Gruesome Spotlight On College Hazing

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One Penn State pledge is dead, and 18 of his fraternity brothers are charged. We’ll look at what’s happened with hazing.

Centre County DA Stacy Parks Miller hugs Evelyn Piazza as her husband Jim stands in the background after announcing the findings in the investigation of Timothy Piazza at the Beta Theta Pi fraternity. (Joe Hermitt/PennLive)
Centre County DA Stacy Parks Miller hugs Evelyn Piazza as her husband Jim stands in the background after announcing the findings in the investigation of Timothy Piazza at the Beta Theta Pi fraternity. (Joe Hermitt/PennLive)

Nineteen-year-old Tim Piazza died after a rough night in February at his Penn State fraternity, Beta Theta Pi. Traumatic brain injury. After a night of heavy drinking and hazing. Last Friday, 18 of his fraternity brothers charged. Involuntary manslaughter. Aggravated assault. Reckless endangerment. Evidence tampering. Hazing. We thought colleges had cracked down on hazing. Maybe not. This hour On Point, what’s really going on with hazing now at American college campuses. — Tom Ashbrook


Charles Thompson, reporter for the Patriot-News and PennLive. (@chasthompson1)

Dan Berrett, senior reporter for the Chronicle of Higher Education, where he covers teaching, curriculum and research on higher education. (@DanBerrett)

Elizabeth Allan, professor of higher education at the University of Maine’s College of Education and Human Development. Director of the National Hazing Prevention Consortium. (@elizabethjallan )

From Tom’s Reading List

PennLive: Ten Penn State students arraigned in frat death case, all released on bail -- "Ten of the 18 Penn State students charged in connection with the Feb. 4 fraternity house death of sophomore engineering student Timothy Piazza appeared for arraignment Friday here in Centre County court. All were later released on bail."

Chronicle of Higher Education: After a Student Dies, Penn State Bans a Fraternity and Liquor at All Greek Houses — "Pennsylvania State University on Thursday permanently banned a fraternity after a student died, and announced a sweeping set of measures designed to crack down on what officials described as “growing evidence of problems” related to hazing, alcohol abuse, and drug use in Greek life. The actions included a ban on hard liquor at all fraternities."

National Study of Student Hazing: Hazing in View: College Students at Risk -- "Hazing in View: While data confirm that hazing is occurring in Greek-letter organizations, the research also reveals the presence of hazing in other student groups including varsity athletics, club sports, intramural teams, military groups, recreation clubs, service fraternities and sororities, performing arts organizations (e.g., marching bands and theater groups), honor societies, academic clubs, and other groups students elected to identify separately."

Your Hazing Stories

“My son pledged this year, he goes to a school in Pennsylvania and talked to me about the hazing experience. A couple of things. Initially he called me the first night, and they took him down to a basement, blindfolded him, he and his other pledge people, and started screaming at them. He told me that he was not afraid of being hit — that they had actually promised him that nobody would have physical violence. But you stick young kids in a situation like that, and then you say somebody should stand out and tell somebody to stand up for the rights of the weak — these kids are terrified...It's horrifying to a parent. I mean I didn't want him to do this. And I kept saying, what is in it for you? Because he would tell me about all the disgusting things he would have to eat, they made him eat cold — they open a can of beans and he had to swallow that down, he had to swallow all sorts of disgusting things." — John in Lincolnville, ME

"I celebrate 33 years, Tom, in a fraternity, and to be honest, it's never going to go away. The pressure to belong in these organizations is so strong, you're going to do whatever you're told in order to be part of the organization. And then if you speak out against it, you become ostracized, because of the member now that fights against it to try to eliminate it, you have brothers that they kind of bury the things that they do. Because we did it 30 years ago, we know the signs of what's going on. But you have these guys that will come out, and they'll find more ingenious ways to get away with stuff." — David in Detroit, MI

"I was hazed at Johnson & Wales university. I pledged into a sorority there and was harassed when I tried to drop out so I continued and joined the organization. One girl stabbed herself in the heart. I have many stories … The next year I ‘anonymously’ told campus security about the hazing. Eventually I worked with the school behind the scenes to shut down the sorority." — "Stacey" in Boston 

"I am a Beta [Theta Pi] pledge class of '95 and I went through the rituals, I pledged, I had a bidding ceremony, and I can tell you it's an isolated area. It's not common practice. I mean I come from a school where drinking culture is, it's the highest percentage in the nation. I mean, look up Oshkosh, Wisconsin. And this is in the 90s when the rules were fairly lax. We were given a big brother. We were given advisers. We were given pledging rules and also hazing guidelines. We weren't hazed. As a matter of fact, if we saw somebody being hazed and didn't stand up for them, I don't think I would have been a member of my fraternity right now." — Sasher in Oshkosh, WI

This program aired on May 10, 2017.


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