New Jersey

Parents of Penn State Student Hazed to Death: ‘The World is Watching'

Penn State's board of trustees announced sweeping changes to the oversight and regulation of fraternities and sororities at the state university.

Penn State University's board of trustees unanimously approved a resolution that gives the school's administration stronger oversight of Greek life on campus.

The change is among several initiatives voted by the board after the death of a 19-year-old student during an alcohol-fueled hazing ritual at a fraternity house. Tim Piazza died two days after being found unconscious in the Beta Theta Pi fraternity house on Feb. 2. 

New measures announced Friday include a transfer of responsibility from the Interfraternity and Panhellenic councils to the university for disciplinary matters and establishes a grading system for fraternities and sororities.

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"Hazing that involves alcohol, physical abuse, or any behavior that puts a student’s mental or physical health at risk will result in swift permanent revocation of university recognition for the chapter involved,” said University President Eric Barron.

The university said it will defer rush and Barron called on restricting sorority sizes.

Penn State has already tightened restrictions on social functions and alcohol service, but spelled that out again.

"These new safety and reform initiatives represent a significant departure from the Greek system’s broken self-governance model and indicate steps necessary to address the complex problems.”

Piazza's parents, James and Evelyn Piazza, penned a scathing letter to the trustees ahead of Friday's board meeting urging the university “to admit responsibility so that the university can move forward.”

In their letter dated May 31, Piazza's parents slammed Penn State for what they said was the university’s enabling of "a long history of harsh hazing, excessive drinking and sexual assaults in its Greek life.”

"Our son died on your watch because of ignorance and denial by Penn State. Yes, he died at the hands of men who had no regard for human life, but that behavior was fostered and accepted at Penn State for a long time."

The Piazzas vowed in their four-page letter to fight for changes in laws against hazing in Pennsylvania and nationally. But in the meantime, they wrote, Penn State should act.

“The University must introduce strict policies and procedures for existence and interaction of Greek life and must put into place means in which to monitor and strictly enforce such policies and procedures,” they wrote, urging the board to "do the right things, not the popular things to appease a small group of alumni."

Eighteen members of the fraternity have been charged with Tim Piazza’s death, including some who face involuntary manslaughter convictions.

The scene depicted in the criminal complaint of the night and early morning hours that led to the 19-year-old's death are chilling. It tells of an alcohol-fueled evening in which young men allegedly stood around and watched a former standout athlete from Lebanon, New Jersey, fall several times and eventually pass out on the floor.

Some frat members even allegedly prevented others from calling 911.

“Our son died on your watch. We will never see him again because of the Administration's failures to protect him and turning a blind eye to known problems,” the Piazzas wrote. “You now have an obligation to make the appropriate statements and changes to make sure this never happens again. The world is watching.”

In a statement early Friday, Penn State called Tim's death a "horrific tragedy" and said the university has already begun to take "aggressive" action to address student safety.

"Our deepest sympathies continue to go out to the Piazza family. This was a horrific tragedy and our focus is on reaching solutions to the complex issues of hazing, dangerous drinking and other misconduct that plague fraternities here and around the country," the statement read. "University leaders have taken aggressive actions to date and they will meet tomorrow to discuss additional measures to advance student safety."

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Parents of Tim Piazza Letter to PSU (Text)
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