On Tuesday, January 15th
Pennsylvania State University complied with the provisions of the recently-enacted
Timothy J. Piazza Antihazing Law (18 Pa.C.S. § 2809 et seq) by publishing its report on "hazing" and other types of potentially-dangerous
conduct carried out by fraternities, sororities, and other organizations
with ties to the multi-campus Penn State system. In today's post, the
fraternity hazing lawyer at
The Doan Law Firm presents a summary of that report.
The tragic accident surrounding the Piazza law
The incident that spurred the creation of the Timothy J. Piazza Antihazing
Law was one of the most morally repugnant examples of deliberate, and
criminal, misconduct in the history of "Greek Life" and 'higher
Timothy John Piazza was a 19-year-old sophomore at Pennsylvania State University
and a pledge of the school's chapter of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity.
During the evening and night of February 2, 2017, he was a willing participant
in a fraternity initiation/hazing ritual called "the gauntlet,"
which required that he consume vodka, beer, and wine over a short period of time.
During the evening, security cameras documented an obviously-intoxicated
Piazza falling down a stairway leading to the fraternity house basement.
When his fraternity "brothers" later found the unconscious Piazza,
he was placed on a couch in the living area of the fraternity residence.
Rather than summoning emergency medical services to attend to Piazza,
the fraternity members spent the next several hours waiting for Piazza
to "sober up" while discussing what they should do since the
fraternity was already on probation for previous alcohol and conduct policy
Some 12 hours after his fall, fraternity members called emergency services
but attempted to change Piazza's clothing to make it appear that the
fall had just occurred and did not inform responders that he had been
injured hours earlier. Despite what were termed "heroic" efforts
at saving his life, Piazza died two days later from the consequences of
blood loss and brain swelling.
Frustrated by what they perceived as a lack of effort to investigate the
circumstances of their son's death, his parents filed a wrongful death
lawsuit against Penn State and Beta Theta Pi. That
lawsuit was settled out of court in late 2018 although the terms of settlement were sealed.
Piazza's parents also lobbied the state legislature to make hazing
resulting in death a felony (up to 7 years in prison and/or a fine of
up to $15,000) as well providing that "organizations and institutions"
could be criminally charged with hazing. Their efforts were rewarded in
October of 2018, when the Timothy J. Piazza Antihazing Law went into effect.
The law also requires that all Pennsylvania schools and colleges file
twice-yearly reports detailing hazing activities.
Summary of Pennsylvania State University's report
The Penn State report covers the period from January 1, 2013 to the end
of Fall Semester 2018 and documents the activities that led to a total
of thirty-one disciplinary sanctions placed against "recognized student
organizations". The fraternities sanctioned include:
In October 2014 the
Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity (Altoona Campus) was suspended for six years after requiring new members
to consume alcohol and drugs as well as undergo confinement and physical
abuse during initiation.
In May 2016 the
Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity (University Park Campus) had its charter suspended by its national headquarters
for a period of three years after the local chapter was found to have
physically abused its new members.
Beta Theta Pi fraternity (University Park Campus) was permanently expelled from campus in March
2017 over the involvement of its members in the death of Timothy Piazza
Penn State's report also demonstrated that hazing activity is not restricted
to all-male fraternities, with two sororities and two extracurricular
organizations receiving sanctions during the time frame covered by the report:
Gamma Beta Phi sorority (Penn State-Altoona) new members were verbally abused and subjected to
demeaning activities such as forced to consume alcohol and being required
to lick members' toes. The sorority was suspended for two semesters
on Feb. 2, 2018.
In February 2016 the
Zeta Phi Beta sorority (Harrisburg Campus) was suspended until 2021 after being found to have
committed multiple violations of Penn State's policies regarding new
member recruitment and member conduct.
In 2014, potential new members of the University Park campus'
a cappella group, the
Shades of Blue were ordered to consume excessive amounts of alcohol. The organization
was later suspended for two semesters by the Student Organization Conduct
The Altoona campus'
women's soccer team was found to have subjected new team members to verbal abuse, forced alcohol
consumption, and requiring new members to publicly wear clothing that
identified the wearer using derogatory words. Sanctions imposed against
the team included cancellation of half the regular season's competition
and a ban on any off-season competition.
As a law firm that represents victims of hazing and other types of institutional/organizational
misconduct, we are aware that many hazing injury cases tend to "quietly
disappear" once they are brought to the attention of the host school.
The new Pennsylvania law should, at least, deter this practice within
that state but there are 49 other states and hazing isn't even a crime
in 5 of those!
If your child was injured as a result of fraternity or sorority hazing,
we invite you to
contact the fraternity hazing lawyer at
The Doan Law Firm, a nationwide hazing injury practice with offices located in major cities
across the country.
When you contact us, your initial consultation and case review is always
free of any charges and does require that you hire us as your legal counsel.
If you later decide to file a lawsuit and that you would like for us to
represent you in court, we are willing to assume full responsibility for
all aspects of preparing your case for trial in exchange for a percentage
of the final settlement that we will win for you.