Opinion, Staff Editorial

Death of FSU student merits moment of reckoning for toxic fraternity culture

Florida State University student Andrew Coffey died Nov. 3 after attending a party while pledging the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity. FSU responded by suspending all Greek life indefinitely.

The university took action, more than thoughts and prayers, to protect its students from a fraternity culture that has proven deadly.

Yet universities tend to turn a blind eye to the dangerous activities and culture of recklessness that is rampant in fraternity life until something terrible happens. But that’s not good enough. It’s time to break that cycle.

The fraternity culture at the University of Miami is no exception. It is toxic and irresponsible. Maybe the university has a zero-hazing policy, but everyone knows hazing happens. We’re not in the business of publishing “fake news,” and the frat members and dean of students can denounce these as rumors instead of paying attention to our point, but this practice is common knowledge among students and needs to be discussed.

Hazing “games” pressure people to binge drink to extremes with schemes like two people being handcuffed together and, in order to get uncuffed, they need to finish a handle of hard liquor between the two of them. “Don’t f***k your brother” is a “game” that supposedly encourages “bonding” by forcing every pledge to drink as much as they can of a handle of liquor because the last person to get the handle has to finish it.

Sigma Alpha Mu makes a pledge swallow a fish every year, and Zeta Beta Tau forces one to get a tattoo. Phi Delta Theta forces pledges to endure grueling late night and early morning workouts – people have been so muddy at the end that they have to figure out how to walk home because they’d be fined for staining the seats in an Uber or Lyft. Other fraternities have required men to put Sriracha sauce in their urethras. And yet, everyone seems to shrug it off as boys being boys.

These hazing rituals may sound funny on the surface, but put yourself in this position: If you found yourself staring down at a glass of water with a goldfish swimming around, or nude with a bottle of Sriracha in hand, you wouldn’t be laughing. This is sadistic and traumatizing; humor is a weak defense.

Fraternities strip these men of their humanity and dignity through hazing, and then make them replace it with toxic masculinity – fighting each other or other intense physical exertion, reckless binge drinking, objectifying and using women as currency – all to attain the illusion of social prestige associated with being a “brother.”

Even if these hazing practices only amount to rumors, the fact that they are so widely circulated without any generalized outrage condones and perpetuates such behavior.

As long as the prestige of the fraternity system stays entrenched in higher education, this archaic, toxic culture retains all of its power. Unless there is a fundamental shift in the reason fraternities exist, there will continue to be unnecessary student deaths.

This is our moment of reckoning. How many more young men need to die in this atmosphere before higher education takes a stance against a culture whose only defense is a half-hearted cheer of “philanthropy.” Maybe we should list all the non-profits and other charities that manage to make an impact in the community without putting their members’ lives in peril.

Don’t pass over or forget the death of this student just because it wasn’t at our school. It could have easily been a UM student.

What is keeping a tragedy like this from happening here in the future? Is the “Canes Care for Canes” slogan enough? When it comes down to it, when frat members have someone they think is too intoxicated, are they going to call an ambulance if they know police and EMTs will snoop around the frat house? If hospitalizations were on the rise at frat tailgates before the recent restrictions, we’d be surprised if those same behaviors aren’t carrying over to the fraternity’s house parties.

It’s easy to say that if fraternities were suspended, some other groupthink, binge-drinking system would form in its place because this is just what Miami students do. This argument is largely a cop-out so fraternities can avoid taking responsibility for the role they play in endangering students – pledges especially – but it does bring attention to the larger issue of the pervasive blackout culture at our school.

Miami is known as a party city. Students here aren’t going out to a local bar like they are in the Midwest, they’re going to clubs. Accordingly, they’re not just drinking beers, they’re pre-gaming with shots of hard liquor and sugary drinks. There is a bar on campus, for crying out loud. There is also a level of wealth at this school that gives people access to alcohol and drugs in excess they just wouldn’t otherwise have.

We have alcohol education and programs, including those directed specifically at frats, but how do we deal with the fact that students might know how to drink safely but knowingly prefer to blackout and risk their lives instead? There is a culture of decadence that students here engage in without regard for their own safety. How do you fight that? It’s time to discuss and confront the root of the problem.

The Miami Hurricane will be reporting on the fraternity system. If you have seen or been affected by dangerous behaviors, now is the time to speak up. If you think these concerns are unfounded and our fraternities are exceptional, please share your story, too. Email editor@themiamihurricane.com.

Staff editorials reflect the majority view of The Miami Hurricane editorial board.

