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FSU students sad but reluctant to talk about pledge’s death

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Parents and students bustled about Florida State’s campus Saturday morning, taking pictures in front of landmarks and celebrating Parents’ Weekend.

They talked about classes. They lamented the Florida State football team before heading into Doak Campbell Stadium. Some, though, whispered about the death of Pi Kappa Phi fraternity member Andrew Coffey.

The 20-year-old was found unresponsive at a house Friday morning after an off-campus party. Details are not yet known, but investigators collected liquor bottles strewn on the porch as evidence. The fraternity has been suspended from campus. 

While a cause of death has not been released, conversation quickly turned to past tragedies where alcolhol and college students collided.

FSU students and their parents alike were reluctant to talk openly about the incident. One woman wearing garnet, gold and a sorority pin declined to comment. Her mom followed suit. 

Another student wearing a fraternity polo shirt said he didn’t want to talk about Coffey’s death. A few minutes later, he shotgunned a beer and his dad recorded it on his cell phone. 

Many students, especially those associated with Greek life, were nervous about bringing more attention to the university, their own fraternity or sorority. They would only talk to a reporter if their names were not used. 

“I couldn’t help but think of (his) parents,” said one student, who’s been in a fraternity since he was a freshman in fall 2014. “I felt bad and I don’t even know the guy.”

The student said his fraternity, which he joined to more easily to make friends, doesn’t focus on drinking. It doesn’t force its pledges to drink. Despite the perception, he said drinking isn’t a priority for a lot of FSU fraternities. It’s a small group of individuals, he said, who abuse alcohol.

 At his fraternity, they teach pledges responsible drinking from the start. 

“How they’re indoctrinated into the fraternity, in turn, reflects how they act,” he said. “It’s coaching (pledges) on how to drink in a responsible manner, know their limits and to stop at certain levels where you’re not hurting yourself or others.”

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A trio of students near the Unconquered Statue reluctantly talked about the incident.

“It’s awful what happened,” said one. “Someone needs to oversee that (expletive) and make sure that it doesn’t happen.”

His friend agreed, noting “things need to be more strict on Greek life.”

But their other friend was resigned.  

“There’s nothing you can do,” he said

Gabby Rodriguez, a University of Florida student in town visiting friends for the game, said the problem isn’t isn’t limited to Greek life or FSU.

“It’s just everywhere,” she said. “It’s sad, but it happens and it’s nobody’s fault. You just have to know your limits.”

FSU alum Craig Lane agreed that students should be more educated about the dangers of excessive partying. 

“The problem is kids are more governed in high school,” said Lane, who now lives in Tampa. “Then they come here and go crazy.”

Lane talks about drinking with his 14-year-old daughter who joined him for the game.

“It’s made her more responsible,” the 52-year-old said. “It starts in the home.”

Ashley White can be contacted at adwhite@Tallahassee.com or on Twitter @AshleyyDi.

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