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Pledging Gone Wrong: The Dangers of Hazing and Binge Drinking

On February 4th, 2017 Evelyn and James Piazza received the call that all parents fear: Their 19 year old son, Timothy Piazza was dead. Cause of death was a combination of a skull fracture and ruptured spleen brought on by a night of excessive drinking.

Timothy and his brother were attending Penn State University when the incident occurred. In order to pledge Beta Theta Pi, Timothy was subjected to a night of fraternity hazing. After ingesting large amounts of alcohol, Timothy drunkenly “fell down a flight of stairs […] and hit his head on a metal railing” (Puskar). Cops were not called until hours later. After determining that Timothy’s death could have been prevented, eight of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity members were charged with involuntary manslaughter. Both video evidence and potential fraternity advisement involvement have been presented to the jury during this trial. And as of August 21st, stricter policies for Greek Life were presented to the public by Penn State’s president.

The Penn State incident is only one in a slew of fraternity and sorority deaths caused by hazing and alcohol consumption:

  • 1/3/09 – An 18 year old Utah State student does of alcohol poisoning during a fraternity pledge night.
  • 6/28/12 – A 19 year old Cornell University student dies from alcohol consumption during a hazing ritual.
  • 11/12/14 – A 19 year old West Virginia University Student dies with a BAC of .493 after excessive drinking at a pledge party.
  • 10/22/15 – 2 University of Albany students are charged with the death of a 19 year old after being hazed at a fraternity party.

In all of these instances, the deaths of young students could have been avoided. Over the years, the stipulations for pledging a sorority or fraternity have become more intense and more dangerous. And it doesn’t stop at binge drinking; there have been many college cases where students have been sexually and physically assaulted during pledge parties. In a statement to the media, Father James Piazza said this about his son’s death: “this didn’t have to happen […] this is the result of a feeling of entitlement, flagrant disobedience of the law and disregard for moral values that was then exacerbated by egregious acts of self-preservation. Again, this did not have to happen. No parent should have to deal with this” (Puskar).

For those parents with college age children, make sure to remind them of the dangers of hazing and binge drinking. No sorority or fraternity pledge is worth risking your life or the lives of others.

Sources used to write this article:

Chappell, Bill. Penn State Student’s Hazing Death Was No Accident, Grand Jury Says. May 8, 2017. http://www.NPR.org.

College Hazing Crimes. https://www.cbsnews.com/pictures/college-hazing-crimes/12/

Sara Ganim, Emanuella Grinberg and Chris Welch. In video of Penn State hazing death, victim looked ‘like a corpse’. CNN. June 13, 2017

Barron, Eric. Penn State president: ‘Self-governance’ for fraternities and sororities needs to end. USA Today. August 21, 2017