Penn State Brings The Axe Down On Greek Life Following Fall Semester Death Of Student

Penn State brought the hammer down on their Greek Life community today, effectively killing fraternities and sororities for the foreseeable future.

Following an investigation against the Beta Theta Pi fraternity, specifically around the death of New Jersey sophomore Timothy Piazza, the school administration instituted a series of Greek Life restrictions. These new restrictions include a permanent ban of Beta Theta Pi, a ban on rush in Fall 2017, and a stop to one of the greatest traditions PSU students enjoyed.

Piazza, 19, was a 2015 graduate of Hunterdon Central Regional High School in Readington Township who died after suffering a fall at the Beta Theta Pi house. Emergency services were not contacted until nearly 12 hours after the student fell down the steps at the fraternity house. Piazza was lflown to the Hershey Medical Center, where he was later pronounced dead.

You can read the newly imposed Greek Life restrictions below:

The school made the announcement today on their site, along with some statistics that influenced their decision:

…Research shows that fraternity and sorority members are four times more likely than the general student population to be heavy drinkers; sorority women are 50 percent more likely than other female students to be sexually assaulted; and fraternity men are 62 percent more likely to commit a sexual assault than non-fraternity men.

Damon Sims, vice president for Student Affairs at the university, also released a statement:

“The University’s investigation has produced deeply disturbing evidence showing that Beta Theta Pi fell far short of its professed policies and values. The serious violations we have found include forced drinking, mandatory hazing and other illegal activity, which combine with a student’s tragic death to lead us to conclude that Beta Theta Pi, despite its notable history at Penn State, merits no continuing place in our community.

Fraternities and sororities are private membership organizations, and our fraternities often exist in private residences off campus. Our ability to influence outcomes among these young adults is profoundly limited, yet the University’s recognition is vital to all of these organizations, and their success as safe, healthy, constructive and sustainable enterprises, is equally important to us. However, we no longer believe that vesting so much responsibility in the self-governance of these groups will produce positive outcomes. Today, Penn State is drawing a line and imposing critical changes. Enough is enough.”

We reached out to our Penn State campus ambassador, Jessica Italiano, a junior in the Pi Beta Phi sorority, who called the sanctions ‘devastating’:

“If fraternities can’t hold anything we have no where to go. If I wasn’t going to be a senior I would legitimately trasnfer. I just feel bad for all the people who just crossed,” Italiano said.

We know from experience, stories, and research on the web that Penn State’s IFC is one of the strongest in the country. We’ve heard rumblings that there’s a possibility that the PSU IFC has considered leaving the school entirely before, so it will be very interesting to see if that happens. That very same conversation is happening on the /r/frat and /r/PSU subreddit.

There’s a protest scheduled on the steps of Old Main. OnwardState reports that Greek Life members have been instructed to wear their THON letters or other philanthropy letters.

Students have now gathered on the steps of Old Main

— Jack R. Hirsh (@JR_HIRSHey) March 30, 2017

One group of protesters brought a sign that says "Make Greek Life Great Again!"

— The Daily Collegian (@DailyCollegian) March 30, 2017

Students have gathered on the steps of Old Main to protest the new restrictions against greek life (@AntonellaCres | TDC)

— The Daily Collegian (@DailyCollegian) March 30, 2017

We reached out to our Penn State campus ambassador, Jessica Italiano, a junior in the Pi Beta Phi sorority, who called the sanctions ‘devastating’:

“If fraternities can’t hold anything we have no where to go. If I wasn’t going to be a senior I would legitimately trasnfer. I just feel bad for all the people who just crossed,” Italiano said.

Why Did Penn State Shut Down Greek Life?

Penn State’s new Greek Life restrictions are the result of the death of Timothy Piazza at the Penn State chapter of Beta Theta Pi fraternity.

What Happened To Timothy Piazza at Beta Theta Pi?

Timothy Piazza, aPenn State University student from New Jersey, tragically died due to injuries he sustained from a fall while at the Beta Theta Pi fraternity.

Official Penn State Greek Life Restrictions


In order to sustain recognition, organizations must adhere to the following changes for the coming academic year:

  • Formal recruitment of new fraternity and sorority members, also known as rush, will be deferred from fall to spring semester for both fraternities and sororities in the 2017-18 academic year. Requirements for students to participate in recruitment thereafter will include completion of at least 12 credits while enrolled full-time. In consultation with various constituents within the Penn State Greek-letter community and their national organizations, other requirements and the possibility of deferring rush until a student’s sophomore year will be considered for 2018-19. Further discussion about the size of new membership classes within these organizations will be part of an ongoing review.
  • New social restrictions will include a strongly enforced prohibition against underage possession or consumption of alcohol in chapter houses and activities. Service of alcohol at social events must follow Pennsylvania law (e.g. limited to those 21 years of age or older), and must be distributed by RAMP trained servers only, though third party, licensed RAMP certified servers are preferred. Only beer and wine may be served, and kegs will not be permitted.
  • Attendance at social events will be limited to the legal capacity of the chapter house. No day-long events will be allowed, and no more than 10 socials with alcohol per semester will be permitted for each chapter, a reduction from the current limit of 45, which was established by Penn State’s Interfraternity Council.
  • Failure by the Greek-letter organizations to effectively prevent underage consumption and excessive drinking in their facilities and activities may lead the University to adopt further restrictions, including the possibility of declaring that the system must be completely dry.
  • These social restrictions will be enforced by a new monitoring protocol that will use both third parties and a combination of student leadership and University staff. When discovered, any violations of these expectations will result in appropriate and significant disciplinary action.
  • There will be no tolerance for hazing in these organizations, as all hazing is a violation of Pennsylvania law. Hazing that involves alcohol or serious physical abuse will likely lead to loss of University recognition. Increased educational programming focused on preventing hazing will be mandatory for all chapter members.
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