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Barron advocates for national fraternity reporting database

PSU president advocating for national database of Greek organizations

The president of Pennsylvania State University, where a student died in 2017 after an alleged hazing ritual at a fraternity party, said he will advocate for a national database of violations and suspensions at fraternities and sororities to keep schools and parents better informed.

“The database would allow all university administrators to have a clear view of national organizations, such as Sigma Alpha Mu, whose chapters have widespread troubles,” president Eric J. Barron said in an opinion piece published by PennLive.com. “The database would also allow students [and their parents] to make more informed decisions about which fraternities and sororities to join.”

Mr. Barron said he will advocate for the database at a national conference Penn State is helping to organize. The April 23 and 24 conference in Chicago is expected to draw college presidents from around the country.

Mr. Barron’s comments come as the Attorney General’s Office prepares to argue its case Thursday against 11 members of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity in the February 2017 death of sophomore Tim Piazza, who died from injuries he suffered after drinking copious amounts of alcohol during a fraternity party ritual, fell down the stairs and was left unattended for hours.

 

The former Beta Theta Pi fraternity house on Burrowes Road in State College, Pa., where Timothy Piazza died while pledging. The fraternity has since been banished by Penn State University.
Bill Schackner
PSU punishes 7 students tied to death of fraternity pledge

Five fraternity members are charged with involuntary manslaughter, and others face hazing, reckless endangerment, and other charges.

The judge in the case, Centre County Common Pleas Judge Allen Sinclair, threw out aggravated-assault and involuntary-manslaughter charges against Beta Theta Pi members last summer. Former District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller refiled the charges last fall. The Attorney General’s Office declined to charge members with the felony aggravated-assault charge but charged five members with misdemeanor involuntary manslaughter.

The court has scheduled six days for the hearing if needed.

Penn State permanently revoked recognition of Beta Theta Pi after Mr. Piazza’s death and implemented changes to its Greek Life system, including delaying the pledge process, taking over responsibility for monitoring and disciplining fraternities and sororities and posting a Greek report card on its fraternities and sororities that Mr. Barron said could serve as a model for a national database.

Also in his opinion piece, Mr. Barron said the university was working with Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre, to strengthen penalties in state law for hazing. A draft bill calls for hazing resulting in death to become a felony.

“This legislation has the potential to be a model for other states to adopt, and we look forward to advocating for its passage,” Mr. Barron wrote.

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By Hank Nuwer

Journalist Hank Nuwer is the Alaska author of Hazing: Destroying Young Lives; Broken Pledges: The Deadly Rite of Hazing, High School Hazing, Wrongs of Passage and The Hazing Reader. In April of 2024, the Alaska Press Club awarded him first place in the Best Columnist division and Best Humorist, second place.

He has written articles or columns on hazing for the Sunday Times of India, Toronto Globe & Mail, Harper's Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, The Chronicle of Higher Education and the New York Times Sunday Magazine. His current book is Hazing: Destroying Young Lives from Indiana University Press. He is married to Malgorzata Wroblewska Nuwer of Warsaw, Poland and Fairbanks, Alaska. Nuwer is a former columnist for the Greenville (Ohio)Early Bird and former managing editor of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner in Alaska.
Nuwer was named the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists columnist of the year in 2021 for his “After Darke” column in the Early Bird. He also won third place for the column in 2022 from the Indiana chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. He and his wife Gosia, recently of Union City, Ind., have owned 20 acres in Alaska for many years. “The move is a sort-of coming home for us,” said Nuwer. As a journalist, he’s written about the Alaskan Iditarod sled-dog race and other Alaska topics. Read his musings in his blog at Real Alaska Daily--http://realalaskadaily.com and in his weekly column "Far from Randolph" in the Winchester Star-Gazette of Randolph County, Indiana.

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