Greek Life holds forum to discuss dangers of hazing on campus

Courtesy Rebecca Mikler


Hallie Lauer | News Editor

Duquesne hosted the family of Timothy Piazza as the guest speakers for Greek Week. Piazza died in February 2017 as a result of hazing from the Beta Theta Pi fraternity at Penn State University.

The family came to speak to Duquesne’s social Greek life as the educational event in conjunction with Greek Week, a week long competition between the organizations.

Jim and Evelyn Piazza, Timothy’s parents, spoke about the dangers of hazing, the consequences, who it affects and how to take action against it.

They started by telling the story of their son, who he was before he died and what happened the night of his death. The family left nothing out as they retold the story of the last hours of their son’s life.

“Now put yourselves in our shoes,” Evelyn said. “Imagine your parents, having to decide whether to resuscitate him [their son] or when he goes into cardiac arrest — because eventually he will — let him go or to turn off the machines now, before he goes into cardiac arrest.”

Before Timothy’s parents had to make that decision, he coded. As they were resuscitating him, a nurse pulled Evelyn from the surgical waiting room into Timothy’s room and said, “kiss your baby goodbye.”

Jim and Evelyn talked about how to stop hazing and also how to recognize when someone needs help.

“If you feel the need to check their pulse or their breathing, call 911,” Jim said. Part of the law implemented will include medical amnesty. If a person calls to report that another person is in need of medical assistance, and they believe themselves to be the first person to call and then continue to stay with the person in need, they will not be charged for underage drinking if that is the case.

“Hazing is everyone’s problem and everyone’s responsibility,” Jim said. “I have a request of you. I have no doubt some of you have hazed or have been hazed, but I’m asking you to say no going forward. Don’t put others at risk. Hazing has no place if you live by your code.”

Evelyn quoted a few mottos and lines from Duquesne fraternities mission statements like, “The True Gentlemen” from Sigma Alpha Epsilon or from the mission statement of Tau Kappa Epsilon, “to aid men in their mental, moral and social development for life.”

Evelyn also discussed breaking the tradition aspect of hazing.

“Just because it happened to you, doesn’t mean you have to continue,” she said.

There were four confirmed hazing-related deaths in 2018, with two more under investigation. There is one death in 2019 currently under investigation.

In March 2018, the state approved the Timothy J. Piazza Anti-Hazing Law, which created tiers for types of hazing and subsequent punishments. Prior to this law, hazing was charged as a misdemeanor.

Under the new law, these have been upgraded. If hazing results in bodily harm, it is considered a third-degree misdemeanor which can include fines and imprisonment up to one year. If hazing results in serious bodily harm or death, it becomes a third-degree felony, which can include fines and imprisonment up to seven years.

The bill was passed in April 2018, and Gov. Tom Wolf signed it into law in October.

The definition of hazing, according to the Piazza law, is “coercing an individual to participate in any illegal activity in order to join a social group, including the use of drugs and alcohol to inflict physical or emotional harm or the use of other forces such as ‘whipping, beating … or extreme embarrassment.’”

The Piazza family discussed many different types of ways organizations haze, many of them involving binge drinking.

“Hard liquor seems to be the tool of choice in college hazing,” Jim said.

It is due to this that the family also pushed for Greek Life organizations to ban hard liquor from events. This ban goes into effect Sept. 1, 2019, and will be enforced at Duquesne.

All North American Interfraternity Conference (NIC) member fraternities will adopt the ban, which “prohibits the presence of alcohol products above 15% ABV in any chapter facility or at any chapter event, except when served by a licensed third-party vendor.”

This means that the only time hard liquor is to be consumed at a Greek Life event is if they host a formal at a bar or restaurant with a professional serving the attendees.

Duquesne has also adopted a shortened new member period as a way to combat hazing.

“The important thing for you to know is that we are not anti-Greek,” Jim said. “If you heard that tonight you weren’t listening. We want a safer college experience.”

The bill also mandates that all universities make public any reports on hazing. Duquesne’s was most recently updated in January, with the most recent reported episode being an incident last fall with the Alpha Delta fraternity.

The report currently online includes incidents dating back to 2014.

Greek Life organizations on campus were required for at least 90 percent of their members to attend the event. If not in compliance with that rule, the organizations would not receive points for Greek Week participation.

At the end of the event, Director of the Greek Life Office Rebecca Jamrozik Mickler presented Jim and Evelyn with two checks on behalf of Duquesne’s Greek Life. One was for a donation to Parents United 2 Stop Hazing (PUSH), an organization the family helped to form. The other was for a donation to the memorial foundation they created in Timothy’s name that provides support to people who are in need of prosthetics.

Duquesne will also be hosting a mass on Feb. 4, 2020 in honor of Timothy; that date will mark three years since he died.