Based on the above findings of fact and conclusions, the First Centre County Investigating Grand Jury makes the following recommendations for legislative, executive, or administrative action in the public interest:
1. Cure the Currently Deficient Hazing Law
- The Grand Jury calls upon the General Assembly, and especially the distinguished state senator and Majority Leader from Centre County, to enact legislation, designated “Tim’s Law” in recognition of Tim Piazza’s senseless death, amending the criminal offense of Hazing in order to more effectively deter participation in this crime, as well as to provide justice that is more severe in circumstances such as these, where a victim has forfeited his/her life.
- The Grand Jury recommends that the offense of hazing be a multi-tiered system in which the grading of any given offense is contingent on the harm possible or actually inflicted by the behavior, mirroring the manner in which the Commonwealth has codified Simple and Aggravated assaults.
- The Grand Jury specifically proposes a hazing statute in which conduct generally defaults to a Misdemeanor of the 2nd degree,71 but imposes a heightened misdemeanor (such as a misdemeanor in the 1 st degree) for any hazing72 conduct that causes or risks causing bodily injury73; a felony of the 2nd degree for hazing conduct that causes or risks causing serious bodily injury74; and a felony of the 1 st degree for hazing conduct that results in the death of the victim.
- While the Grand Jury agrees with the current provision in the statute, it recommends that the General Assembly adopt stronger and more direct language in an effort to underscore the law’s rejection of victim blaming efforts.75 The Grand Jury recommends that the General Assembly retain the sentence at the end of the hazing definition, but also craft a separate enumerated subsection within the crime itself entitled “Defenses,” which reads, “It shall not be a defense to an offense under this section that the victim consented or voluntarily participated in any activity that meets the above definition of hazing.”
- The Grand Jury also recommends that when the Commonwealth can demonstrate an ongoing course of hazing conduct, the legislatureexpose such recurring behavior to stronger sanctions under a felony of the 3rd degree grading.
- In addition to the multi-tiered statute, the Grand Jury proposes the application of a sentencing enhancement for the crime of Hazing if a deadly or offensive weapon is utilized in the commission of the crime, such as a bat or paddle.
- Finally, the Grand Jury urges the General Assembly to codify the law under Title 18, the Crimes Code, rather than leaving it under the Education Act, which removes it from other criminal offenses, both rendering it more difficult for law enforcement to locate when considering charging decisions as well allowing the appearance that hazing is a lesser regarded crime in the Commonwealth.
2. Strengthen Laws for Furnishing Alcohol to Minors
- The Grand Jury calls on the General Assembly and again specifically the distinguished state senator and Majority Leader from Centre County to recognize that one blanket crime graded as a misdemeanor of the 3rd degree is insufficient to address or deter this type of conduct and to enact legislation amending the criminal offense of Furnishing Alcohol to Minors to more accurately reflect the various degrees of severity that may result from Furnishing.
- The Grand Jury recommends that the offense of Furnishing Alcohol to Minors be a multi-tiered system in which the grading of any given offense is contingent on the harm possible or actually inflicted by the behavior, mirroring the manner in which the Commonwealth has codified Simple and Aggravated assaults.
- The Grand Jury specifically proposes that while the Furnishing Alcohol to Minors statute generally defaults to a Misdemeanor of the 3rd degree as it currently stands, the General Assembly impose a felony offense (such as a felony in the 3rd degree) for any Furnishing to Minors that occurs during a hazing event; a felony of the 2nd degree for Furnishing to Minors that causes serious bodily injury77; and a felony of the 1 st degree for Furnishing to Minors that results in the death of the victim.
- Given the overwhelming evidence received by the Grand Jury demonstrating that Furnishing Alcohol to Minors persistently and repeatedly occurs on multiple occasions at multiple fraternities, the Grand Jury also recommends that the General Assembly legislate increased penalties for second, third, and fourth or more additional convictions for Furnishing Alcohol to Minors. Specifically, the Grand Jury finds that upon a second conviction for Furnishing Alcohol to a Minor, the defendant should be subject to a misdemeanor of the 2nd degree; for a third conviction, the grading should rise to a felony of the 3rd degree, and if convicted of four or more offenses, that habitual offender should face a felony of the 2nd degree.
