Hank Nuwer, a professor at Franklin College in Indiana who has studied hazing since the 1970s, said there has been at least one hazing-related death every year in the U.S. since 1961 — with some years up to nine. About eight in 10 hazing deaths are alcohol-related, according to Nuwer.
“That’s one of the most common ways young men die in fraternity hazing,” Nuwer said of the “bottle exchange” ritual that took place shortly before Coffey’s death.
Nuwer outlined several ways schools can prevent such deaths, including a complete shutdown of “rogue chapters” — unaffiliated local chapters that have “absolutely no supervision” — as well as affiliated chapters that defy mandates of the national chapter outlawing hazing.
“The Penn State fraternity [Beta Theta Pi] was doing a lot of hazing behind closed doors,” he said.
“There’s definitely a movement going on now as a response to the four pledging-related deaths last year. I think there’s a great sense of public outrage.”
While Nuwer’s research spotlights a culture of dangerous hazing rituals spanning decades, he said he is encouraged by recent measures enacted by various college and universities around the country to change Greek life.
Nuwer cited Iowa State University’s announcement Wednesday that it is adopting new alcohol policies for its sororities and fraternities. Chapter funding cannot be used to buy alcohol, and liquor can’t be part of rush or initiation induction events, according to the new requirements.
“I was gratified to see that Iowa State has come up with dramatic sanctions regarding alcohol,” Nuwer told Fox News. “There’s definitely a movement going on now as a response to the four pledging-related deaths last year. I think there’s a great sense of public outrage.”
In a statement to Fox News on Wednesday, Pi Kappa Phi said it closed the Florida State chapter in early November.
“We continue to await the conclusion of the criminal proceedings to determine what additional discipline is appropriate for former student members of the chapter,” Pi Kappa Phi spokesman Todd Shelton said in an email.
FSU President John E. Thrasher said that the arrest warrants served Wednesday in Coffey’s death represented “the first step in seeking justice for Andrew and his loved ones.”
Coffey was remembered by his friends and family as a charitable young man who was also a fierce competitor on his high school swim team.
However, Nuwer said, “when you make someone go through this hazing, you’re not looking at the pledge as human.”