Piazzas Settle With Beta Theta Pi, Announce Sweeping Reform For National Organization
Tim Piazza’s parents, Jim and Evelyn, announced a settlement today of their claims against Beta Theta Pi in a joint statement with the fraternity. Terms of a monetary payment will not be disclosed, but the settlement also includes a sweeping conduct reform agreement for the national organization.
“The settlement represents a unique, cooperative agreement, and is an outgrowth of the determined dedication by Jim and Evelyn Piazza to the cause of preventing hazing injury and death in greek life in the future,” Piazza lawyer Tom Kline said in a release. “By this settlement, the Piazzas and Beta help to establish a baseline for the new norm of fraternity pledging and fraternity life at universities and colleges in the United States.”
The reform program is divided into 17 points, summarized below:
- Supporting the Timothy J. Piazza Antihazing Law in Pennsylvania
- Requiring all chapter houses to be alcohol- and substance-free by August 2020
- Including the Piazzas in any decisions about the future of the closed Beta chapter at Penn State (if the property is retained by the chapter’s house corporation)
- Withdrawing national recognition if a college withdraws recognitions based on conduct violations adjudicated at the local level
- Establishing and communicating that any “action causing injury” to another is grounds for expulsion
- Requiring that the college’s police/public safety department be notified of any reported conduct violations that result in serious bodily injury or death of a member, new member, or guest
- Requiring enhanced education and training on a semesterly basis about social event planning, bystander engagement, and prevention of hazing, alcohol/substance abuse, sexual assault, and other abuses
- Requiring chapters to publicly list online all chapter events and dates within new member education programs as part of Beta’s standardized new member education program and annual certification process
- Requiring all chapters to complete annual safe event planning education before holding social events
- Encouraging local house corporations to implement a live-in house advisor
- Using “reasonable efforts” to implement a standardized new member education program limited to four weeks prior to initiation
- Encouraging chapters to install security cameras at all chapter housing
- Establishing a relationship statement this fall between the fraternity and all members
- Publishing notice on the Beta website about chapter status changes resulting from violations of fraternity policies, including related to alcohol and hazing
- Encouraging open access to all chapter housing common areas to third parties authorized by the fraternity or the host institution to visit during social events
- Requiring all chapters to have a faculty advisor as part of recognition requirements
- Including bystander intervention training in Beta’s risk management education each semester and continuing to provide anonymous reporting options for students and parents
The legally binding agreement becomes effective immediately.
“That the Piazza family has had to endure the loss of their beloved son and brother, Tim, remains one of the greatest disappointments and darkest hours in Beta’s history,” said S. Wayne Kay, Beta Theta Pi’s general secretary and chairman of the board. “It is heartbreaking and numbing to know our former members let Tim and his family down in such a tragic way. There will never be enough words to describe the pain they feel, and Betas everywhere join with me in expressing our shared anger and sorrow that this could have happened in our Fraternity.”
The settlement also allows the Piazzas to move forward with claims against other parties related to Tim Piazza’s death, including “the individual perpetrators,” according to a release from Piazza attorney Tom Kline.
The Piazzas pursued legal action against the fraternity after their son Tim’s tragic hazing death in February 2017 at the Penn State chapter’s bid acceptance night. Other aspects of the cases against former members of the fraternity continue to move through the court system, as preliminary hearings have resulted in the dismissal of the most serious charges time and again even after multiple refilings.
Three former Beta Theta Pi brothers have pleaded guilty in the case. A trial is scheduled for February 2019 for most of the remaining charges.
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