The trustees from Penn State University recently announced they were taking disciplinary control over Greek fraternities and sororities in the aftermath of a fatal hazing ritual.
Until now, fraternities and sororities were allowed to be self-governing. When making the announcement, the president of Penn State, Eric Barron, said, “The self-governance model is broken.”
President Barron also stressed that the board wants to “preserve what is good and valuable about the Greek student experience and sense of community that these organizations provide.”
Four months ago, 19-year-old sophomore Timothy Piazza attended a pledge event, where he participated in heavy drinking as part of the hazing the fraternity encouraged that night. He became very intoxicated and fell down a flight of stairs at the Beta Theta Pi fraternity house.
After he fell, he became unconsciousness. Members of the fraternity spent hours trying to get him to wake up, including physically assaulting him.
No one called for medical help until the next morning, but by then it was too late. Piazza died later on at the hospital from multiple injuries. According to one doctor who testified at a grand jury hearing, his blood alcohol level was .36, almost five times the legal limit in Pennsylvania.
Police have charged 18 members of the fraternity, as well as the fraternity itself, for Piazza’s death.
There are approximately 30 sororities and 50 fraternities at Penn State. Per the new rules announced by the trustees, there will now be a zero tolerance for any hazing. If this rule is ignored, the chapter will be subject to a “swift and permanent revocation” of its chapter status.
All chapters will now have restrictions in place at their social functions, including the use of a trained bartender. There is also to be no hard alcohol served at these functions.
There will also be random spot checks conducted by university staff at fraternity and sorority houses, as well as more monitoring of their social events. Fees that Greek houses will now be required to pay will cover the cost of this extra monitoring.
Trustees are also committed to supporting legislation which imposes stricter criminal penalties for hazing.
Timothy Piazza’s parents sent a letter to the Board of Trustees the day before the announcement of the new rules was made. In addition to these rules, the victim’s parents also wanted the university to take even stronger measures for their son’s death, including expelling all of the students and firing any administrators who had any connection to their son’s death.
In a discussion about the new rules, attorney Neal Goldstein commented, “It is a good first step that Penn State is taking these steps and announcing a zero tolerance to these hazing events that all too often end up in the death of serious injury of a young person.”