Hazing is abuse. It’s not fun; it’s not tradition. It is abuse, and it needs to stop. When Tim Piazza died last February as a part of a horrific hazing ritual on the Penn State campus, the University took some action. It suspended the fraternity, Beta Theta Pi, and then permanently banned that fraternity. PSU also “locked down” Greek-life activities for the rest of the semester. In addition, Penn State made changes to how discipline would be approached, removing it from the hands of student-run organizations and putting it into the hands of University Administration. Many believe these steps were not sufficient.
Hazing Abuse – Death & Injury at Penn State
Some blame Vice President for Student Affairs, Damon Sims, for not doing more to stop the culture of abuse that exists on campus and in Greek life. Sims had personal supervision over the fraternities since 2008. Since then, there have been deaths and injuries. In 2009, Joseph Dado died in an alcohol-related fall and two fraternities, Phi Gamma Delta and Alpha Tau Omega, were charged in the incident. In 2015, a secret Kappa Delta Rho Facebook page revealed multiple incidents of illicit behavior, including forcing pledges to drink human waste.
There are also those who blame Penn State President, Eric Barron, for the widespread abuse on campus. The parents of Tim Piazza personally asked the President on 15 separate occasions to meet with the Trustees so that they could determine what measures had been implemented since their son’s death to change the culture on campus. Penn State, however, just wanted all the negative publicity to go away. Its lack of response forced the Piazzas into the spotlight. As a result, they have gotten out in front of news cameras and have sat with local reporters to demand change.
2017 Grand Jury Report Blamed Penn State University
In December of 2017, a Grand Jury agreed with the Piazzas. A scathing 236-page Grand Jury Report blamed Penn State University for lack of oversight, shoddy record-keeping, and accepting a culture of underage drinking and hazing (and allowing this culture to flourish for years). This report was based on an extensive 10-month investigation into, not only Tim Piazza’s death, but also Greek life in general on campus.
This report comes just one month after new and additional charges were filed against 17 people linked to Beta Theta Pi. Since Tim Piazzas’s death, 26 people face criminal charges, and 14 of them have already been ordered to stand trial.
How Does Penn State Define Hazing?
According to the Penn State Student Affairs Website, hazing is defined as “any action or situation that recklessly or intentionally endangers the mental or physical health or safety of a student or that willfully destroys or removes public or private property for the purpose of initiation or admission into, or affiliation with, or as a condition for continued membership in, any registered student organization.”
The University lists various types of hazing on its website, which include:
- Forced exercise
- Exposure to the elements
- Forced consumption of food or drink
- Forced exclusion from social contact
- Forced contact that could adversely affect the mental health of the individual
- Willful destruction or removal of property
According to Pennsylvania law, anyone who causes or participates in hazing commits a misdemeanor of the third degree.