November 13, 2017

Reporters

The Miami Hurricane


48 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “Death of FSU student merits moment of reckoning for toxic fraternity culture”

  1. Mr. Visitor says:

    Again, the “events” depicted in this article are, beyond a doubt, accurate. As a fraternity insider, I know what goes on. This article doesn’t even address the most cruel of events, such as the aforementioned event entitled “lifeboat” in one of my previous posts. No sleep deprivation events such as the scavenger hunts were mentioned. Nothing about hell week. Nothing about drinking vomit/other bodily fluids. This article was remarkably tame, and you’re all still angry? I look forward to the next series when TMH covers the events of a much more heinous nature.

  2. : ( says:

    i wRoTe tHiS ArTIclE . wIlL yUU bE mY fRaNd : (

    -eDiTeR

  3. Barack Obama says:

    The writer of this article is very uniformed, and should not write an article based on rumored events that don’t even happen.

  4. Your Brother says:

    To Brothers of other Fraternities, let’s let this fizzle out. The more attention we bring to this, the worse off we all are. None of us even knew we had a newspaper on campus before this article, by next week it will be the same if we stop now.

  5. That was quick says:

    already a petition to remove the author from Hurricane news lololol

  6. Grace Wehniainen says:

    hey everyone! I’m the author of this article and I just want to apologize for my subtle social insecurities than I cope with by attempting to ruin all that is good. When I’m not reading Harry Potter or watching Jurassic park, I like to “stir the pot” for slightly sociopathic reasons and justify it to myself referring to it as an anti-Greek life revolution. Also btw when I get drunk at FRAT parties, I get a little anti-Semitic but who isnt?!?! Right? Right???

  7. Generalized says:

    1. You shouldnt generalize greek life as a whole. Every Greek Org is drastically different, whether it be their stance on hazing, academics, personalities, etc. These claims are outlandish for not all, but most of the Greek organizations on campus and around the country.
    2. If you are going to generalize all of greek life, be objective rather than subjective, and look at all of the aspects. Greeks have a higher average GPA than non-Greeks, hold the majority of Leadership positions on campus, and raise more money and volunteer more than non-Greeks.
    If you want to generalize things, that makes it look pretty bad to be non-Greek. Use facts to support your claims if you want to be taken seriously, and look at all aspects, because Greeks are much more than “one philanthropy a year.”

  8. Generalized says:

    1. You shouldnt generalize greek life as a whole. Every Greek Org is drastically different, whether it be their stance on hazing, academics, personalities, etc. These claims are outlandish for not all, but most of the Greek organizations on campus and around the country.
    2. If you are going to generalize all of greek life, be objective rather than subjective, and look at all of the aspects. Greeks have a higher average GPA than non-Greeks, hold the majority of Leadership positions on campus, and raise more money and volunteer more than non-Greeks.
    If you want to generalize things, that makes it look pretty bad to be non-Greek. Use facts to support your claims if you want to be taken seriously, and look at all aspects, because Greeks are much more than “one philanthropy a year.”

  9. Hypocrite says:

    the author of this article has committed sexual assualt before at previous frat parties.

  10. Release it says:

    The author should release their name if they are so confident in their outlandish article. Release the name!!!!

  11. Wehniainen is a hypocrite says:

    The editor for the Opinion page is Grace Wehniainen. In a December 3rd, 2015 article published in The Miami Hurricane entitled “Homebodies can have fun, too,” Wehniainen wrote, “While UM is a certifiable party school on the surface, this culture isn’t pervasive across the board.” This is in complete contradiction to what she is now calling a pervasive “blackout culture.” In this same article she actually condones blacking out–she writes, “It doesn’t matter if you barely remember your Saturday night or if you can barely remember every [TV} episode you binge-watched.” The same editor now tearing into our school for a “blackout culture,” endorsed blacking out only 1.5 years ago! This hypocrisy is quite incredible for someone trying to condescend the entire greek system, in addition to the students who enjoying going to the Rat simply for drinking and partying.

    She goes on to write, “The key for both homebodies and the rest of the student body is to never dismiss someone else’s idea of a good time” Hopefully she and this newspaper stop throwing stones and hurting members of our community through libel and slander. Take your own advice! Live and let live, it’s fine if you choose to go greek, it’s fine if you don’t; but don’t try to ruin others’ good times out of spite or anger.

    Not to mention she, herself admits to committing the crime of underage drinking and possession of a fake identification when she admits: “we might even run into each other in a bar.” You cannot get into a bar without showing some sort of fake identification!

