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Cal Poly Sigma Pi Chapter Suspended Over Hazing Accusations

Last year’s tragic death of Collin Wiant, a pledge at the Sigma Pi fraternity at Ohio University, should have opened up Sigma Pi’s eyes to change its policies and practices……yet their ongoing incidents and misconduct continue across the U.S. 

The Sigma Pi fraternity has been suspended until June 15, 2019 and placed on social probation until Spring 2020 for violation of health and safety code, violation of alcohol use, violations of law, and violation of hazing and conspiracy to haze. The suspension is effective immediately, as of Monday, Jan. 14, according to Cal Poly Fraternity & Sorority Life.

Sigma Pi was investigated after the university received reports that the fraternity was involved in hazing recruits in Fall 2018. The hazing included humiliation of pledges, causing mental and emotional distress, according to University Spokesperson Matt Lazier. It is unknown how many reports of hazing the university received.

The fraternity was also found in violation of providing alcohol to pledges and minors during the recruitment and pledging process.

The university asked the Sigma Pi national chapter to review the chapter’s membership and the chapter’s executive board is required to complete an educational training, according to Lazier.

The fraternity received a notice of suspension Monday and was banned from Winter 2019 rush events, starting today.

The chapter has not commented on the sanctions at this time. Mustang News has reached out to the Cal Poly Interfraternity Council and Sigma Pi national headquarters, but have not received a response from either.

Sigma Pi is known on campus for their annual Suicide and Mental Health Awareness Week and for notable alumni, such as iCracked Founder AJ Forsythe. The chapter has 91 brothers as of 2018, according to their website.

This is the second fraternity found in violation of hazing this school year.

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UC Irvine Sigma Alpha Epsilon Chapter Suspended After Member Dies

Noah Domingo

After ONLY 1 WEEK of being back to classes, UC Irvine Fraternity, Sigma Alpha Epsilon, is Suspended as Police Investigate Death of 18-Year-Old Student.

Freshman Noah Domingo was found Saturday near the University of California, Irvine in a home off-campus. Irvine police received a call around 9:40 a.m. that Domingo was unresponsive and found him dead in a bed at the home, said Kim Mohr, a police spokeswoman.

Orange County coroner’s officials said Domingo died six hours earlier. The cause of his death is under investigation.

Sigma Alpha Epsilon is the same fraternity Cal Poly freshman Carson Starkey, who died from acute alcohol poisoning in a hazing ritual, was pledging in December 2008.

The entire staff at School Violence Law and The Fierberg National Law Group extend our sincere condolences to the family of Noah Domingo.

 

 

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Family Says 5 Yr. Old Girl was Sexually Assaulted at Plymouth, MI Church During Sunday School

On January 3rd, the family of Jane Doe, a minor, filed a lawsuit in the Third Circuit Court in Wayne County, MI against The First Presbyterian Church of Plymouth and two of its employees, seeking accountability and justice for sexual abuse that was perpetrated by a third-party adult male against five-year-old Jane Doe during Sunday School at the Church.

On Palm Sunday 2017, Jane Doe’s parents entrusted Jane’s safety and well-being to the Church and its employees during Sunday School. Despite representations and assurances to the Doe family that Jane would be properly supervised at all times, two Church employees responsible for the Sunday School class allowed her to leave the classroom alone and unsupervised. In the 20 minutes that Jane was missing from the classroom, her absence unnoticed by Sunday School teachers, an adult man took Jane into the bathroom and sexually assaulted her. Even though the Does reported the abuse to the Church the next day, the Church failed to notify other parents that a child had been sexually abused on Church premises, or that the police were investigating, for nearly a month. During that time, other families continued to leave their children in the Church’s care, unaware of the unresolved danger.

The Does’ lawsuit alleges that the Church allowed anyone who entered the Church unfettered access to Sunday School children, understaffed its Sunday School program, and failed to properly train or supervise its employees. Because of the Church’s failure to implement the most basic safety measures to protect, or even record who was allowed access to, children in the Sunday School program, law enforcement—despite conducting a lengthy investigation that included DNA evidence—has been unable to identify the man who assaulted Jane Doe, and the perpetrator remains at large, continuing to pose a risk to children in the community.

