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DA Sets Press Conference to Announce Results of Beta Theta Pi Investigation

by on May 04, 2017 1:41 PM

Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks-Miller will hold a press conference Friday morning to announce the result of an investigation of a now-disbanded Penn State fraternity where a student suffered a fatal fall earlier this year.

The press conference will be held at 10 a.m. in Bellefonte

Timothy Piazza, a 19-year-old sophomore from Lebanon, N.J., died in February after falling down the steps at the Beta Theta Pi fraternity house on North Burrowes Street during a bid acceptance party.

The circumstances surrounding his death have been the subject of a county grand jury investigation.

Police said alcohol and fraternity hazing may have played a role, and that Piazza  was intoxicated when he fell at about 11 p.m. on Feb. 2. Paramedics were not called until 10:49 a.m. the following morning. Authorities have not said what Piazza's reported condition was in the hours after the fall. Piazza was unconscious when responders arrived that morning.

He was transported to Mount Nittany Medical Center and then Hershey Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead on Feb. 4. An autopsy, which ruled his death accidental, stated he died from multiple traumatic injuries.

Penn State has been cooperating with the criminal investigation while also conducting a student conduct investigation. Last month, the university said that through the course of the investigations, "more disturbing facts have emerged, including a persistent pattern of serious alcohol abuse, hazing, and the use and sale of illicit drugs."

“The university’s investigation has produced deeply disturbing evidence showing that Beta Theta Pi fell far short of its professed policies and values,” said Damon Sims, vice president for student affairs. “The serious violations we have found include forced drinking, mandatory hazing and other illegal activity, which combine with a student’s tragic death to lead us to conclude that Beta Theta Pi, despite its notable history at Penn State, merits no continuing place in our community.”

Beta Theta Pi was permanently banned from Penn State and the university introduced a series of new restrictions related to alcohol and new member recruitment for fraternities and sororities. A moratorium on social functions with alcohol was enacted for the remainder of the spring semester immediately following Piazza's death.

An exception was granted for Parents' Weekend on the weekend of April 1, and the university found that eight organizations had violated some policies. Sigma Alpha Mu " violated every rule that was imposed," according to Sims and subsequently had its recognition revoked for two years.

Piazza's death was a catalyst for the changes to fraternity and sorority life -- as well as the recent case of Kappa Delta Rho involving allegations of nude photos of women being taken and shared without their consent and hazing -- but Sims said they are a culmination of issues.

He said that university research has found fraternity and sorority members are four times more likely to self-report heavy drinking; that sorority members are 50 percent more likely than members of the general female student population to be sexually assaulted; and that fraternity members are 62 percent more likely than the general male student population to commit a sexual assault.

In the week after Piazza's death, the university received five accusations of hazing within the Greek-letter community.

 




Geoff Rushton is managing editor for StateCollege.com. Contact him at geoff.rushton@statecollege.com or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.
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