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Penn State Vows Significant Change To Greek Life In Light Of Student Death

Penn State released a statement this evening promising Greek life will undergo significant changes in light of the death of student Timothy Piazza. Piazza passed away Saturday morning at Hershey Medical Center as a result of traumatic injuries sustained Thursday night when he fell down the basement steps at Beta Theta Pi fraternity.

Vice President for Student Affairs Damon Sims met with Interfraternity Council leadership last night and Penn State and the IFC agreed to cancel all fraternity socials indefinitely to evaluate social policies. “Vice President Sims told the chapter presidents that they must work together with the University and others to achieve better outcomes that are required to ensure a healthy, productive and sustainable fraternity and sorority system at Penn State,” the statement reads.

“An aggressive timeline is being established to finalize plans and adopt recommendations for change. The Penn State fraternity and sorority community is a rich source of leadership opportunity, charitable activity, community service, networking and social experience. The University and its fraternity leaders are taking actions to improve the experience for all Penn State students and to ensure the sustainability of these important organizations.”

Members of the fraternity did not contact paramedics until 12 hours after they say Piazza fell while intoxicated. Police responded Friday around 10:49 a.m. and Piazza was transported to Mt. Nittany Medical Center. He was later flown to Hershey Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead by the Dauphin County Coroner. The coroner has since ruled his death accidental.

Beta Theta Pi remains on temporary suspension by both Penn State and its national fraternity chapter.

You can read the full statement from Penn State below.

Effective immediately, the Penn State Interfraternity Council (IFC) and Vice President for Student Affairs Damon Sims are suspending all social functions for IFC chapters associated with the University Park campus. This suspension will continue while the University, the IFC and its chapters, relevant alumni and national fraternity organizations, the Panhellenic Council, and the Borough of State College determine significant changes in social policies and practices for these groups. Recent events, including a tragic student death associated with activities in a fraternity house, as well as growing allegations of misconduct in these organizations, including hazing and sexual assault, compel this joint action.

Social functions are defined by the IFC as any activity sponsored by a chapter or its members, on or off chapter property, where alcohol is present, regardless the source, including third-party vendors. The moratorium on these functions will be enforced by the Interfraternity Council and Student Affairs, which will be given access to public areas in chapter houses for spot visits conducted by IFC leaders and Student Affairs staff. Violation of these expectations will result in further disciplinary action and may subject a chapter to loss of University recognition.

Damon Sims, vice president for Student Affairs, met yesterday (Feb. 7) with the presidents of Penn State’s fraternity chapters to discuss the need for meaningful change in their organizations. These fraternities are private organizations that function on private property.  They are neither owned, nor operated by Penn State, and their success and sustainability require collective and positive action by undergraduate actives, alumni, national chapters, the University and the borough. 

The self-governing nature of these groups requires their participation to effect any change in their policies and practices. Vice President Sims told the chapter presidents that they must work together with the University and others to achieve better outcomes that are required to ensure a healthy, productive and sustainable fraternity and sorority system at Penn State.

Sims told the IFC leadership and the chapter presidents that agreement to changes must be achieved soon, and that the moratorium on social functions will remain in place until such agreement is reached. 

An aggressive timeline is being established to finalize plans and adopt recommendations for change. The Penn State fraternity and sorority community is a rich source of leadership opportunity, charitable activity, community service, networking and social experience. The University and its fraternity leaders are taking actions to improve the experience for all Penn State students and to ensure the sustainability of these important organizations.

About the Author

Elissa Hill

Elissa is a junior public relations major and the managing editor of Onward State. She is from Punxsutawney, PA [insert corny Bill Murray joke here] and considers herself an expert on all things ice cream. Send questions and comments via e-mail ([email protected]) and follow her on Twitter (@ElissaKHill) for more corny jokes.

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