3. Create a Pledge’s Bill of Rights
- The Grand Jury recommends that Penn State establish a Pledge’s Bill of Rights. that should be published in every student handbook. Each pledge must sign a copy of the Bill of Rights before beginning to oath any fraternity, and all current fraternity brothers and sorority sisters must sign the pledge in acknowledgment of the change to Penn State’s hazing policy in order to remain in good standing.
- This Bill of Rights will outline both acceptable and unacceptable behavior. It will further detail pledging or rushing activities of the University’s Greek organizations and other similar student organizations. In developing the Bill of Rights, Penn State shall review the existing pledge and anti-hazing policies and procedures of public and independent institutions of higher education within the United States and shall, as appropriate, incorporate those policies into the Bill of Rights.
- Penn State shall make the Pledge’s Bill of Rights available to each Commonwealth Campus for conformity.
- The Bill of Rights shall include information on the criminal penalties for hazing; the University’s standards; and the types of behaviors that will not be tolerated. The Bill of Rights shall provide exact details regarding what is expected of both students and faculty. For the purpose of this Pledge’s Bill of Rights, a pledge is defined as any student of the University attempting to become a member of a fraternity or sorority or other similar campus organization.
- For example, the Grand Jury recommends the following language:
- “Actions and activities that are explicitly prohibited include, but are following: forcing, requiring or endorsing new members/associate members to drink alcohol or any other substance and/or providing such alcohol or other substance
- The unauthorized or illegal use of alcohol in any form or quantity during any new member activity
- Calisthenics (sit-ups, push-ups, and runs)
- Branding and tattooing
- Pushing, shoving, punching, whipping, beating, tackling or any other physical abuse
- Unauthorized line-ups of any nature
- Throwing anything (garbage, water, paint, etc.) at an individual
- Any form of paddling, physical abuse, psychological abuse, deception or shocks
- Requiring individuals to walk or march in formation of any kind
- Publicly wearing apparel which is conspicuous and not normally in good taste(uniforms, head apparel, boots/shoes, etc.)
- Not permitting individuals to speak for extended periods of time and/or forced exclusion from social contact
- Preventing any person from practicing personal hygiene
- Any activity which inte1ieres with an individual’s scholastic pursuits (class attendance, preparation, study time, etc.)
- Forced consumption of food or other substances
- Theft, defacement, or destruction of private or public property
- Conducting unauthorized scavenger hunts, treasure hunts, quests, road trips, paddle hunts, big brother/little brother hunts, big sister/little sister hunts
- Engaging in public stunts and buffoonery, public displays, or greetings
- Servitude of any nature (food runs, personal errands, academic work, etc.)
- Permitting less than six consecutive hours of sleep each night
- Conducting a new member related activity between the hours of 12:00 midnight and 7:00am, or awakening individuals during these hours
- Nudity or exposure to the elements at any time
- Yelling, screaming or calling individuals demeaning names
- Engaging in unauthorized activities which involve compelling an individual or group of individuals to remain at a certain location or transporting anyone anywhere, within or outside the city of State College (road trips, kidnaps, sneaks, drops, etc.)
- Assigning or endorsing “pranks” (stealing composites, trophies, mascots, etc.)
- Conducting activities which do not allow adequate time for study during preinitiation or initiation periods
- Conducting activities designed to deceive or convince new members that he/she will not be initiated or will be hurt
- Carrying of any items (paddles, bricks, rocks, pocket change dog dollars, signature books, etc.
- Forcing, requiring or endorsing new members/associate membe?s·to violate·any1 University regulation, national/international policy or any local, state, or federal law.”
- Additionally, the Grand Jury recommends that Penn State require fraternity and sorority officers to annually sign a pledge to abide by the University’s hazing policy. The pledge will also be provided to new members who, by signing the statement, will promise to report hazing violations against either themselves or fellow pledges and acknowledge that the failure to do so could result in University discipline.
