Texas State University president suspends all Greek activity following pledge’s death

Phi Kappa Psi house at Texas State University. (KXAN Photo)
Phi Kappa Psi house at Texas State University. (KXAN Photo)

SAN MARCOS, Texas (KXAN) — The death of a Texas State University sophomore who was pledging a fraternity may have been alcohol-related, police say.

A university spokesperson says Matthew Ellis, 20, of Humble, Texas, died at an off-campus location. San Marcos police say Ellis’ friends called 911 around 11 a.m. Monday, Nov. 13 to report that he wasn’t breathing. When emergency crews arrived at the Millenium Apartments located at 1651 Post Rd. they found Ellis unresponsive and he was pronounced dead a short time later.

Matthew Ellis died on Nov. 13, 2017 after a fraternity event. (Courtesy: Ellis Family)
Matthew Ellis died on Nov. 13, 2017 after a fraternity event. (Courtesy: Ellis Family)

Individuals at the scene told police Ellis was a pledge for Phi Kappa Psi fraternity but he did not live at the apartment complex — he lived on campus. In a letter to the staff and students, Texas State University President Denise Trauth says Ellis attended an off-campus social event on Sunday evening hosted by members of the fraternity.

Police say it appears Ellis’ friends took him back to their place to spend the night but authorities won’t confirm if it were an initiation event even though the campus newspaper, the University Star, reports it was.

While an official cause of death is still being determined, police say alcohol may have been a factor in Ellis’ death.

Records show Ellis was majoring in Business Administration.

“This is an ongoing investigation, and it’s too early to know if criminal charges will be warranted,” said Chief of Police Chase Stapp. “Once all the evidence is known, if we have probable cause to file charges we’ll work with the district attorney’s office to move forward at that time.”

All Greek Life Suspended

In light of Ellis’ death, President Trauth says she is suspending activities of all Greek fraternity and sorority chapters at the school. Effective immediately, the chapters are prohibited from holding new-member events, chapter meetings, social functions and philanthropic activities until further notice.

Phi Kappa Psi Fraternity suspended the local Texas State chapter last week for “unrelated manners.” In a statement released to KXAN, the national chapter says:

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

The chapter had been suspended by Phi Kappa Psi Fraternity, Inc. last week for unrelated matters, and will remain suspended while the investigation continues. Phi Kappa Psi will continue to work closely with the TSU administration and law enforcement during their review of this matter, and have advised all members to cooperate fully.”

Trauth says the university will conduct a “thorough review of the Greek Affairs system” and propose recommendations for reinstating the chapters that “demonstrate a commitment to the core values” of the university.

Student Body President Connor Clegg says it’s been a somber day on campus.

“I think that everybody on campus is deeply saddened by the fact that we have lost one of our fellow students. This is a big school but the community has always felt very close to one another,” he said.

Clegg says the news is tragic and something needs to be done but putting the entire Greek life on hold is not the right answer.

“President Trauth says it’s a suspension and I hope that it’s a brief suspension so that these people can get back to work doing the good that they do for the communities,” Clegg said. “To say that because of the terrible actions of one group of folks, the alleged terrible actions of one group of folks that we are going to condemn and it’s entirety every single other organization — we’ve got 12 sororities here who had nothing to do with any of this and now all of their operations are put on hold.”

According to Clegg, fraternity and sorority members at Texas State undergo mandatory alcohol awareness training on a regular basis. Unfortunately, the message may not stick until now.

“It’s about changing the culture. It’s about not only learning them and hearing them, but applying them and holding one another accountable to applying them,” Clegg said.

At the beginning of this year, four Texas State University fraternities were suspended after student, Jordin Taylor, 20, was found dead after a party at Cool River Ranch in Guadalupe County on Oct. 29, 2016. Taylor was dragged more than 500 feet after being hit by a bus owned by Skyline Party Bus.

Kappa Alpha was suspended for two years, Alpha Tau Omega for three years, Kappa Alpha Order for four years and Delta Tau Delta for five years.

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