Gabriella DiPietro | News Editor
After the hazing-related death of Penn State student and Beta Theta Pi fraternity pledge Timothy Piazza in February 2017, Pennsylvania legislators have decided to increase the punishment and penalties for hazing in Piazza’s memory.
The new anti-hazing law, named the Timothy Piazza Anti-Hazing Law, unanimously passed legislature. Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf signed the legislation on Friday, Oct. 19, authorizing courts to order confiscations of frat houses where hazing has occurred, in addition to raising the maximum penalty for hazing to a felony. Those convicted may be sentenced up to seven years in prison.
The definition of hazing, as outlined by the new law, is a conditioning acceptance into a group on breaking the law; consuming food, alcohol or drugs that put an individual in physical or emotional harm; sexual brutality; physical brutality such as whipping, beating, branding, calisthenics or exposure to severe weather; causing mental stress through sleep deprivation, forced exclusion or forced conduct that could cause extreme embarrassment or “any other forced activity which could adversely affect the mental health or dignity of the individual.”
The law institutes tiers for hazing: severe injury or death related to hazing constitutes as a felony, while hazing that can inflict harm or injury is considered to be a misdemeanor. Lower-level violations pertain to less serious incidents.
High schools, colleges and universities are required to report all hazing incidents and maintain policies to combat hazing.
Rebecca Mickler, Duquesne University’s director of Greek Life, followed the bill for months as it progressed through state legislature.
“I’m very pleased that this important law has clear language in regard to hazing prevention, enforcement and transparency,” Mickler said. “Duquesne University has long had a written no-tolerance policy regarding hazing that includes rules prohibiting our Greek students from engaging in hazing. We make that readily available in the student handbook, and we review the rules each year during Greek 101, a mandatory new member education program.”
A “safe harbor” provision is also in place to protect individuals from prosecution if they seek help for victims of hazing incidents.
The law takes effect next month.