If you see something, you shouldn’t be afraid to say something.
A client of ours, Kordel Davis, conveyed this message at University of Missouri’s No Hazing event as he spoke about the dangers of hazing culture through his own experience. In February 2017 Davis knew something was wrong when his friend, pledge Timothy Piazza, sustained injuries after forced binge drinking at the Beta Theta Pi fratenity at Pennsylvania State University, but fraternity brothers prevented Davis from getting help because they feared the consequences to their fraternity. Piazza’s life was lost as a result. Kathryn Palmer writes for the Missourian:
Davis told his story to about 50 MU fraternity members and Greek life alumni on Saturday in a Neff Hall auditorium and offered suggestions for how universities can better prevent hazing on campus.
“Pledging can be done in a not so dangerous way. I’m not exactly sure what that looks like now, but the crazy drinking is not really necessary,” said Davis, who revealed that the fraternity brothers also forced him to drink excessive amounts of alcohol during his initiation.
Strengthening university policies and raising awareness about the dangers of alcohol abuse were a couple of his suggestions.
Sigma Chi faculty adviser and law professor Ben Trachtenberg invited Davis to speak after reading about the investigation into Piazza’s death in The Atlantic last November.
“Anyone who reads about an event like that in Greek life and says, ‘That could never happen in my frat,’ isn’t paying attention,” Trachtenberg said.
Davis, who has since transferred to Rutgers University in New Jersey, went into gruesome detail about the night of Piazza’s death.
The 19-year-old Penn State sophomore sustained a brutal fall after a night of forced binge drinking at the fraternity house. Although he had visible bruising from internal bleeding, the fraternity brothers waited over 12 hours before seeking help. In that time, Davis came to the house and urged his fellow fraternity members to call 911. In response, they threw Davis against a wall. Fraternity officers warned him not to call for help because they were afraid of being punished.
Davis said his gut told him that something larger was afflicting Piazza, who was indeed suffering from a ruptured spleen, but that other members’ cavalier attitudes made him second-guess himself.
“If I could go back, I would have called 911 myself, but that would have meant going above my vice president and president,” Davis said. “I would have gone above them.”
Davis said the biggest problem with hazing culture is the way it discourages intervention in dangerous situations like Piazza’s. He suggested an amnesty policy could encourage more people to seek help without fear of repercussions.
Davis’ visit to MU was timely, as the campus has also found itself at the center of numerous hazing-related scandals and investigations over the past several years.
Between 2014 and 2016 almost half of MU’s fraternities were placed on probation and three chapters suspended, in the wake of a variety of hazing and assault allegations.
Tina Bloom, a professor at the MU School of Nursing whose research focuses on violence prevention, spoke alongside Davis.
“Knowing the signs of alcohol poisoning, awareness and equipping people with tools on how to help is necessary, but it’s not sufficient,” Bloom said. “It is incumbent on all of us to realize this happens at all levels, because policy changes just directed at sororities and fraternities won’t solve the problem.”
Click here for related content.