A tough anti-hazing bill that bears the name of a Penn State student who died last year in a fraternity ritual is expected to become law Friday in Pennsylvania.
Gov. Tom Wolf is expected to sign the measure, 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 will require 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 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.
National ‘scourge of hazing’
Piazza’s parents are grateful for state lawmakers’ support for the bill, “which, they believe, will serve a national model for anti-hazing legislation,” family attorney Tom Kline told CNN.
“In particular, today was a significant step forward in deterring and eradicating the scourge of hazing on university campuses throughout the nation,” he said.
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.
Wolf, a Democrat, expressed support for the bill after the state Senate passed it this week.
“Hazing is counter to the experience we want for college students in Pennsylvania,” the governor said. “We must give law enforcement the tools to hold people accountable and ensure schools have safeguards to protect students and curb hazing.”