- This statement on prohibited hazing activities, the Pledge’s Bill of Rights, and the oaths by officers and pledges should also be provided to the new members’ parents/guardians, who should be urged by the University to report any violations.
- This Grand Jury forwards this report to the General Assembly and Attorney General Josh Shapiro and suggests that legislation be introduced by the General Assembly requiring all state institutions of higher learning to provide the same uniform policies on hazing to prospective pledges and parents in an effort to prevent another unnecessary tragedy.
- The Grand Jury calls upon the General Assembly to pass legislation tasking the Attorney General with developing a Pledge’s Bill of Rights which outlines acceptable and unacceptable behavior in regard to the pledge or rushing activities of college and university fraternities and sororities and other similar campus organizations. In developing the Bill of Rights, the Attorney General shall review the existing pledge and anti-hazing policies and procedures of public and independent institutions of higher education within the State. and. shall; .as appropriate, incorporate those policies into the bill of rights. The Attorney General shall make the Pledge’s Bill of Rights available to each institution of higher education within the State.
- The Pledge’s Bill of Rights developed by the Attorney General shall include information on the criminal penalties for hazing and furnishing alcohol to minors.
4. Establish a Hazing Hotline
- Hazing is evidently endemic enough to Penn State’s collective fraternities, and the secrecy dominating the brothers and pledges so strong, that Penn State must seek creative, non-traditional ways to allow victims or witnesses to report the crime. The victims of hazing may only report the crime if assured they can do so anonymously, easily, and quickly.
- The University should establish a 24 hour hotline that anyone can use to anonymously report hazing, access immediate crisis intervention, and be directed to services for an array of possible hazing related damages, including counseling for Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome, depression, sexual assault, alcoholism, and drug addiction. This hotline must be published, easily accessible and particularly known to pledges. The University must promptly follow up and protect confidentiality if promised.
5. Discipline Individual Students Who Violate the Hazing Laws with Actual Zero Tolerance
- The students who flock to the lawn of Old Main at The Pennsylvania State University do so for one driving reason: to obtain a college degree. Indeed, these students who elect to make University Park their home for four or five years seek not just any college degree, but specifically one bearing the seal of The Pennsylvania State University. The one shared purpose that gathers all of these students to University Park, bringing them together in the first place, is to receive an exemplary education and matriculate with a degree from a world-renowned, industry-recognized institution. Penn State has either long underestimated or long ignored the power it holds to deter misconduct by its own students: take away that which they value most by removing them from the University. A student who doesn’t merely suspect, but unquestionably knows, that all of his financial and academic investment will vanish if caught hazing would be dissuaded from hazing activities far more than a student who believes he only faces a fine and court costs.
- The Grand Jury finds that hazing represents an alarmingly acute danger to the safety of students that could, as in the cases of Timothy Piazza and Marquise Braham, result in death; Universities should therefore treat it as the threat it actually is. Hazing should not be a second or third strike misconduct offense for which the University affords adjudicated students marginal punishments for first offenses.
- If found to have participated in, planned, or facilitated hazing of any kind after being afforded full due process rights, Penn State University’s punishment should be mandatory and unequivocal: expulsion. Anything less will fail to operate as a truly effective deterrent.
6. Strengthen Penn State’s Hazing Policy
- Additionally, Penn State’s hazing policy needs to adopt the following significant changes to ensure a thorough investigation is permitted by all stakeholders and to guarantee safety of all students and pledges:
- Any allegations that a chapter has engaged in hazing activities will result in an immediate investigation of the matter by the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life and the Office of Student Conduct. All new member/associate member activities will be suspended pending the outcome of the investigation.
- In all cases of alleged violations of this policy, alumni and national/international headquarters of the organization will be immediately notified.
- Individuals involved in alleged acts of hazing and/or individual officers who knew of or should have known of these activities may also face charges pursuant to the University Code of Student Conduct. No person shall recklessly participate in the hazing of another.