The Doe family, represented by The Fierberg National Law Group attorney, Monica Beck, brings this lawsuit to seek justice for Jane, to incite change in the Church’s policies, practices, and attitudes toward the safety of children entrusted to its care, and to ensure that no other child or family suffer as they have. “Our churches must be the safest communities for children and the least safe for those who hurt them. When the church fails to protect and advocate for the little ones in our midst, it fails to reflect the very heart of Jesus,” said Boz Tchividjian, a consulting attorney specializing in issues related to child abuse and protection in church communities. By speaking out, the Doe family hopes to end the silence around child sexual abuse, raise awareness about a culture that minimizes and covers up abuse occurring within religious institutions, and hold the Church and its leadership accountable for events that have forever changed their lives.

See the Local News Coverage Here:  WJBK-TV 2 FOX DetroitWDIV-TV 4 NBC Detroit, and WXYZ-TV 7 ABC Detroit

 

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Miami University of Ohio Changes Their Fraternity Guidelines

Miami University of Ohio fraternity and sorority members recently received a message addressing changes and recommendations that will be implemented in their community over the next year. These changes are meant to set a new standard for fraternities – one that focuses on brotherhood, leadership, and accountability.

It is no secret that in the last several years, their fraternity community has come under scrutiny for unhealthy decision making – some of which led to suspensions of organizations. In October 2016, attorney Doug Fierberg presented at the Miami OH campus: Campus Sexual Violence: Student Rights, University Responsibilities and Legal Liability in the Hunting Ground confronting these issues.

We here at School Violence Law and The Fierberg National Law Group are happy to see flagged issues being undertaken with mature management.

Below is the text from the email that Greek students received.

Dear Members of the Miami University Fraternity & Sorority Community:

Miami has long been a leader in the fraternal movement. We have consistently talked about creating a “model Greek community” at Miami – one where students live their values, bring out the best in each other, hold one another accountable, and are role models on campus and across the country.

As we look to the future, we also must look at our past. There is no denying the fact that systemic issues in our community have led to concerning health and safety risks to students – in particular to the newest members of our Interfraternity Council community.

Over the course of the next year, you will see specific changes to fraternity life here at Miami. These changes were developed by a diverse team of committed fraternity stakeholders – students, chapter advisors, alumni, headquarters partners, housing corporation board officers, and staff. The committee evaluated data, reports, and other university standards to determine what would help promote safety and advance the fraternal experience at Miami. It was not an easy task, and the challenges posed to the committee were great, however, we firmly believe these changes will strengthen principles and limit risk among our fraternity chapters.

A few major changes that you will see include:

*             In spring semester 2019 and going forward, fraternity new members will need to complete online training courses on leadership and accountability.

*             The new member period will be changed to four weeks rather than eight.

*             In the recruitment period of spring 2020, all new members will be required to have a GPA of at least 2.75 (up from 2.5) to join a fraternity.

*             Live-in house directors will be required for fraternities to receive the second year exemption.

While we know that policies alone cannot change a culture, the changes are expected to:

*             Foster a culture that develops and rewards student leadership through participation in a fraternity.

*             Focus on academic excellence and student success.

*             Address the nationwide challenges of hazing, high-risk alcohol, and drug use while holding students and chapters accountable for standards.

Please know we are invested in navigating these changes and working together to create a sustainable community that upholds the Love & Honor of Miami. Communication and transparency will be consistent and necessary as we move forward.

Thank you for your dedication and investment in making your community one we can all be proud of.

The Cliff Alexander Office of Fraternity & Sorority Life 

Read More Here

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“I Am A College Linebacker Tackling Sexual Assault: Why I Oppose The Proposed Title IX Rule Changes”

Kyle Richard Brand Contributor | Civic Nation BRANDVOICE | Dec 18, 2018, 02:26pm

Kyle Richard, senior kinesiology major at SUNY Cortland, is a guest contributor for It’s On Us.

It was July 23rd, 2017, at 2am. My friends and I were at a party when a young male attempted to sexually assault a young woman. My friend, Sulaiman Aina, and I were directly able to break it up. Moments after speaking with the victim to clarify what was happening, I immediately went to look for the perpetrator. With him still in front of the house, I went to confront him. In the process of my sticking up for the victim, the perpetrator pulled a gun out and let off three shots, two bullets tearing through each of my legs and the last one sailing past me. Thirty seconds later the perpetrator shot at my friends, who had just gotten back from the diner. My friend, Michael Abiola, was shot in his shoulder and would recover more than a year later.

