Two incidents related to Greek life at Florida State University last week prompted the school’s president to shut down all fraternities and sororities on the campus indefinitely.
The decision came after the death of a 20-year-old student and Pi Kappa Phi pledge who was found unresponsive at an off-campus party and the arrest of another 20-year-old undergraduate and Phi Delta Theta member accused of selling drugs.
“For this suspension to end, there will need to be a new normal for Greek life at the university,” FSU president John Thrasher said in a news release. “There must be a new culture, and our students must be full participants in creating it.”
But unlike the Tallahassee institution, where fraternities and sororities have been a tradition on campus for more than 100 years, Flagler College has never opened its doors to nationally affiliated Greek organizations throughout its 49-year history.
The private undergraduate college in St. Augustine currently enrolls 2,500 students.
“There’s never been a policy actually prohibiting it, but it’s just been more of an understanding until we [administrators] were approached with a specific proposal,” Daniel P. Stewart, vice president of student services, said in a phone interview this week with The Record. “We’ve talked about it through the years but it never really came to anything. And we always said, it had to be student-led, not administrator-led.”
Stewart said that threshold of momentum has never been reached and that the campus offers dozens of student clubs, extracurricular activities and academic fraternal organizations such as Phi Beta Kappa. A petition was approved last year for a Greek “club” calling itself Delta Alpha and while it is a social group, it is not nationally recognized.
Conversely, about 22 percent — or 7,588 students — of FSU’s 42,000 undergraduates belong to a Greek organization.
Stewart called the recent events at FSU “a tragic situation — these families entrust their sons and daughters to the organization, both the institution itself and the fraternities and sororities.”
Stewart went on to say that he believed there are Greek organizations that do things the right way and provide a framework for leadership and philanthropy and there was more of an onus on college officials to reign in the days of “Animal House” style partying and hazing.
When asked if there did come a time that Flagler College considered a charter for a social fraternity or sorority how that might work, Stewart said that like other small colleges Flagler would probably look to designate floors or wings of existing residential halls to the groups.
He said that there had never been any official discussions with city leaders about the possibility of establishing Greek houses in such a historic tourist town.
Colton Neubauer, president of the college’s student government association, summed up the debate around fraternities and sororities as a “divided issue.”
Neubauer said that “if there was enough need demonstrated by students to allow a national fraternity or sorority here,” the student government association would certainly consider the request.
“But there has been some pushback from students against frats and sororities,” Neubauer said. “There is the mindset of some people that the events put on by these organizations perpetuate that [partying] behavior.”