BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The President's Task Force on Greek Life at LSU met Wednesday, January 24 to collect more ideas ahead of a looming deadline to present recommendations on curbing hazing on campus.
LSU President F. King Alexander assembled the task force after freshman, Maxwell Gruver, died of alcohol poisoning after a fraternity pledge party last fall. A total of ten members of the Phi Delta Theta fraternity have been charged with hazing and one faces an additional charge of negligent homicide.
Since Gruver's death, Alexander wanted the task force to begin the discussion on Greek life and its alcohol policy. The task force is assigned with examining its current practices, accountability of Greek organizations, and its recruitment process. Chairman of the task force, Rob Stuart, says it's something they are taking seriously following the young student's death.
"We've looked at this as really the opportunity to make sure that, while that was a terrible incident, that we focus on how to change the culture so that really doesn't happen again," said Stuart.
An autopsy later revealed the fraternity pledge's blood alcohol content was a startling .495 percent. Drugs were also found in his system.
While the dark cloud remains over the university, the group, made up of students, staff, and administrators, hopes to curb hazing. Stuart says it's a goal that starts with changing the entire mindset on campus.
"It's very few things that don't have a policy around it, but it's not driving the change in behavior, so that's where we really need to focus on," said Stuart.
Several ideas were presented at Wednesday's meeting. Some include limiting the time window for new membership intake and ensuring all new member activities are alcohol and drug free. Some folks on the panel say their job extends beyond those activities. The group is also taking a look at rolling back some of the tailgating expectations and zeroing in on sexual misconduct.
Stuart says for the most part, he believes students will agree the long-term benefits will far outweigh the temporary growing pains. "The majority of students recognize that what we have today can't continue. We really had a tragic accident and that other people at other universities are having tragic accidents and the system has to change because it can't go on like this," said Stuart.
Nothing is set in stone yet, but the Advocate newspaper reported Wednesday that the Gruver family says they have not been contacted by the task force or included in the process at all. Stuart says the group wanted to get a better handle on possible changes before reaching out.
"Until we understood the problems and what the range of recommendations might be, we should talk to the parents at that point to let them know what it is we're looking at so that we can really have a positive and constructive conversation with them," said Stuart.
He says they will share those recommendations with the Gruver family before presenting them to the school's president.
"We intend to engage them in the near future," Stuart added.