding of what he did.
“We’re on the precipice of losing the Greek system if this type of hazing keeps happening,” Thrasher said. “I want to save the Greek system. When you have four of these events happen nationwide in one year, it is significant.”
Board of Governors student representative Kishane Patel, who attends the University of West Florida and also belongs to a fraternity, said during the meeting that he appreciated Thrasher working with the students, not against them, in devising the policy.
The lifting of the ban also comes as Florida’s State Attorney’s office awaits responses on plea offers from the attorneys of the nine members of the suspended Pi Kappa Phi fraternity that have been charged with felony hazing.
One offer would be to plead guilty to two counts of misdemeanor hazing with adjudication withheld along with 60 days in jail and two years of probation. The other would be to plead guilty to one count of felony hazing and 60 days in a county jail work camp. Both would include making an apology to Coffey’s family.
The state medical examiner said Coffey had a blood alcohol level of .447 at the time of the autopsy. Coffey drank a lethal amount of bourbon and malt liquor at the fraternity’s “Big Brother Night” party, which was held at an off-campus home.
All nine have entered not guilty pleas and are awaiting trial. They are also named in a civil suit filed by Coffey’s family