- No student or advisor or employee shall knowingly permit the hazing of another.
- No student, advisor, or University employee shall fail to report hazing. If a student is aware of hazing and fails to report it to the University, this could serve as a basis of discipline within the University. If an advisor or employee is aware of hazing and fails to report it to the University, ramifications could involve disciplinary action and/or termination.
- The negligence or consent of the student/participant or any assumption on risk by the student/participant is not a defense to any action brought pursuant to this policy.
- If any advisor, employee, or member of the Penn State faculty is aware of hazing, or allegations of hazing, and reports the same to Penn State, Penn State is mandated to report such allegations to the local police having appropriate jurisdiction over the matter within 24 hours. Penn State will cooperate with the police as permitted by law.
7. Implement and Enforce Severe Restrictions in Alcohol Use Because Incremental Changes Have Proven Useless and Are Disproportionate to the Problem
- The Grand Jury understands that hazing reform may crop up as a topical issue when a tragedy such as Tim Piazza’s death unfolds, but quickly fades from the headlines. When the world stops paying attention, many times so do the officials responsible for effecting permanent change. The Grand Jury finds that meaningful reform must be aggressive and lasting.
- If Penn State elects to not commit to aggressive and sustained resolutions against hazing and furnishing, then for the safety of every student, all alcohol should be permanently banned at fraternity and sorority events as a prerequisite to the Univers_ity’s continued recognition of each Greek chapter. No party is worth the loss of a life.
- The Grand Jury acknowledges that no aggressive or sustained measures have ever been attempted under complete University control and oversight. However, the Grand Jurors believe that sincere commitment to such a model could prove successful
- •If the University intends to allow fraternities to continue consumption of alcohol at social events, it should ensure and enforce that all alcohol at any social event hosted by a fraternity or sorority be served only by bartenders certified through the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board’s Responsible Alcohol Management Program (“RAMP”); deem fraternity brothers ineligible to act as servers, even if RAMP certified; demand that those RAMP servers require guests to produce valid identification confirming they are of legal drinking age before service; at a minimum, limit alcohol to beer and wine rather than hard liquor; and restrict the number of social events each semester.
- The Grand Jury agrees with and recommends implementation of delayed recruitment, shortened recruitment periods, a Greek chapter scorecard, relaunching of Neighborhood Enforcement Alcohol Team (NEAT), additional training, further parent and member education, semester surveys for new members to identify hazing, and education on Pennsylvania’s Medical Amnesty Act.
- Fraternities/Sororities must earn “Good Standing”- In addition, the Grand Jury recommends that Penn State direct each fraternity and sorority to first successfully complete an entire semester of hosting social events with a Penn State-employed spot checker present for the entire scheduled length of the event in order to monitor the conduct of the brothers/pledges and guests. The event chaperones will be employees of Penn State, chosen by the Office of Fraternity Compliance and will be paid for by the fraternity/sorority successfully enjoying events with responsible, legal alcohol consumption Jill demonstrate the fraternity/sorority’s commitment to following IFC rules, Penn State’s regulations, Pennsylvania’s laws and commitment to responsible alcohol consumption. Only after a semester proving themselves through this method will the fraternity/sorority be in “good standing” and advance to a decreased level of monitoring via random spot checking by Penn State’s new Office of Fraternity Compliance.
- Upon any allegations of violation related to illegal or excessive alcohol consumption or hazing, the organization will be immediately and temporarily suspended from all social activity and alcohol consumption during the investigation. Upon any finding of violation, the Greek organization will be banned from further social activity and alcohol consumption for the balance of the semester, after which the fraternity/sorority would immediately return to supervised social events for a full semester. After another semester of violationfree events, the fraternity could resume spot checking status. •As discussed more thoroughly throughout the report, the recommendations above will prove worthless without actual enforcement of violations. In light of that, the Grand Jury recognizes that the listed alcohol rules are little more than empty comfort without supporting guarantees.