    Remember, those who live in a glass house should not throw stones!

  12. Unreal says:

    I found it very telling that the author of this article felt the need to name specific fraternities by name with ZERO factual evidence to support the claims made. These rumors that you continue to perpetuate as facts are merely tales of things that USED to happen years ago. Meanwhile, Sigma Chi was involved in an incident last year where they sent pledges dressed in offensive costumes to a mixer with SDT, a national Jewish sorority. Also, a Sigma Chi brother was suspended and later de-brothered after he drew a Swastika on the AEPI house. Also, Pi Kappa Phi was suspended for having a pledge blackout in the dorms LAST semester and yet, this was not mentioned. Before you put out false accusations against certain organizations, I recommend you gather all the facts and present them as such, instead of the clear slanted reporting that took place.

  13. @Mr.Visitor says:

    Mr. Visitor is Josh Weiner

  14. I am the Frat says:

    This is a laughable excuse for an exposé, from a group of attention-craving, moronic SJWs.

    No Facts = No Credibility.

    Furthermore, your horrid newspaper is trash, unread on campus, and does not bring the university anything close to the amount of revenue as greek life. You might as well end publication to save the environment.

    We pay to be a part of the IFC, pay for our houses/suites, and run countless philanthropies which raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for charitable causes. Yes some of us may be conservative by nature, and some fraternities have the same type of member – however my fraternity enabled me to meet a large group of diverse individuals with a global network.

    And finally, the University’s alumni network is abhorrent. Most of us landed jobs through fraternity connections, and the variance among fraternities/sororities lead all individuals to find their place/fit in.

    I will be doing everything in my power to destroy this newspaper – and I encourage all members of Greek Life to look at the names on the editorial board and personally ask them of their qualms with Greek Life.

  15. Juan Doe says:

    Mr. Visitor,

    What you describe is horrible and it could very well be criminal. I hope that you will have the courage to come forward and file a criminal complaint against those involved. Florida Statute 1006.63 makes hazing resulting in serious injury or death a third degree felony. Having pledged two fraternities you are in a unique position to shed life on this problem. I look forward to reading about your experience here in The Miami Hurricane or even in The New Times or Miami Herald. If I don’t, I am going to assume that your factual predicate is as credible as the innuendo thrown around by the Editorial Board.

  16. Grammar pledge says:

    Brother and Fraternity should be capitalized

  17. Mr. Visitor says:

    @Former Writer at TMH These are not rumors. I have been through the pledge process in two different fraternities. I roomed with a pledge from ZBT who had to get his navel pierced and a tattoo on his thigh in order to finish the “scavenger hunt.” This is material fact. There are even more sadistic things than the aforementioned in the article. One fraternity on campus, and I won’t say which one, has an event known as “lifeboat.” In lifeboat, pledges are required to remove their shirts, put on swimsuits, and sit in inflatable kitty pools. There were about 6 to each pool. In the center of the pool were 2.5 handles of Skol vodka. Pledges were required to stay in the pools until the handles were consumed. If pledges needed to vomit or urinate, they had to do so in the pool to avoid extended morning workouts. Brothers cheered when pledges vomited on each other. They threw dry food at us and laughed. The United States military doesn’t engage in that level of sadism with Guantanamo inmates, but if you want to join a fraternity at this school, plug your nose, hope you don’t die, and comply unless you want to be dropped and chastised.

  18. Former writer at TMH says:

    While this article makes some great points, and I wholeheartedly agree this is an issue that needs to be addressed, the pure journalistic integrity of this story (or lack thereof) makes conversation impossible. What gives you the right to publish hearsay as fact? Nothing. Name your sources. I could very well have written this article based on rumors I’ve heard and on my own strong feelings. But that’s not how journalism works, my friends. Granted, this is an op-ed, but I’m really disappointed in what TMH is becoming. Remove your anger for a minute and remind yourself of your jobs as journalists. Seek the TRUTH and report it. Until then, you have no credibility with your readers.