The world needs to know that this is no sob story. This is a story that has promoted bystander intervention and raised sexual violence awareness for thousands of people.

In the process of my sticking up for the victim, the perpetrator pulled a gun out and let off three shots, two bullets tearing through each of my legs and the last one sailing past me.

Being a student-athlete at SUNY Cortland, my dream after the incident was simply to get back to being able to play football. Only two months of rehab and I was just good enough to get back onto that field. I did not think much of what Sulaiman and I had done that early morning in July. In my head, what had happened that night was something that most people would do. Through research and personal stories that involved active bystanders, there was a realization that we live in a toxic culture that needs change. Now I speak out, usually while wearing my Cortland Football collared shirt, at a variety of events to spread awareness. If one football player can take a stand against sexual violence, maybe another athlete will.

One classmate spreading awareness will make other classmates spread awareness. Student leaders organizing and maximizing sexual/domestic violence awareness clubs will get more people involved. Fraternity leaders holding their brothers to a higher standard to treat people with respect. These should all be considered forms of bystander intervention in relationship with this toxic culture.

Now I speak out, usually while wearing my Cortland Football collared shirt, at a variety of events to spread awareness.

It is important for young men to fight against sexual assault, because the overwhelming majority of perpetrators are “male.” (I use male, not men, when describing perpetrators because I believe being a man means treating people with respect). Since we young men are so close to the root of the problem, we can be major leaders in changing rape culture. My message to athletes and other young men is that by standing up for somebody, known or random, you can become a hero in a person’s life. Be the person who tells somebody if there is no consent, there is no sex. Be the person who speaks out for campus safety.

That’s why I know the proposed rule changes to Title IX are disastrous—and something young men like myself have a responsibility to speak out against. Since joining the Trump administration in 2017 Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and her team have claimed these changes to Title IX are intended to protect young men on campus. But I know—and young men all across this nation know—that these changes are really intended to sweep campus sexual assault under the rug and reduce the liability of colleges. We won’t be pawns in Sec. DeVos’s game. We will speak out against these changes.

Her plan to make off-campus incidents non-investigable, by the school the perpetrator and/or the victim attend, is unacceptable. In order to hold their perpetrators accountable, victims would have to face their perpetrators through live hearings. Meanwhile, their perpetrators will roam freely on campus until the misconduct investigation is completed. Victims already have trouble receiving justice. With the proposed Title IX rule changes, perpetrators will be more protected than ever before. We should be looking to support and believe the victims, not hurt them.

If you’re reading this go ahead and leave a comment that the department of education must read and respond to by visiting ItsOnUs.org/TitleIX. Help stop these rule changes!

Kyle Richard is an advocate for sexual violence prevention and bystander intervention. He works in connection with It’s On Us in the SUNY Cortland chapter. He is a senior kinesiology major at SUNY Cortland. Kyle has spoken at several educational institutions such as Stevens Institute of Technology, Cortland High School, Utica College, SUNY Cortland, Fashion Institute of Technology, etc.

 

Full Article Here

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What is the future of fraternities on college campuses?

By: James Patterson | Education Dive | November 13, 2018

After four student deaths in 2017 and pressure from parents, colleges are cracking down — but just how far they’ll go is still to be determined.

E. Gordon Gee, the professorial president of West Virginia University who favors bow ties and once described himself as “quirky as hell,” pauses for a moment and sighs when asked whether he thinks it’s possible to improve the fractured relationship between fraternities and colleges across the country.

Although he may seem like their antithesis, and his response to their misbehavior on his campus has been by most accounts no-nonsense, he says he’s optimistic.

“They are going to continue to play a role, and it could be a positive one. So rather than ignore them and put them aside, let’s find a way to make them cheerful, friendly and engaged members of the university community,” says Gee, who recently banned five fraternities for 10 or more years after they refused to obey new rules he implemented following reports of hazing and drug and alcohol abuse.

He’s not the only college leader of late to crack down on fraternities for misconduct. This fall, the University of Iowa and Monmouth Universitysuspended theirs, and other institutions such as the University of NebraskaNorthwestern University, the University of Arizona and the University of Connecticut have taken similar actions in recent years.

