The death of a Florida State University student has made college administrators more wary than ever of alcohol-promoting parties.
On November 7, State Rep. Todd Russ, R- Cordell, issued a call to all Oklahoma college presidents to stop alcohol- and drug-related parties on campuses immediately.
Russ issued his statement following the alcohol-related death of a freshman fraternity pledge at Florida State University and cocaine charges for another fraternity member.
The pledge, 20-year-old Andrew Coffey, was found unresponsive on the morning of Friday, November 3, after attending a party the night before, the school said.
Coffey was a junior who had transferred to FSU this semester and was studying civil engineering, according to a school spokesman.
FSU President John Thrasher has indefinitely suspended all its fraternities and sororities following the death.
“For this suspension to end, there will need to be a new normal for Greek Life at the university,” Thrasher said. “There must be a new culture, and our students must be full participants in creating it.”
“This is the third of its kind and should be a wakeup call to all parents and university presidents that there is a huge problem with unbridled recreation on our campuses. One student death is too many,” said Russ. “Alcohol and drugs have absolutely no place on or around our college campuses nor should universities be supporting organizations that promote such behavior.”
“The idea that parents are sending their teenagers to college to enhance their recreational experience is a gross misunderstanding by our university leaders,” Russ said. “We are spending more money than ever in history to educate our next generations and the investment is meant to be specifically for intellectual growth and to help these young people become productive citizens in society as adults.”
For TU President Gerard Clancy, the student’s death does not so much reignite a discussion as it does speak to the ongoing discussion he has been involved in since stepping into the position around this time last year.
“One of my primary responsibilities is to provide a safe learning environment for our students. I am currently focusing on two areas of concerns to our students’ safety: sexual assault and alcohol poisoning, which has a high mortality rate,” Clancy said.
“In both cases, one of the key contributors to these risks is the immature decision to drink large amounts of hard liquor in very short periods of time in what some call ‘pre-game’” Clancy said. “The goal here appears to become as incapacitated as possible as quickly as possible. I have no comprehension as to why someone would desire to lose total control of their ability to make sound decisions.”
Citing recent statistics from the Tulsa Police Department Sexual Crimes Unit confirmed Clancy said alcohol is often highly abused among both victims and perpetrators in college campus sexual assaults.
“Rapists promote the intoxication of their victims by rendering them as alcohol impaired as possible,” Clancy explained.“My desire is that we become the national model in the prevention of sexual assault.”
Clancy is not quite on the verge of making TU a dry campus. Instead, Clancy has organized several TU affiliated groups to review the existing Alcohol Policy.
The following groups are providing input on how we can improve our alcohol policies to further promote student safety: 127 freshmen in the Presidential Leaders Fellowship class, a student-TU staff joint task force, the TU Student Association and the inaugural TU Faculty Development class.
“I expect when these groups are finished with their work, we will have a set of policies and a campus culture that helps us achieve the previously stated goal of serving as the national model for for sexual assault prevention,” Clancy said.
Figuring out which alcohol policies are best for the student body will require significant research and experimentation.
Russ’s statement concluded, “My prayers go out to the family of the student who lost his life in Florida and I pray for the protection of our students here at home. I expect the presidents of Oklahoma’s universities and colleges to protect our children just as they would their own. As a member of the state legislature, I will be watching for better outcomes in Oklahoma.”