Louisiana State University Police are investigating a possible hazing incident at an on campus fraternity house, Phi Delta Theta, after a student was brought to the hospital overnight and later died, Thursday, Sept. 14, 2017, in Baton Rouge, La. Phi Delta Theta has been suspended by the university and its national chapter, according to LSU president F. King Alexander. (Hilary Scheinuk/The Advocate via AP)
Ellen Eldridge The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
BATON ROUGE, La.
Louisiana State University suspended all Greek activities Thursday after an alleged hazing incident led to the death of a student from metro Atlanta.
Officials have not confirmed the cause of Maxwell Gruver’s death, but the coroner’s office told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he was taken to a hospital from the Phi Delta Theta fraternity house Wednesday night.
Gruver, 18, of Roswell, was pronounced dead at Our Lady of the Lake hospital Thursday. A 2017 graduate of Blessed Trinity Catholic High School, Gruver had just started his freshman year at LSU and was seeking membership in Phi Delta Theta.
LSU President F. King Alexander called the teen’s death tragic and untimely and said the university mourns his loss.
“There are allegations that Maxwell’s death was related to hazing, but I want to emphasize this is an evolving situation,” Alexander said during a news conference Thursday evening in Baton Rouge. “We are investigating this matter with the utmost seriousness.”
Alcohol, he said, “is indeed part of the allegations.”
Hazing, an initiation ritual in which Greek pledges are often humiliated and tortured, has been banned by some national fraternities and universities. The act has been outlawed in many states, but deaths are still attributed to the archaic practice.
In previous hazing-related incidents, such as the death of 19-year-old Penn State sophomore Tim Piazza, pledges were forced to consume massive amounts of alcohol. He died in February.
In Piazza’s case, he became so intoxicated that he fell repeatedly down stairs and died of irreversible spleen and brain stem damage, according to the district attorney.
Eight fraternity brothers faced serious charges, including involuntary manslaughter and aggravated assault, The AJC previously reported. Their Penn State fraternity is now closed.
Alexander said Thursday that hazing will not be tolerated at LSU and all Greek activities — “that means pledging and all social activities on and off campus” — were immediately suspended indefinitely by the university. The fraternity’s national headquarters took similar action against the Phi Delta Theta chapter at LSU.
“We’re committed to investigating this situation thoroughly,” Bob Biggs, executive vice president and CEO of Phi Delta Theta, said in a statement. “The chapter and any individuals who are found to have violated our policies will be held accountable.”
The LSU chapter was founded in 1938 and was suspended in 2004 for low recruitment by the national headquarters, according to The Daily Reveille. It returned to campus in 2006.
An autopsy is set for Friday.
“As we have continually warned over and over again, hazing is dangerous, irresponsible and unacceptable,” Alexander said.