BR.fraternityclosed.091917053 .jpg

LSU's Phi Delta Theta fraternity house is closed down after a prospective member died after leaving there last week.

Advocate Staff Photo by PATRICK DENNIS

A week after the death of an 18-year-old LSU fraternity pledge, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards demanded Friday that the state’s public colleges and universities review all hazing and substance abuse policies.

He wants a report in five weeks.

"It is up to us to do everything within our means to ensure that the students who attend a Louisiana university are safe from harm," Edwards said in a letter dated Thursday.

“We welcome the governor’s intervention. He raises an issue that our schools have been working on for some time,” UL System President Jim Henderson told The Advocate Friday.

Henderson is in charge of the University of Louisiana System, the state’s largest with 91,500 students attending nine four-year colleges. About 20 percent of UL System students belong to fraternities or sororities.

Immediately after news of Gruver’s death last week, Henderson said the nine universities in the UL System reminded students that hazing would lead to the suspension, expulsion and possible criminal charges for individual students as well as the Greek organizations.

“We will hold the organization accountable. We will hold the student accountable,” he said.

“In Greek organizations we have put those most prone to the temptations of new-found freedom in charge off policing their own,” Henderson said. UL administrators are taking a direct role in communicating that message to students, parents and student organizations and educating them on alcohol abuse.

Southern University also is reminding students and fraternities of the institution’s zero-tolerance for hazing. Southern educates 12,131 students on campuses in Baton Rouge, New Orleans and Shreveport.

“Our Greek letter and student organizations provide outlets for students to forge life-long friendships, and opportunities for meaningful community and public service,” Southern University System President Ray Belton said Friday.

Southern requires students participating in such organizations, as well as the Greek advisers, to regularly attend seminars and workshops geared toward hazing prevention, he said. And students wanting to join such groups have to first attend a “Greek 101” seminar, during which they learn do’s and don’ts. The latest week-long program ended Friday.

LSU President F. King Alexander said in an emailed statement Friday: “We appreciate the Governor’s support and his efforts toward recognizing the seriousness of these issues.”

It was on LSU’s Baton Rouge campus that Maxwell Gruver, of Roswell, Georgia, was found unresponsive “after a night of drinking.” He was taken from the Phi Delta Theta house to Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center on Sept. 14, where he was pronounced dead.

His death is being investigated by the university and parish law enforcement as a hazing incident.

Alexander immediately suspended all activities by fraternities and sororities, but will allow some functions, such as tailgating, to resume Saturday when LSU plays Syracuse University.

LSU has 31,414 students, of whom 23 percent belong to a Greek organization.

LSU has a long history of fraternities behaving badly. Six LSU fraternities have been suspended since 2014 – the latest in February – for incidents involving hazing, drug use, and overdrinking.

Gruver is the fourth LSU fraternity pledge to die since 1979, according to a database of fraternity hazing deaths compiled by Franklin College journalism professor and author Hank Nuwer, a widely published scholar on the issue.

Bruce Wiseman was killed in 1979 when hit by a car while walking blindfolded as part of an initiation right.

• Benjamin Wynne died in 1997 from overdrinking alcohol after celebrating his acceptance into Sigma Alpha Epsilon.

Praneet Karki died in 2015 from physical exertions as part of a hazing ritual.

Nuwer’s database shows only two other Louisiana colleges – Northwestern State University and Tulane University – had fraternity-related deaths since 1951.

Edwards said on the radio show Wednesday that he can't imagine the pain that the Gruver family is going through. The family has not commented beyond a statement released through the university seeking privacy.

"We've got to make sure this doesn't happen again," Edwards said. "It's just tragic beyond all comprehension."

Edwards has asked the presidents of the LSU, University of Louisiana, Southern University and Community and Technical College systems to report back to him on policies by Oct. 29.

"I write to you today to ask for your assistance in ensuring that all student groups and organizations on Louisiana college campuses embody a proactive set of guiding principles and standards related to hazing, alcohol and drug policies," Edwards wrote in his letter to the system presidents.

Follow Elizabeth Crisp on Twitter, @elizabethcrisp.