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Parents Who Lost Sons To Penn State Hazing Incidents At The Forefront Of Anti-Hazing Coalition

“Why would parents of children who lost lives while participating in Greek activities, to hazing, why would we want to work with Greek organizations? The answer to that question is we are interested in saving lives.”

An unprecedented national alliance has formed thanks to a pair of Penn State parents whose own personal tragedies have driven change on the subjects of hazing and alcohol abuse throughout Greek life organizations across the country.

The North-American Interfraternity Conference, the governing body for 66 national fraternities, and the National Panhellenic Conference, the governing body for 26 national sororities, announced Monday that they joined forces in support of the Anti-Hazing Coalition.

The campaign, which started following a South Carolina conference featuring more than a dozen families who lost children to hazing incidents, features the efforts of Jim and Evelyn Piazza — who lost their son, Tim, following a drinking ritual during bid acceptance night at Penn State’s Beta Theta house — as well as Rich and Maille Braham — whose son, Marquise, committed suicide after a series of hazing incidents at Penn State Altoona’s Phi Sigma Kappa in 2014.

“Why would parents of children who lost lives while participating in Greek activities, to hazing, why would we want to work with Greek organizations? The answer to that question is we are interested in saving lives,”

Rich Braham told reporters on a conference call.

The Piazzas have been making ground on these issues since their son’s death in February 2017. Penn State’s campus announced extensive new Greek regulations in the months following Piazza’s death, which included moving formal recruitment to the spring and barred hard alcohol from socials. They also secured a settlement with Beta Theta Pi nationals that includes requirements for its chapters as well as the fraternity’s support of upcoming hazing legislation.

The North-American Interfraternity Conference joined in on the drive for change recently, inviting the Piazzas to speak at fraternities across the country and announcing last week its decision to ban hard alcohol at all of its affiliated fraternities by September 2019.

“We believe through the interactions that we’ve had that there’s a real sincerity to make a difference,” Jim Piazza said Monday on Good Morning America.

The main goal of the coalition is to strengthen laws against hazing, namely upgrading the crime to felony status.

Tim’s Law, which was proposed as the means for strengthening the hazing penalty following a grand jury report on Penn State Greek life, passed through Pennsylvania Senate in April and awaits review from the state’s House.

Many of the former Beta Theta Pi brothers awaiting their trial in February face misdemeanor hazing charges, but had the more serious charges, like aggravated assault and involuntary manslaughter, dropped or dismissed in the past year of legal proceedings.

“Currently the system — and that’s the police, the district attorneys, the judges — they seem to view hazing as it’s kind of like kids’ stuff,” Rich Braham told the AP.

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About the Author

Steve Connelly

Unfortunately, former editor Steve Connelly has graduated. Where is he now? He might be doing something related to that PR degree he got in 2019. Maybe he finally opened that sports bar named after one of his photos, the Blurry Zamboni. Or he might just be eating chicken tenders and couch surfing. Anything’s possible. If you really want to know, follow him on Twitter @slc2o.

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