Disparate views about the future of fraternities have included suggestions they be disbanded or even unbridled and self-governed. Yet Gee and others seem adamant that fraternities have a place in higher education, though they agree a solution to the present issues is needed now. The most recent catalyst: four student deaths as a result of hazing activity in 2017 alone. The spate followed a near half-century period during which at least one hazing death was recorded per year, according to Franklin College Professor Hank Nuwer, who has gained attention for his meticulous tracking of incidents.

College leaders and others say those solutions include stricter limits for fraternities around pledging and alcohol use, higher levels of direct supervision, more stringent state laws and better tactics for getting fraternities to self-police, the latter led more forcefully by their national and campus organizations.

But fraternities’ long histories at their universities and deep ties within alumni networks makes cracking down a major challenge.

A SHIFTING TIDE

The problem, says Nicholas Syrett, a professor at the University of Kansas and author of “The Company He Keeps: A History of White College Fraternities,” stems from the deeply rooted traditions intrinsic to fraternities and the heavy doses of male bonding that go along with them.

“Many young men arrive on campus very much hoping that their college experience will involve excessive drinking at fraternity parties. They want what they think of as the classic fraternity experience, complete with parties, pledging and hazing,” Syrett says. “The men who most fit that ideal even before getting to college join fraternities and they encourage one another to continue the tradition. It’s a bit like a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

Under that broader umbrella, loose-knit “rogue” groups that “act with impunity” challenge colleges and universities that often feel they don’t have sufficient tools to monitor or oversee them, says Paul Zingg, former president of California State University, Chico, where the hazing death of 21-year-old Matthew Carrington in 2005 prompted the formation of the nonprofit Anti-Hazing Awareness (AHA!) Movement, founded by Carrington’s mother Debbie Smith.

“Greek misbehavior takes place on most campuses,” Zingg says. Efforts such as that by AHA!, which Zingg supports, hope to change that. Its work resulted in the passage of Matt’s Law in California, which allows for felony prosecutions and broader law enforcement powers for hazing.      

Smith isn’t the only parent pushing back, and that pressure is spurring colleges and universities to step up. Following Penn State University sophomore Timothy Piazza’s death in 2017 as a result of injuries sustained during a night of drinking at a fraternity event, the university became a center of activity related to fraternity safety.

Piazza’s parents were active in pushing for greater oversight of fraternities, and Penn State President Eric Barron clamped down the groups on his campus and began collaborating with the presidents of other universities where hazing-related deaths had occurred recently to find solutions.

Their efforts were also critical to recently passed legislation in Pennsylvania, which strengthens penalties for hazing and makes it a felony if it results in serious injury or death. Pennsylvania is the 12th state with such a law on its books. The bill was promoted by an energetic, newly formed coalition of affected parents and fraternities and anti-hazing groups, which will soon release a set of proposed state laws they intend to advance nationwide. As with Matt’s Law, the one in Pennsylvania is named after Piazza.

RAISING ACCOUNTABILITY ON CAMPUS

In addition to changing the law, affected colleges, families and other groups are looking within the institution. Some colleges have established firm rules about alcohol consumption on campus, have moved troublesome freshman pledge activities to the spring or eliminated them entirely, and more quickly suspend offending fraternities, says John Hechinger, a senior editor at Bloomberg News and author of the book “True Gentlemen: The Broken Pledge of America’s Fraternities,” which looks at fraternity culture and their future on campuses. Others require members meet certain academic performance or community service requirements.

“Information travels faster, the events are better documented and it’s harder for them to be swept under the rug,” Hechinger says. “Colleges have had to respond.”

This past April, Barron co-led a meeting of more than 30 college officials to examine challenges, complications and ways to collaborate on new approaches. One of those approaches is a national scorecard, which Penn State developed for its campus to keep track of outcomes for fraternities such as GPA, community service hours and violations pertaining to hazing, alcohol or sexual assault.

“We now have inserted ourselves into the lives of these students in ways never done at Penn State, and rarely, if ever, done in any large public university,” says Damon Sims, the university’s vice president for student affairs. He says Penn State staff is now on-hand at social activities and handles the discipline of members who violate behavior policies.

