State College, PA - Centre County - Central Pennsylvania - Home of Penn State University

Penn State Planning 'Significant Change' for Greek Life in Wake of Student's Death

by on May 22, 2017 3:34 PM

Following student Timothy Piazza's death in February, Penn State rolled out a series of changes and restrictions for fraternities and sororities. More are on the way.

University administrators and the Board of Trustees will hold a special meeting on June 2 "to consider a comprehensive set of recommendations to ensure significant change following the death of a student at the now permanently banned Beta Theta Pi fraternity," the school announced on Monday.

Penn State President Eric Barron said in a news release that specifics are not yet available but that administrators are "considering a number of options that will depart drastically from measures commonly employed at institutions nationwide."

Piazza died on Feb. 4 after falling head first down the stairs and then multiple times throughout the night of Feb. 2 and early morning hours of Feb. 3 during a bid acceptance party at Beta Theta Pi fraternity. Piazza was heavily intoxicated at the time of his fall after consuming large amounts of alcohol in an initiation event dubbed "the Gauntlet," according to a grand jury presentment. 

He first fell just before 11 p.m. on Feb. 2 and prosecutors say video and testimony showed fraternity members were aware Piazza was in need of medical attention but no one called for help until 10:48 a.m. on Feb. 3. The fraternity and 18 members have been charged with various crimes related to Piazza's death and its aftermath, including involuntary manslaughter, aggravated assault, simple assault, recklessly endangering another person, hazing, providing alcohol to minors and tampering with evidence.

Prosecutors allege a history of hazing at Beta Theta Pi, and the grand jury presentment said Penn State's Interfraternity Council fostered a "permissive atmosphere" that "emboldened its members to repeatedly act with reckless disregard to human life." The grand jury recommended a full investigation and report on the IFC and possibly the university itself.

Piazza's parents, meanwhile, have urged the university to make major changes to fraternity life.

Monday's university release said the school is committed to honoring the family's desire "to have meaningful student safety improvements come out of this tragedy."

“The safety of our students and campus community is of paramount importance, and we are resolved to take decisive action,” Barron said. “There are no easy solutions, but we will leave no stone unturned as we search for the most effective ways to achieve change.”

After Piazza's death, the university suspended fraternity and sorority social functions with alcohol for the remainder of the spring semester. That was followed in March by the announcement of new restrictions related to alcohol and new member recruitment that will be in place permanently.

Those changes included:

- Deferring "rush," or new member recruitment, from fall to spring for the 2017-18 year. After that, for students to participate in recruitment, they must have earned 12 credits while enrolled full-time. The possibility of deferring recruitment of members until they are sophomores will be considered for 2018-19.

- Service of alcohol will only be permitted by servers trained in the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board's Responsible Alcohol Management Program (RAMP). Only beer and wine will be permitted and no kegs will be allowed. 

Daylong events will no longer be permitted and attendance at social events will be limited to the legal capacity of the house.

- An emphasis on zero tolerance for hazing, and if the university learns of any hazing involving alcohol or physical abuse, it will likely lead to the chapter's recognition being revoked.

- Increased mandatory educational programs for members.

The board will meet in executive session from 7 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on June 2. The public meeting of the board will be held at 1 p.m. in Room 208 of The Penn Stater Hotel and Conference Center, with overflow for public viewing in Room 207.

Geoff Rushton is managing editor for Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.
Next Article
Police Say Man Assaulted Stranger in Line for Tacos
May 22, 2017 2:50 PM
by Geoff Rushton
Police Say Man Assaulted Stranger in Line for Tacos
Disclaimer: Copyright © 2020 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

order food online