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Penn State Students Explore the Aftermath of the Timothy Piazza Tragedy

by on January 13, 2020 5:00 AM

Journalism can be a challenging business, especially for young journalists who are just starting out. At the same time, there are so many stories that need to be told in our community.

The Centre County Gazette gave the students in a journalism class, Comm 460 at Penn State, the chance to help provide a solution to both of those needs.

The students spent much of the fall semester working on a series of stories that explore the fallout of the Timothy Piazza hazing death in 2017. They’ve conducted interviews with dozens of students, local people, experts and officials to tell the larger story of what the Penn State and State College communities look and feel like after this tragedy almost three years ago.

During each of the next six weeks, the Gazette will publish this series of stories.

The first story digs into the community’s reaction to Piazza’s death and the feelings about fraternities, which have seen the university impose a number of restrictions to improve safety and curb drinking.

In the second story, the students found that while the restrictions made an impact, students say they will still drink alcohol. The story includes interviews with students who talk about why they drink and what they drink.

Students say that fraternities are not party central as they have been in years past because of the university’s restrictions. But there seems to be no stopping apartment parties, which local officials cannot regulate. That’s the third story in this series.

Piazza’s parents, Jim and Evelyn, went through any parent’s worst nightmare, the death of a child. The fourth story in this series shifts the focus to a parent’s perspective to look at their worries in sending their children off to college, seemingly out of their control.

The series will then look at the future of Penn State. Today’s seniors knew the university before Piazza’s death triggered the reforms, and today’s freshmen only know Penn State that way.

The house where this all happened still stands, but the university and the corporation that owns it are battling in court over its future. The story explores the seemingly forever changed Penn State.

To wrap up the series, staff writer Vincent Corso and Gazette editor G. Kerry Webster take a look at what fraternities are doing in the aftermath of the events that occurred on the tragic night in February 2017.

Mike Dawson assistant director of news and communications at Penn State World Campus and is also a freelance writer.

Mike Dawson is the assistant director of news and communications at Penn State World Campus and is also a freelance writer.
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