  19. John Doe says:

    I realize that this is an editorial which, by its very nature, is supposed to be the opinion of the Editorial Board of this newspaper. This “editorial” blurs the lines between opinion and a hatchet job by making factual statements which are not attributed to any source. Sammies swallow fish; Zeebs get tattoos? Your attempt at journalism might be better received if you didn’t follow up these accusations a few paragraphs later by saying “[e]ven if these hazing practices only amount to rumors, the fact that they are so widely circulated without any generalized outrage condones and perpetuates such behavior.” So which is it? Put another way, what if I started my letter out by saying:

    The staff of the Miami Hurricane are toxic and irresponsible. Maybe the university has a zero irresponsible reporting policy, but everyone knows irresponsible reporting and editorial writing occurs. We’re not in the business of publishing “fake news,” and the Miami Hurricane editors/writers and the Dean of the School of Communication can denounce these as rumors which we will later acknowledge are just that; rumors. The point is that this rumor is commonly accepted as true among students and needs to be discussed.

    Members of the Editorial Staff of the Miami Hurricane smoke weed, drop acid and binge drink until their journalistic integrity disappears and they opine that rumors are fact. Even if these practices only amount to rumors, the fact that they are so widely circulated without any generalized outrage condones and perpetuates such behavior.

  20. someone open to the facts says:

    I loved the comments “beta-male globalist GDI cuck“ and “sounds like its written by someone who didnt get accepted into any fraternity“ because obviously you can only expose an issue such as this if you were rejected by them! Found the article to be incredibly insightful and spot on with what’s been going on in universities across the country. This is definitely an issue that needs more attention and discussion, especially from our administration, because the culture has become extremely toxic and is clearly proving to be fatal in some cases.

  21. someone who got the point says:

    First of all, I think anyone in these comments talking about how this is an attack on the Rathskeller or any other bar for that matter missed the entire point. Those examples were added to show the pervasiveness of alcohol culture here at UM by demonstrating that even when done responsibly, drinking is a ingrained in this university’s traditions. This opinion column is about frat hazing, substance abuse, and an overall lack of accountability in Greek life; if you take that as an attack on the Rat, you need to take some remedial reading courses. Secondly, it’s disappointing to see how many people deny these acts of hazing and continue to put their friends and classmates at risk. I know that hazing exists here. I begged friends freshman year to drop their frats when I saw them trudging back to campus from a 6 am intensive beach workout that they had been forced to preform and walk home from after a night of frat sponsored binge drinking over threat of being dropped. That is unacceptable and dangerous and I agree that we can no longer turn a blind eye to this kind of behavior.

  22. YOU GO GLEN COCO says:

    Awesome article. This is just one of many topics of conversation and outrage that need to stop being swept under the table!!!

  23. Anonymous says:

    Make no mistake, the people commenting angrily about how this is all ridiculous are wrong. This stuff happens and everyone here in greek like knows it. Toxic masculinity is real. Fraternity culture and group think is real. Stop protecting psychological/physical trauma, rape culture, and alcohol and drug abuse under the guise of an institutionalized tradition. I’m not saying greek like needs to go away. I’m just saying it needs to change.

  24. kambucha queen says:

    do you have ass burgers

  25. boo says:

    I don’t think you guys can write an article like this one you guys all go out and drink at fraternity parties or bars.

  26. Rathskeller very own says:

    The Rathskeller has been on UM campus since the 80s and cards every person who wants to drink there. Drinking there after class has brought me close to some of the people id consider my brothers. The attack on the Rathskeller is disgusting and I think you all need to write an article apologizing to a landmark of this campus.

  27. maybe keep your mouths shut says:

    pretty laughable that some of ya’ll are denying this. if you don’t want people to know about your hazing, stop talking about it or maybe even be secretive. i remember clearly a random night at panhel walking up to my suite to study, sammy’s door opens and 2 pledges stumble out and release 2 lizards. “we were gonna eat these” to a complete stranger. does it build character or make you feel cool when you brag about it?

  28. Fake News says:

    I want to start off by saying I’ve met a couple of the writers of this article at fraternity parties and multiple occasions. Its funny how you guys want to slander fraternity but still come out to our parties. Second there are fraternity that do gross and statistic stuff that cross the line but that doesn’t mean every fraternity does this, so why group all fraternity together? the argument you guys use through this article is filled with holes as well. Students will drink regardless of having fraternity or not having them. Most students have been drinking and blacking out since high school and thats the same when it comes to doing drugs. I have multiple friends thats started there drug habits in high school. I’m not here to defend all greek life because we have flaws, I’m here to simply say that we need to stop grouping all of greek life together. For me my fraternity has helped me become a better man in many ways, before joining I had no friends and was an outcast in most clubs that I joins.

