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Beta Theta Pi Files Lawsuit, Says Ban From Penn State Was A ‘Cover Up’ Of University Failures

The now-banned fraternity Beta Theta Pi filed a lawsuit against Penn State and university officials on June 21, claiming that blame was placed on the Chapter for the February 2017 death of pledge Timothy Piazza to deflect from the university’s failures.

The suit was filed by the Alpha Upsilon Chapter of Beta Theta Pi, and the house corporation of the chapter. President Eric Barron, Vice President of Student Affairs Damon Sims, and Senior Director of the Office of Student Conduct Danny Shaha were included as defendants in the case.

Piazza died after falling down the basement steps of the fraternity’s house after hazing activities leading to fatal brain injuries and a ruptured spleen. The Chapter was banned from Penn State in March 2017.

The complaint details several pages worth of achievements of members of the Chapter who have been leaders on campus, earned high GPAs, and helped raise money for THON. It also recognizes alumni who are leaders in their fields.

When acknowledging Piazza’s death, the suit says he “tripped over at least one student not associated with the Chapter,” which led Piazza to lose his balance and fall down the stairs. The fact that Piazza was taking “certain medication,” prior to the incident, had suffered previous injuries, and was experiencing internal bleeding, all of which was allegedly unknown to those around him, was also mentioned in the suit.

During the investigation of Piazza’s death, the Chapter says Penn State officials neglected to follow procedures of the IFC and Office of Student Affairs, and banned the Chapter “to cover up their prior negligence in failing to adequately address the Penn State drinking culture.

“Penn State sought to cover up the failure of its policies to provide a safe environment for all of its students by deflecting blame to the Chapter and the House Corp, when the blame for these tragic events actually rests at the feet of Sims, Shaha, Barron and Penn State itself,” the complaint says.

Prior to February 2017, Sims was warned that the social culture at Penn State was unsafe for students, and even admitted that the current policies needed to be changed, the suit says.

The Chapter claims that blame was placed on them for Piazza’s death in order to shift the focus away from Penn State and its failure to provide students with a safe environment.

“During the previous ten years, there have been numerous deaths, serious injuries, and sexual assaults which have occurred in Penn state dormitories and on Penn State property, which Sims, Barron, Shaha and Penn State have largely ignored,” the suit says.

Penn State is now attempting to purchase the fraternity’s house since it’s no longer being used as fraternity housing. The Chapter claims that blaming the death of Piazza on them was a way for the university to “utilize the tragic circumstances” for this purchase to occur.

The defendants are being sued for violation of the 14th amendment, negligence, fraud and deceit, civil conspiracy and bad faith, tortious interference, and third party beneficiary.

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About the Author

Cassady Potts

Cassady is a junior English and journalism major and Onward State's Student Life Editor. She is from York, Pennsylvania and loves iced coffee, books, and women's volleyball. You can find her on campus by looking for the girl who always wears stripes. Feel free to send any questions, comments, or memes via email ([email protected]) and follow her @cassady_potts on Twitter.

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