Texas State University Halts Greek Life After Fraternity Pledge Dies

Alcohol is suspected in the death of the 20-year-old Phi Kappa Psi pledge.
The transfer student lived on the Texas State University campus in San Marcos.
The transfer student lived on the Texas State University campus in San Marcos.
Texas State University

Texas State University in San Marcos has halted all fraternity and sorority activity after a 20-year-old fraternity pledge was pronounced dead after being found unresponsive at an off-campus apartment.

Matthew McKinley Ellis, who was pledging to the university’s Phi Kappa Psi chapter, was found at the Millennium Apartments, less than two miles from the Central Texas campus, after 11 a.m. Monday.

Emergency responders pronounced Ellis dead at 12:28 p.m. Monday, police told the Austin American-Statesman.

According to university officials, Ellis had attended an off-campus event hosted by members of the fraternity Sunday night. The University Star, Texas State’s student newspaper, reported that Ellis died following his fraternity initiation.

Ellis, a native of Humble, Texas, was a sophomore transfer student who lived on campus.

Based on interviews with people who were with Ellis on Sunday and Monday, investigators believe that alcohol may have been a factor in his death, but toxicology results from the autopsy aren’t expected for six to eight weeks, according to Houston’s NBC affiliate, KPRC 2.

Authorities said during a Tuesday news conference that it is still too early to tell if hazing played a role in Ellis’ death.

Texas State University President Denise M. Trauth said in a statement Tuesday that she was “deeply saddened by the tragic death.”

Trauth added that she was suspending all Greek fraternity and sorority activities while the university completes a review of the Greek system. After the review, Joanne Smith, vice president for student affairs, will recommend which fraternities and sororities can be reinstated.

Although a Texas Department of Public Safety official said that she had not heard of an incident like Ellis’ death occurring in San Marcos in the past three years, alcohol-related deaths involving fraternities are common.

Florida State University suspended its Greek life activities after Andrew Coffey, a 20-year-old Pi Kappa Phi pledge, was found unresponsive and later pronounced dead following an off-campus party hosted by the fraternity earlier this month.

The cause of Coffey’s death is still undetermined, pending the autopsy, but police believe alcohol may have played a role in his death. Pi Kappa Phi ousted its Florida State chapter following the incident.

Tim Piazza, 19, died in February after reportedly drinking at least 18 drinks within 90 minutes and falling down stairs during a pledge event for Penn State University’s Beta Theta Pi chapter. Penn State closed the fraternity following Piazza’s death.

Prosecutors in Pennsylvania filed charges against 17 individuals involved in Piazza’s death, ranging from involuntary manslaughter to hazing and furnishing alcohol to minors.

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