  29. A Concerned Student says:

    It’s sad how all of the “brothers” commenting on this post are attacking the credibility of this article when their comments are just perpetuating and supporting all of the claims, sorry facts, in this article. A majority of the editorial board at The Miami Hurricane are women, so saying that the board is just salty or upset that they didn’t get a bid is false. Also this is an opinion editorial piece, not an article so this isn’t “official facts.” I think the bigger issue is the sexual assault and sexual harassment surrounding fraternities. The fact that Pi Kappa Alpha (Pike) was kicked off of campus for assisting in the process of sexual assault or how several members of other fraternities have been removed for aspects of sexual assault is the large issue.

  30. Take accountability for your awful journalism says:

    Did this article seriously start by saying “We’re not in the business of publishing ‘fake news,'” and then go on to publish unsubstantiated rumors about specific Greek organizations in a matter-of-fact way? Whatever portion of our activity fee you leech from us, I want it back. Writing libel about other student orgs is absolute bush league journalism, and it’s very telling that nobody is willing to associate their name with the writing of this article.

  31. Lock her up says:

    Clearly written by a liberal

  32. Chill oit says:

    Totally BIASED AND UNINFORMED. the Greek system can also be a great way to meet lifelong friends and nights to remember. If you don’t want to be “embarrassed” then DONT RUSH! Plenty of people choose not to rush and instead of bashing those who do chose to rush, maybe just mind your own business. Tons of people love their fraternities so stop trying to denounce an entire institution out of SPITE AND JEALOUSLY. Pathetic…

  33. Mr. Visitor says:

    Interesting how all this negative feedback came within roughly an hour after the first comment. It’s almost like one fraternity decided to rip the article as a coordinated effort 🤔

  34. Appalled says:

    Regardless of anything the author said about fraternities, it’s ridiculous that they have the audacity to attack our “on campus bar” and “Miami party culture”. Trips to the Rathskeller to drink beer with friends after a long day with class, or nights spent exploring Brickell are some of the best memories graduates look back on about UM. Harmless drinking at the Rathskeller and nights out with friends are not a problem with our University, it’s a positive. It seems as though the author is attacking alcohol as a whole rather than attacking hazing or anything about fraternities in particular. Terrible argument. Terrible article.

  35. Joe Biden says:

    Riddle me this. If fraternity culture is so “toxic”, then why do members of Greek organizations consistently have higher GPAs than the campus average?

  36. Mr. Visitor says:

    As a member of a fraternity on this campus, I can confirm many of this examples. Don’t be fooled by members of IFC trying to save face by attacking the editorial staff. Don’t F**k Your Brother is a real game that occurs. Pledging consists of dangerous and humiliating events. The culture needs to change.

  37. Roi Epstein says:

    You seem like a very lonely person. Try making some friends and having fun so that you take your attention off of other with your outrageous level or envy and jealousy

  38. Brother says:

    I found your article on greek life at UM to be remarkably misleading. Your comments regarding the Sigma Alpha Mu, Zeta Beta Tau, and Phi Delta Theta fraternities are outlandish and are presented as fact, when, I can only imagine, that these “facts” have been conjured from far fetched rumors and ridiculous accusations of those not within the respective organizations. These comments are purely based on speculation, yet are represented as material facts in your article. I hope that these accusations are presented as such in any following publications.

  39. Horrible Reporting says:

    This entire article screams GEED. Sounds like someone is a little butthurt about not getting a bid. Probably should talk to people in greek life before trying to get an entire institution banned based off of claims and unsubstantiated evidence. Comparing our school to the mid-west and saying we have more money and therefore more access to alcohol is completely absurd. The drinking culture is not different because we are in Miami, stop being so damn naïve. Jesus this entire article is just awful. Whoever wrote this should be kicked off the Miami Hurricane for writing literal fake news.

  40. Unacceptable says:

    Obvious and desperate attempt to “break the internet” in order to gain “clicks” and views by ostracizing AGLO. Causing way more harm than good.

  41. Relax says:

    WE’RE NOT SUSPENDED, YOURE SUSPENDED

  42. Donald J. Trump says:

    This article is a smear campaign wielded by the pen of a beta-male globalist GDI cuck who didn’t get a bid! Sad!

  43. Harry Harlow says:

    This article is what happens if you leave monkeys in a room with a laptop long enough.

  44. #banhurricanenews says:

    This is the time of reckoning… finally after this idiotic article, I think no one should read any of The Miami Hurricane news. Wait, never mind that’s already happening. We knew they were desperate but we had no idea they were THIS desperate.

  45. Awful says:

    *sounds like its written by someone who didnt get accepted into any fraternity*

  46. Get a job says:

    This article blows

  47. Donald Trump says:

    Fake news.

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