A grand jury's report in the wake of a fraternity pledge's death said Friday that Penn State officials displayed "a shocking apathy" to dangers from excessive drinking and that its inaction allowed criminal acts to occur.
The long-awaited report on Greek culture released by outgoing Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller came after a 10-month long investigation set off by the February death of pledge Timothy Piazza during a fraternity party.
The 236-page report calls on state lawmakers to pass stronger laws to deter hazing and underage drinking. It also calls on Penn State to regulate drinking itself, rather than hold a fraternity council responsible, and for the university to expel students involved in hazing after they are "afforded full due process rights."
"Anything less will fail to operate as a truly effective deterrent," according to the report.
Penn State promised to not forget tragic deaths of students but raised its "disappointment" with the report in a statement they released later in the day.
"As the University’s response makes clear, the report misunderstands or entirely disregards Penn State’s tangible commitment to improving safety, as well as public universities’ relationship with alumni boards, housing corporations and national organizations, which have oversight of these private organizations," Penn State said. "Widespread problems of binge drinking and hazing persist at universities across the country, as tragic headlines in recent weeks have shown. However, it is not a solution to simply point an accusatory finger."
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Piazza died two days after consuming a dangerous amount of alcohol, suffering a series of falls and hitting his head during a pledge bid party at the Penn State chapter of Beta Theta Pi. Prosecutors characterized the incident as a hazing ritual.
Security camera footage documented how Piazza became visibly inebriated early in the evening, after which fraternity members made ineffective and even counterproductive efforts to help him. He had suffered a fractured skull, shattered spleen and other injuries.
Fraternity members found him unconscious in the basement the next morning, but waited about 40 minutes before summoning help.
The school permanently banned Beta Theta Pi in March, saying its investigation found a persistent pattern of excessive and forced drinking, hazing and drug use and sales.
Several fraternity members face charges that could result in prison terms, while others are accused of hazing and alcohol violations.
The Piazza family has pushed for sweeping reforms of Greek life, saying they want to prevent other hazing deaths and injuries on American college campuses.