Changes in Greek life are needed sooner than later

Special to The Sentinel

The senseless death of a Penn State University fraternity pledge in February, reported nationwide, should have made every fraternity and sorority — at every college and university across America — stop and think about their activities and conduct, going forward.

Florida State University provides the latest hard evidence that, at least at some schools, the message didn’t sink in.

The questions now: When will it? Only after a tragedy?

At Florida State, the university community remains traumatized by the death of Andrew Coffey, a pledge at the fraternity Pi Kappa Phi.

Coffey died Nov. 3 after being found unresponsive following a party.

Hardly having had time to catch its breath, the same university on Monday found itself dealing with the arrest of a member of another FSU fraternity, Phi Delta Theta. That fraternity brother, Garrett John Marcy, 20, has been charged with sale and trafficking of cocaine.

John Thrasher, FSU president, responding to the two incidents, was quoted by The Associated Press as lamenting, “I just feel like for whatever reason, the message is not getting through.” To the university’s credit, in an effort to get a handle on the situation, FSU on Nov. 6 suspended indefinitely all of its fraternities and sororities.

In regard to that university action, Thrasher said, “This pause is needed to review and reflect on the loss of a young life and to implement serious changes. For this suspension to end, there will need to be a new normal for Greek life on campus.”

Tough but necessary action indeed and, again, fraternities and sororities at other colleges and universities across the land should take notice, reflect on their own policies and conduct, and make common-sense changes, if changes are warranted.

As for Penn State, which imposed a social ban on its university fraternities in the wake of the February death of Beta Theta Pi pledge Timothy Piazza of New Jersey, there’s reason to believe that ban might not be strong enough.

According to an Associated Press article published in the Oct. 5, Penn State felt it necessary to impose an interim suspension on the Delta Tau Delta fraternity after a student suspected of drinking there was found unconscious on a borough street on Sept. 28.

The student required hospitalization, and on Oct. 5, it was reported that he was recovering — unlike Piazza, who fell down stairs at Beta Theta Pi after an alcohol-related hazing ritual and later died at a hospital.

There’s no timetable on when the criminal case tied to Piazza’s death will conclude. There have been new developments in the case as late as Oct. 28.

It’s important to note that Florida State and Penn State aren’t the only universities to suspend Greek life this year because of alcohol-related tragedies.

Between Penn State’s horrific February incident and the death at Florida State, Louisiana State University imposed a one-month suspension and continues to ban alcohol at Greek parties in response to the hazing death of an 18-year-old student.

Greek life has the opportunities to grow from these tragedies, and every day on campus’ across the country the Greek community does great things for philantrophy and community service.

Will the messages surrounding these three deaths really sink in at other schools? Hopefully, because Greek life has much to offer that is currently being overshadowed by the darkness of these tragic deaths.