LSU Frat Shut Down, Student Death Called ‘Potential Hazing Incident’

Published: September 19, 2017

The death of a Louisiana State University freshman last Thursday is being called a “potential hazing incident” by school officials, leading to the indefinite suspension of all Greek life and the closing of a fraternity.

Maxwell Gruver, 18, died the morning of September 14 at a Baton Rouge hospital after pledging at the school’s Phi Delta Theta fraternity.

Although the official cause of death may take a few weeks to determine, East Baton Rouge Parish Coroner Beau Clark says Gruver had “a highly elevated blood alcohol level plus the presence of THC,” the chemical compound found in marijuana, reports ABC 6.

LSU administrators have shut down all Greek life indefinitely while the investigation continues.

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“This will be a week of reflection and remembrance of Maxwell Gruver,” LSU President F. King Alexander said in a statement. “During this time, we will celebrate his life and memory. We will also reevaluate the policies and procedures that educate and govern our Greek community.”

Max’s family says he was an avid sports fan who aspired to be a sports writer. He had some of his work published in newspapers in his hometown, according to TIME.

“We will never know what he might have contributed to the world,” says Eugene Gruver, Max’s grandfather.

Gruver recalls how “happy” Max was to be accepted to LSU and the fraternity.

“I cannot understand why a fraternity can’t have a sit-down dinner, maybe some alcohol, for a greeting. But why do they have to do the kind of hazing they do? I will never understand,” says Gruver.

Fraternity Closes LSU Chapter

On Monday, four days after Gruver’s death, the Phi Delta Theta national office revoked the charter from its LSU chapter, promising “any individuals who are found to have violated our policies will be held accountable.”

The fraternity says in the last ten years, 23 undergraduate chapters have been shut down due to “risk management violations”, including alcohol-related incidents and hazing, reports The Advocate.

In 2000, the fraternity adopted an Alcohol Free Housing Policy after two members died in earlier years. Members are required to sign an affidavit proclaiming they will not bring alcohol on chapter property. Phi Delta Theta is the largest fraternity to adopt the practice.

Phil Delta Theta Chief Operating Officer Sean Wagner says the policy has reduced the number of alcohol-related and risk policy violation incidents by 60 percent.

Legal Experts Weigh In

East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore III says it is too soon to know whether charges will be filed, but charges could range from illegal sale of alcohol to homicide, reports The Advocate. Felony charges will depend on whether there is evidence of hazing, but misdemeanor charges could be filed if hazing is ruled out.

“Right now I think it’s premature to guess whether there would be charges at this point because we’re too early in the process,” says Moore. He hopes more people will come forward to help authorities gather facts.

Attorney Kris Perret says he believes negligent homicide or manslaughter charges could be brought forth in the LSU case.

Perret says the main question will be whether or not Gruver’s alcohol consumption was voluntary or forced. He anticipates Moore’s office will take the case to a grand jury.

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