“They are going to continue to play a role, and it could be a positive one. So rather than ignore them and put them aside, let’s find a way to make them cheerful, friendly and engaged members of the university community.” – E. Gordon Gee, President, West Virginia University

Scorecards or publication of fraternity records on alcohol-related hospitalizations could be powerful tools for colleges, Hechinger says, along with potentially “taxing” participants at campus events where alcohol is served or requiring parents to buy large liability insurance policies so they have a financial incentive to reduce risky behavior.

Douglas Fierberg, an attorney representing families in fraternity misconduct cases, says to control behavior universities must be more transparent about fraternity problems. He says even heralded disclosure efforts like Penn State’s are too vague and that universities too often protect the groups. He also says the common chapter self-management model should be replaced with university oversight, pledging should be banned and alcohol consumption should be prohibited without proper adult supervision.

“Fraternities are knowingly isolated from meaningful adult management and supervision and are therefore unreasonably dangerous,” he says.

IS BETTER OVERSIGHT POSSIBLE?

College leaders have successful lessons from the past to call upon. Hechinger notes in his book that soon after former University of Rhode Island President David Carothers was hired in 1991 he found the university had gained an unwanted reputation for its social life. Kegs were seen at commencement, the institution’s initials URI became synonymous with “you are high,” and many students were regularly hospitalized for alcohol poisoning.

Carothers took what Hechinger says proved to be effective action: banning alcohol from all university-sponsored social events on campus, suspending students for two semesters if they violated the policy and kicking out repeatedly offending fraternities — even bulldozing some houses or taking them over as administrative buildings. The action, Hechinger wrote, “all but eliminated the kind of tragic alcohol-related deaths that had been a regular occurrence,” improved behavior generally and drew more successful students to the university.

It also didn’t result in the backlash that Carothers expected and many administrators fear when they restrict fraternities, which are quick and aggressive in their own defense and often have powerful support.

“Colleges have shown a lot more backbone and shut down chapters, and parents have put pressure on colleges and states to do something, but without powerful and sustained pressure, some fraternities aren’t likely to change,” says Hechinger. He and others note that fraternity members are often held up as leaders on campus, their presence is a recruiting tool and they have strong connections to important donors and community leaders.

Zingg and others stress that fraternities’ leadership at the chapter and national levels should be held more accountable for members’ behavior and its consequences.

“Colleges have shown a lot more backbone and shut down chapters, and parents have put pressure on colleges and states to do something, but without powerful and sustained pressure, some fraternities aren’t likely to change.” – John Hechinger, Journalist and Author

Some have stepped up, establishing firm standards for their groups about consent, alcohol abuse and hazing. For example, the 66-member North-American Interfraternity Conference joined the coalition that is seeking tighter state laws on hazing and has banned hard liquor at the facilities of its participating fraternities beginning next fall. The move affects more than 6,100 chapters on 800 college campuses.

Hechinger’s book tracks several leaders who have against the odds sought to clean up their chapters. Gee says strong leaders and thoughtful university student affairs professionals were critical when he was at chancellor at Vanderbilt University from 2000 to 2007, where 35% of men were in fraternities in 2010 and where, he said, there was more cooperation between the university and Greek organizations.

Selecting the right people in those positions and training them on how to avoid problems is key, he says, particularly fraternity leaders. A clear institutional policy is critical, fraternities must be informed about it and have reasonable say in its formation, and the policy must be enforced.

“They have to step up and take responsibility for the behavior of their members, and they will,” Gee says. “They and their members have to be held accountable if they don’t.”

Correction: This article has been updated to correct that Timothy Piazza was a sophomore at Penn State.

View Article Here

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University of Iowa Fraternities Booted from Campus for Alcohol & Hazing Violations

Aimee Breaux, Iowa City Press-Citizen

Published 6:40 p.m. CT Dec. 13, 2018 | Updated 8:22 a.m. CT Dec. 14, 2018

Four fraternity chapters have been removed from the University of Iowa, following a two-month investigation spurred by multiple alcohol-related incidents, including one death. School officials announced the chapter removals during a news conference Thursday night.

Delta Chi, Sigma Nu, Sigma Alpha Epsilon and the UI chapter of Kappa Sigma International Fraternity were banned from operating as student organizations at the University of Iowa.

The Kappa Sigma chapter, called the Beta-Rho chapter, was also removed from the national organization following allegations of hazing. University officials declined to elaborate on the hazing events that provoked the removal of Beta-Rho Thursday.

