The Board of Trustees and administrators are meeting Friday to consider recommendations designed to “ensure significant change” in the wake of Piazza’s death, according to school officials. In a recent news release, Eric Barron, the president of Penn State, said that the university “is considering a number of options that will depart drastically from measures commonly employed at institutions nationwide.”
Piazza died after a pledging party at the Beta Theta Pi chapter house in February, where he and other students who had just accepted bids to join the house were forced to drink excessively, according to grand jury investigation findings released last month by Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller. Piazza fell multiple times during the night, including down flights of stairs, but no one called for help for almost 12 hours. When police finally were summoned, he was unconscious. He died the next morning.
Eighteen fraternity members were charged in his death, and the university made changes to Greek life.
The Piazzas asked for more fundamental change.
James and Evelyn Piazza wrote:
As you meet to discuss the future of Penn State in the wake of our son’s death on your campus, we thought we would provide you with our thoughts. You, the BOT, have a significant obligation to do the right things, not the popular things to appease a small group of alumni who still do not get it, to make Greek life and all life safer at Penn State.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. As I am now learning, Penn State has a long history of harsh hazing, excessive drinking and sexual assaults in its Greek life.Penn State also has a long history of looking the other way at difficult situations.
University officials responded with a statement: “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. University leaders have taken aggressive actions to date, and they will meet tomorrow to discuss additional measures to advance student safety.”
Drinking, hazing and sexual assaults at fraternity parties have long been problems for colleges across the country.
Penn State officials found that Greek members are four times more likely to be heavy drinkers than other students, sorority members are 50 percent more likely to be sexually assaulted than other female students, and fraternity members are 62 percent more likely to commit a sexual assault than other male students.
University officials imposed new rules this spring including no liquor, kegs or day-long parties for fraternities and sororities. Greek parties with alcohol were cut from 45 allowed per semester to 10. Rush, when the groups recruit new members, was moved from the fall to the spring. Both students and university staff would monitor compliance, they said.
The Piazzas also asked for people to be fired, including one who assured parents there was no hazing at Penn State, and the athletics department official who was living at the chapter house and was there the night of Piazza’s death. “You must do the right thing, NOW,” they wrote. “ … The world is watching.”
Read the Piazzas’ full letter here: