Grand Jury Releases Report On Penn State Greek Life, Recommends 12 Changes
Outgoing Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller announced the Grand Jury’s 12 recommendations to Penn State Greek life and related laws and procedures in a long-winded press conference Friday morning. Parks Miller outlined multiple reasons and related instances that led the Grand Jury to reach the conclusions listed in the report.
Parks Miller said during the press conference that the Grand Jury “dove into” other instances of hazing and excessive drinking at Penn State. The Grand Jury report includes information on Beta Theta Pi 10 years ago, James Vivenzio (a former Kappa Delta Rho pledge who served as a whistleblower in 2015), Joe Dado, Marquise Braham, and fraternity hazing instances around the country. The Grand Jury report concludes what happened at Beta Theta Pi is not unique to the fraternity and is, instead, a fault of the Interfraternity Council and the university.
“Big shock that [the hazing at Beta Theta Pi] happened here,” Parks Miller said. “The treatment [the Grand Jury] found, was not unique to that fraternity or those brothers.”
Parks Miller insisted the Interfraternity Council has to have oversight in its governing of fraternities at Penn State. The IFC was previously a self-governing entity, but has since lost some of its power in light of Tim Piazza’s death. Penn State’s Office of Student Conduct now handles discipline of all student organizations, including fraternities and sororities.
“The IFC’s regulations are a joke,” Parks Miller said. “Who’s looking over their shoulder to make sure they’re doing it right?”
Parks Miller continued on this point, discussing the spot checkers the Interfraternity Council hired to check on fraternities during socials to look for violations. The third-party company, St. Moritz, would write reports on any violations they came across and submit this paperwork to the IFC. The Grand Jury found, however, that these reports often never made their way to the appropriate offices at Penn State.
“There is no paperwork, which must means there are no violations. Really?” Parks Miller said. “Their record keeping is a sham.”
“Choosing to allow a self-run student organization to say ‘were here doing a great job,’ and never once asking St. Moritz, ‘let me see the paperwork, let me see what’s going on.’ When did [Penn State] say “let’s check in periodically to see the job St. Moritz is doing.'”
“‘They’re separate and we’re powerless,’ Penn state said. That is not true,” Parks Miller said.
Parks Miller asserted also that Penn State provides the Interfraternity Council with marketing materials, office space in the HUB, website space, common space for students to meet, and other things which allow them to recruit students to join fraternities. Every registered student organization at Penn State has access to office space in the HUB, funds for office supplies, access to marketing materials, and resources within the Associated Student Activities.
“I’m deeply disappointed by Penn State’s response,” Parks Miller said. Ultimately, she said the Grand Jury report boils down to the idea that Penn State says it didn’t know about the hazing, could not have ever known, and even if it did know, there’s nothing it could have done.
“That’s just 100 percent not true. That’s in the Grand Jury Report — the Grand Jury was able to see through the IFC and the university,” Parks Miller said.
Stacy Parks Miller referenced an article that we published in August outlining how Penn State’s new Greek life regulations are easily circumventable, noting her belief that the university mocked the comparisons.
“They’re afraid to embrace more significant change,” she said of Penn State. After more than an hour discussing the 200-plus page Grand Jury Report, Parks Miller outlined the recommendations.
Ultimately, the Grand Jury report concluded the following 12 recommendations. The most notable of these is a recommendation for the creation of Tim’s Law, which suggest heightened offenses for hazing. Here’s the full list:
- Cure the Currently Deficient Hazing Law – The Grand Jury recommends the creation of “Tim’s Law,” an anti-hazing regulation that would create a multi-tiered system for a hazing offense that is contingent on the severity of the harm possible as well as any harm actually inflicted on through hazing. This law would strengthen the default of hazing to a 2nd degree misdemeanor with increased legal ramifications for hazing that causes or risks bodily injury (upgraded to potential 1st degree misdemeanor), hazing that causes or risks serious bodily injury (2nd degree felony), or hazing that results in death (1st degree felony). This law would be codified under Title 18 (the Crimes Code), effectively taking it out fro the Education Act.
- Strengthen Law for Furnishing Alcohol to Minors
- Create a Pledge’s Bill of Rights
- Establish a Hazing Hotline
- Discipline Individual students who violate the hazing laws with actual zero tolerance
- Strengthen Penn State’s hazing policy
- Implement and enforce severe restrictions in alcohol use because incremental changes have proven useless and are disproportionate to the problem
- Penn State must enforce these policies that protect Penn State students
- Penn State should direct resources to the expansion of its Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life and Office of Student Conduct
- Penn State should adequately fund and staff the offices responsible for Greek life
- Universities should train all employees — including students — to recognize the gravity of hazing and to report it immediately
- The General Assembly should enact compulsory reporting processes for any elementary, secondary, or higher education institution, including identifying mandatory reporters
After highlighting the key recommendations, Parks Miller invited Marquise Braham’s father, Rich, to speak.
“What we heard today was explosive, and you ask yourself, ‘What took so long?'” Braham said. “The problems are institutional, and that’s what I told the Grand Jury.”
“[Marquise] didn’t join a frat to get hazed. Nobody does!” Braham praised Parks Miller for her determination to get to the truth in the Beta Theta Pi case. He said that the Blair County DA did not push for evidence in the same way. “This Grand Jury Report about my son is what we have been waiting for.”
“Their lives weren’t misdemeanors to their families. But hazing, in this country, is a misdemeanor crime, even when someone dies,” Braham said.
Braham also said the Blair County DA prosecuting his son’s case ultimately recused himself due to apparent conflict of interest, turning the case over to the PA Attorney General’s Office. Parks Miller’s successor, Bernie Cantorna, is attempting to follow suit in the Piazza case.
Parks Miller also invited Vivenzio and his lawyer Aaron Freiwald to speak. Freiwald and Vivenzio both expressed their concern with the university’s lack of action in the Beta Theta Pi case as well as other hazing instances in the past.
“Penn State, you screwed up. Don’t you learn from your mistakes? What is this, Joe Paterno all over again? Do we really need to go through this again?” Vivenzio said.
Parks Miller closed the press conference clarifying that Penn State is not legally bound to follow any of the recommendations put forth by the Grand Jury. The university could alter its course of action, implement any part of the recommendations separately, or simply choose not to implement any of the recommendations at all.