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Texas State suspends all Greek life after pledge dies

Texas State University moved to suspend all fraternity and sorority activities Tuesday, a day after a 20-year-old fraternity pledge died following an off-campus social event.

San Marcos police said they were called at 11:35 a.m. Monday to respond to a person not breathing at an apartment complex. Matthew Ellis, a pledge for the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity, was found unresponsive and declared dead less than an hour later. Police said he was discovered by friends just after 11 a.m.

An autopsy is being conducted, but a preliminary investigation indicates alcohol may have been a factor in his death, police said.

In a statement, Texas State University President Denise M. Trauth said she was “deeply saddened by the tragic death” and suspended all activities of Greek fraternity and sorority chapters at the university. Trauth also ordered a review of the Greek life on campus that would propose recommendations for reinstating the chapters.

“It is imperative that our entire university community develop a culture that places the highest priority on the safety of its students, faculty, and staff,” she said.

The Texas State Interfraternity Council said it also voted to suspend chapters “as we must focus on substantive change in the culture and goals of our fraternity community.”

“Our university and community demand better from our fraternities. When done right, fraternity is one of the best ways to foster leadership and personal growth,” the council said on Facebook. “In this time, we must reflect on the actions that have drawn us away from fraternal values and come together – with the University Administration and our national organizations – to, in President Trauth’s words, ‘develop a culture that places the highest priority on the safety’ of our community.”

The Texas State University chapter of Phi Kappa Psi had been suspended by the national fraternity for “unrelated matters” last week, according to a statement from Phi Kappa Psi executive director Mark Guidi.

“We are heartbroken by the death of Texas State University student and Phi Kappa Psi new member Matthew Ellis,” Guidi said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends and the entire TSU student body during this difficult time.”

Other fraternity pledge deaths

With Ellis’ death, Texas State joins a lengthy list of public universities where fraternity pledges have died of suspected alcohol-related incidents in recent years.

Last week, Florida State University suspended all fraternity and sorority activity in the wake of a fraternity pledge’s death. Andrew Coffey, 20, was found unresponsive the morning after attending a party.

At Penn State, sophomore Tim Piazza, 19, died after his first night pledging a fraternity in February. Surveillance footage played in court showed Piazza falling repeatedly, including down a set of stairs, following an event that involved heavy drinking.

After his fall, a dying Piazza was placed on a couch for hours as fellow fraternity brothers searched on Google about head injuries, hid evidence and pushed back against those who wanted to call for help, according to prosecutors. Authorities weren’t called until the next morning, as fraternity members “literally delayed getting him help,” prosecutors said.

More than 1,000 criminal counts were levied against 18 fraternity members in that case, although some charges have since been dismissed.

About 39,000 students are enrolled at Texas State University, and the school boasts former President Lyndon B. Johnson as its most famous alumnus.