Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf on Friday signed a tough anti-hazing bill that bears the name of a Penn State student who died last year during fraternity pledging.
The law is named for Timothy Piazza, a 19-year-old engineering major whose excessive drinking on his first night pledging the Beta Theta Pi house led to a series of falls that resulted in a severe head injury and his death the next day, according to court records and testimony. Six men face hazing charges in Piazza’s death.
The Timothy J. Piazza Anti Hazing Law requires Pennsylvania schools to have policies and reporting procedures in place to stop hazing and to inform students and parents of what is happening on campus.
For those found guilty of hazing, penalties could include fines, the withholding of a diploma, and academic punishments ranging from probation to expulsion. The strengthened penalties also now include a felony charge for aggravated hazing that results in serious injury or death.
The bill is a “crucial component” in the fight against hazing, Penn State spokeswoman Lisa Powers said. “This law, when passed, in conjunction with the aggressive safety and related measures the University has implemented, 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,” she said in a statement.
Penn State is also developing a national scorecard to provide public information on Greek letter organizations, including alcohol and hazing violations and chapter suspensions, according to a separate statement.
Beta Theta Pi’s national organization publicly endorsed the bill as part of a settlement reached last month with Piazza’s family.
“We have sadness in our hearts everyday without Tim in our lives, but are encouraged that this law will serve to hold accountable those who commit the crime of hazing which cost Tim his life, and by its deterrent effect will save the lives of young men and women like Tim,” Jim Piazza, Timothy’s father, said at the bill signing Friday.
National ‘scourge of hazing’
There have been more than 77 fraternity-related deaths across the country since 2005. Forty-four states have anti-hazing laws in place – Pennsylvania will be the 45th – including at least 12 that make hazing a felony if it results in death or serious injury.
“Parents should not send their children off to college with the concern that they’ll be injured or killed as a result of just trying to join an organization as was our son, Tim,” Jim Piazza said.
Gov. Wolf praised the bill and the state legislators who passed the bill unanimously.
“Tim’s tragic experience has led to real change. There is no place for hazing on our college campuses. And together, we will protect students and hold accountable those who engage in it,” said Wolf. “We mourn for Tim’s loss with his family, and while we can never fix what they’ve gone through, this new law will help to prevent other tragedies.”
Lauren del Valle contributed to this report