The news is the latest in a crackdown on drinking violations at University of Iowa fraternities. Fraternities have been banned from holding events with alcohol after a University of Iowa student died at an out-of-state fraternity formal in 2017.

Twelve chapters were temporarily suspended in September and October for violating that moratorium.

In issuing the suspensions, university officials cited complaints to police and complaints about tailgating events hosted by the fraternities during football seasons. According to notices sent to students,police reported concerns of overdoses and alcohol poisoning at the various tailgates. At some tailgates, Iowa City police reported criminalmischief, loud parties, beer cans being thrown and unconscious individuals.

Following the two-month investigation into the allegations, two fraternities, Phi Kappa Psi and Sigma Chi, were cleared. According to officials, there was not a “preponderance of evidence to find the chapter responsible for allegations, including tailgates.”

Six other fraternities — Acacia, Beta Theta Pi, Pi Kappa Alpha, Pi Kappa Phi, Sigma Phi Epsilon, Sigma Pi and Phi Delta Theta — were placed on probation following the initial investigation results. Phi Delta Theta was placed on deferred suspension.

The fraternities have until Jan. 11 to appeal the investigation findings.

Melissa Shivers, vice president for Student Life, said the timing of the news was not ideal, but university officials wanted to give students living in the fraternity residences time to make other living arrangements if needed.

Fraternity houses are not operated by the university.

In the midst of the investigation and subsequent punishment, students and faculty have been working on a “Strategic Plan” to improve fraternity and sorority life on campus, including improving “risk management, health and safety.” 

The plan will be announced no later than spring 2019. 

Princeton Review has considered UI to be one of the top 20 party schools in the U.S. Princeton Review considered UI the No.2 on that list in 2015. 

So what are your thoughts on this suspension? 

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Your Voice Counts: New Title IX Draft Rule on School Sexual Violence & How to Draft a Comment

By now you have likely heard that the U.S. Department of Education recently published a proposed Title IX regulation that would fundamentally change schools’ responsibilities to respond to sexual harassment, sexual assault, stalking, and dating violence in our K-12 schools and college campuses. Right now, it is only a draft rule and there is an opportunity for anyone in the public to voice your opinion during the formal Notice and Comment period until January 28.

The Fierberg National Law Group invites you to a webinar to learn about the proposed rule and how to write and submit a comment.

The webinar is Wednesday, December 19th, 2:00-3:30 PM EST and will be hosted by the Ending Violence Against Women Project of CDAC and the Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault and features national Title IX expert and TFNLG attorney, Cari Simon.

Register Here: https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/540751208931213827

#handsofftitleix #titleix #knowyourix @universityeeo 

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CLIENT TESTIMONIAL: PRO BONO VICTORY AGAINST SEXUAL VIOLENCE

“I am so grateful for your assistance with everything. I am thankful to have this behind me and I am looking forward to moving on with my studies.”

Lisa Cloutier and The Fierberg National Law Group continued to seek justice pro bono for a sexual assault and Title IX victim who no longer had the ability to pay.

We prevailed on an appeal, convinced the school to let us submit an appeal of discipline, connected her with accommodations for the first time, and negotiated a tuition reimbursement and grade change…all of which were the key items she wanted. 

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Timothy Piazza’s Death was a ‘Turning Point’ for America’s Fraternities

By A. Chris Gajilan, CNN | 12/6/2018 (Updated 12/8/2018)

Inhumane, cruel and tragic: Those are some of the words that have been used to describe the 2017 death of Penn State sophomore Timothy Piazza.

The 19-year-old died after consuming 18 drinks in 82 minutes and sustaining a traumatic brain injury during a campus fraternity’s hazing rituals, court records, and testimony show.

Now, nearly two years after Piazza’s passing, many say his death has led to key changes in state legislatures and in the college Greek life community.

“The Piazza case is really a turning point to the extent that people know that fraternity hazing is unacceptable,” said John Hechinger, author of “True Gentlemen: The Broken Pledge of America’s Fraternities.”

Four families that lost their sons to fraternity hazing — including Timothy’s parents, Jim and Evelyn — began working in September with the North American Interfraternity Conference and the National Panhellenic Conference. Together, those two groups represent more than 90 fraternities and sororities in the United States.

The parents and the Greek life organizations have formed an anti-hazing coalition and now share a common goal: to pass legislation that would increase criminal penalties for hazing, and to increase education and awareness on college campuses.

