UF suspends fraternity for four years over alleged alcohol and drug use

University of Florida’s Tau Epsilon Phi chapter was suspended for four years until December 2021 after allegations of drug possession, serving alcohol to minors and causing about $3,000 in damages to a New Orleans hotel.
University of Florida’s Tau Epsilon Phi chapter was suspended for four years until December 2021 after allegations of drug possession, serving alcohol to minors and causing about $3,000 in damages to a New Orleans hotel. Independent Florida Alligator

The University of Florida becomes the latest school to suspend a fraternity for alleged incidents involving alcohol and drug use.

In December, Heather White, UF’s interim dean of students, sent the university’s chapter of Tau Epsilon Phi a three-page-letter recommending a four-year suspension from Dec. 7 to Dec. 17, 2021.

The chapter was accused of violating five student conduct codes, including serving alcohol to minors, illicit drug possession and use and an incident in which several intoxicated people were sent to the hospital. Also, the letter cited the fraternity for causing more than $3,000 in damages to a hotel while on a weekend trip to New Orleans in September.

All residents of the chapter have until Jan. 31 to vacate the fraternity house. The chapter has 147 active members currently enrolled at UF.

According to the letter, which was sent to the Miami Herald by John Hines, UF’s coordinator of media affairs, the school made the decision to suspend the fraternity for several reasons. Among them: The chapter had previously been placed on deferred suspension twice due to violation of the student conduct code, including a 2008 violation when campus police found 36 pledges kneeling shirtless on the floor of the fraternity’s basement.

In addition, many fraternity members, including chapter leadership, were involved in the previous behaviors that violated University of Florida policies.

The four-year suspension means Tau Epsilon Phi will not be recognized as an active part of the UF community and cannot participate in any school functions.

The suspension follows similar actions at Florida International University, which suspended the Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity in October 2017 after connecting the Greek organization to a series of leaked screenshots of a group chat. The images showed what appear to be multiple non-consensual nude images of women, references to pedophilia, anti-Semitic and rape jokes, drug sales and insensitive comments about a sorority member who died last summer.

A series of leaked screenshots from Florida International University fraternity Tau Kappa Epsilon show anti-Semitic jokes, references to pedophilia and drug sales in 2017. The fraternity has been suspended. Miami Herald File

In December, FIU President Mark Rosenberg suspended all Greek life for at least a month starting in January over “growing concerns” about Greek life at FIU and on other college campuses. These references included the November death of Florida State University Pi Kappa Phi pledge Andrew Coffey, 20, a Pompano Beach High School grad who was found unresponsive after attending a frat party.

Two University of West Florida fraternities were suspended in November. The Tau-Psi chapter of the Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity was suspended for a minimum of five years, and the Nu Eta chapter of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority was temporarily suspended, over hazing activities. The school is in Pensacola.

Texas State University also suspended its Greek chapters in 2017 after the death of a Phi Kappa Psi pledge at an off-campus apartment.

FSU frat
The Pi Kappa Phi fraternity house is seen near Florida State University in Tallahassee, Fla., Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017. University President John Thrasher announced the indefinite suspension of the school’s 55 fraternities and sororities following the death of a freshman pledge. Andrew Coffey, a pledge at Pi Kappa Phi, died after he was found unresponsive following a party. Joseph Reedy AP

Romy Ellenbogen, investigations editor with The Alligator, the University of Florida’s independent student newspaper, reported the suspension Tuesday and tweeted a copy of the disciplinary letter.

UF’s Tau Epsilon Phi chapter has until Jan. 22 to appeal the decision. The fraternity will have to work with the school to determine when, and if, it will be allowed to resume after the four-year suspension period.

Howard Cohen: 305-376-3619, @HowardCohen