In the past weeks following the death of Andrew Coffey, a 20-year-old man pledging Pi Kappa Phi fraternity at Florida State University, fraternities and Greek life as a whole have once again come under fire.
Coffey’s death is far too similar to the death of 19-year-old Timothy Piazza, a Beta Theta Pi pledge at Penn State University, which occurred less than a year ago. After drinking until incoherence, Piazza fell down a flight of stairs. His need for immediate medical attention was ignored until it was too late, and the injuries he sustained due to hazing-related drinking led to his death.
If given proper care, Piazza and Coffey might both have lived.
Pointing fingers at Greek life is easy. Both students were pledging fraternities, and Greek life and drinking are often viewed as synonymous. Florida State University has suspended all Greek life in the wake of Coffey’s death, and even as a member of a sorority, I cannot say that I disagree with this decision. I think it is important for Florida State University students to take a step back and recognize the impact of Coffey’s death and to ensure that this does not occur in the future.
However, the problem with drinking-related deaths is not one that solely resides in the Greek community. Less than two months ago, a Lafayette College freshman died. He was not pledging a fraternity or attending a fraternity party, but simply fell and hit his head after drinking too much. His friends assumed that he needed to sleep it off, thinking nothing of his intoxication. While this was not as widely publicized, deaths due to drinking in college are not exclusive to Greek life.
Permanently shutting down fraternities and sororities is not the solution. Despite negative news surrounding Greek life, the North-American Interfraternity Conference has gained a 50 percent increase in membership in the past 10 years. Students feel drawn to the friendship and camaraderie that Greek life will offer them. Many students consider their Greek life experience as significant to their college careers, and those who choose to go Greek feel strong connections to their organizations, even attributing their individual growth and success to these bonds.
Rather than eradicating Greek life from our campuses, we should aim to hold all of our fellow peers responsible for their actions, Greek or not. While fraternity-related drinking may make the news more often, the responsibility is on all college students. No other student should have to die because they were too drunk or their friends were scared of getting into trouble. While Greek life certainly warrants reformation, change is needed on an entire college level.
Students fear the consequences that will come when they look out for each other. They are scared that if they call for help, they will be punished. This fear is often what stops college students from picking up the phone and calling for assistance, and in many instances, the fear associated with punishments for underage drinking prevents students from seeking medical attention for their peers until it is too late for help to be effective. Even with the Good Samaritan law, students feel vulnerable.
These consequences are far less than what is at stake if we do not look out for each other. It is our responsibility to reach out for help and to know when the line is being crossed. No matter what the reprimands may be, the loss of a life outweighs all.
While neither Piazza nor Coffey were Binghamton University students, this has also occurred in our own backyard and can certainly happen again. Let us not overlook what they can teach us.
Hannah Rosenfield is a senior majoring in English.
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