“While we may seem like strange bedfellows, we all want the same thing: to end hazing so other parents don’t have to experience what we have,” Jim Piazza said.

So far, the Piazzas have spoken at more than a dozen campuses, directly addressing thousands of students and fraternity and sorority leaders.

“It makes more sense to work with them and have the opportunity to speak to fraternities and sororities and schools … and stop hazing in its tracks by the people who are perpetrating it,” Evelyn Piazza said. “Why not stop it before it even starts?”

Read more: Greek life more popular than ever, despite recent controversy and deaths

Rich Braham is another parent who’s traveled to colleges and universities across the country to support the two-fold mission of education and changing laws.

Braham’s 18-year-old son, Marquise, committed suicide in 2014, and the family believes it was because of alleged hazing while at Penn State Altoona. The case never resulted in criminal charges; the Braham family has filed a civil lawsuit against Penn State, two of its employees, the Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity and some of its members.

Referring to the case of Timothy Piazza, Braham vividly recalls that the fraternity’s members waited more than 12 hours to call 911 after Timothy fell down a flight of stairs.

“Letting him suffer the way he suffered was just so atrocious,” Braham said. “Tim’s death was a galvanizing point. … It was like, ‘enough.'”

On the campuses he visits, Braham wants to make it clear that these incidents can happen to anyone — and that there will be consequences.

“There was nothing special or unique about our kids. It was Russian roulette,” Braham said. “We want these kids to know that it could be any one of them who dies from hazing. Then, if you don’t hear the message, we’ll lock you up! If you don’t listen, there’s a penalty. It could ruin your lives and future.”

Read more: Why college students subject themselves to abusive hazing

This new coalition of parents harks back to the Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) campaign of the 1980s, said John Hechinger, who has reported on fraternities and education for years. When Candace Lightner started MADD in May 1980, four days after her daughter was killed by a drunken driver, public health professionals considered drunken driving to be the No. 1 killer of Americans between the ages of 15 and 24. (The leading cause of death in 2016 for that age group was accidental injury, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.)

MADD’s efforts helped reduce the number of drunken driving fatalities and change public perception of driving while intoxicated. Now, the parents in the anti-hazing coalition want to achieve the same with respect to dangerous pledging rituals, and they’ve made some strides on campus and with policy.

In August, the North American Interfraternity Conference, which represents 66 fraternities with more than 6,100 chapters across 800 campuses, declared a ban on hard alcohol beginning in September 2019. Under the policy, hard liquor — categorized as more than 15% alcohol by volume — will still be allowed if it is served by a licensed third-party vendor.

“Most of the deaths have involved hard alcohol; if a ban on hard alcohol can successfully be enforced, it could be a great thing,” Hechinger said. “My view is that any step is better than none.”

But Doug Fierberg, a school violence attorney who has represented many families who have lost their children to hazing, is more critical. “No new policy is ever going to be better than its means of implementation,” Fierberg said. “Virtually everything the fraternity industry does relies on 18- and 19-year-old men to implement it and make life and death decisions.”

In October, the Timothy J. Piazza Antihazing Law was signed by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf. It gives tougher penalties for hazing, making it a felony if it results in death or serious injury.

For its part, Penn State is also developing a national scorecard to provide public information on Greek letter organizations, including alcohol and hazing violations and chapter suspensions.

At the time the Piazza law was signed, a Penn State spokeswoman said it came “in conjunction with the aggressive safety and related measures the University has implemented, (and) is another step toward our mutual goal to increase student safety on campuses.”

“Penn State has been, and continues to be, committed to addressing this serious national issue,” spokeswoman Lisa Powers said in a statement.

With its anti-hazing law, Pennsylvania joined at least 12 other states with tougher anti-hazing laws. But the long-term impact of these efforts remains to be seen.

Since Piazza’s death, there have been other alcohol-related deaths at fraternities across the country. A number of headlines have emerged pointing to fraternities and local chapters being suspended for hazing and alcohol abuse. And even with all that, Greek life is still more popular than ever.

“On one side, we’re seeing all of this apparent reform action, (but) on the other, we’re seeing pushback from the student body,” said Hank Nuwer, author of “Hazing: Destroying Young Lives.”

“As much good work as the Piazzas are doing, not everybody is listening.”

Full Article Here

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