- Consequently, Penn State University should continue and expand a policy of randomly spot-checking fraternities-on any, and every, night of the week every semester for fraternities in “good standing.” Rather than the IFC/St. Mortiz policy of only spot-checking those fraternities with registered events, Penn State shouldemploy its own social checkers to appear on the doorstep of any fraternity house on any night of the week, at any time of the evening. In other words, the monitoring should be truly random. While many fraternities utterly spurned the Parents Weekend restrictions imposed by the University, at least one truth became both self-evident and consistent: the checked fraternities were not especially successful at hiding their violations. Even when fraternity officers refused checkers access to other floors, the steady stream of guests to the upper floors; the loud music; the rowdy voices offered clear circumstantial evidence of illicit partying. Overflowing trash cans of freshly empty shot and solo cups and scattered beer cans easily corroborated checkers’ suspicions. When University spot checkers encounter these obvious circumstantial signs of violations, there must be action-both against the fraternity in the organizational disciplinary process as well as against any individuals also observed to be violating the Code of Conduct.
- Moreover, sanctions for violations of the alcohol policy must be severe, progressive, and nonnegotiable. No longer should Penn State allow multiple slaps on the proverbial wrist for alcohol violations. Any fraternity who dismisses the gravity of alcohol management among its members the first time receives an alcohol and social moratorium for the rest of the semester (as explained above). A second alcohol violation in the same academic year expands the alcohol and social moratorium from a semester to the entire year. A third violation nets the loss of Penn State recognition. A “three strikes” policy puts each of these fraternities on notice: vou have a limited numbe, of chances to self regulate within your own brotherhood before the University takes its own action.
- The message should be unequivocal and should be categorically received: fraternities that gamble with the safety and lives of Penn State students will immediately, and perhaps permanently, lose that which it values above all elsethe opportunity to host any alcohol related events in the fraternity house. The Grand Jury is heartened by Mr. Sims testimony in which he supported permanent revocation to “weed out” any fraternity that continues to gamble the safety of Penn State students by failing to comply with the University’s regulations regarding alcohol abuse and hazing. He testified, “We’re not going to be tolerant of this. We can’t afford to be tolerant of this anymore … ” The Grand Jury urges Penn State administration to support Mr. Sims’ commitment to student safety, and to enforce a true zero tolerance policy.
8. Penn State Must Enforce Those Policies that Protect Penn State students
- As the current model of self-regulation and self-enforcement by the fraternity members themselves via the lnterfraternity Council has clearly failed to prevent the prevailing habit of both excessive alcohol consumption as well as underage drinking, the Grand Jury recommends that the University assume sole responsibility for enforcement and regulation of alcohol consumption during all Greek life events.
- The Grand Jury finds that, rather than abdicating responsibility for the safety of its students to other students who may lack the ability, the knowledge, or the fortitude to apply discipline that prevents irresponsible drinking and it’s potential lethal consequences, Penn State must take ownership of all those who pursue an education at the university.
- To that end, the Grand Jury recommends that the University at a minimum adopt the following curative behavior: Immediately remove the organizational disciplinary process from the IFC’s control. Penn State University should directly regulate and adjudicate all violations committed by any University sanctioned student organization, including fraternities operating under Penn State’s recognition. Invert the current system in which Penn State employees allegedly merely observed the IFC’s decisions from a distance to one in which the IFC students partner with Penn State employees, observing how administrators with far more life experience and hopefully far more appreciation for the long term impact of such crucial adjudications manage these grave concerns. It is time for Penn State to assume control of not only Penn State students, but also student organizations that bear the Penn State name.
9. Penn State Should Direct Resources to the Expansion of its Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life and Office of Student Conduct
- To accomplish the above recommendations, Penn State will require additional staff to spot check and monitor fraternities’ compliance, to investigate allegations of misconduct, and to adjudicate substantiated violations through an appropriate disciplinary process. The staff and office resources currently devoted to the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life will never support the execution of the above recommendations, especially when 17% of Penn State’s student body belongs to a greek organization. The IFC’s membership alone numbers forty-three fraternities, not counting the Panhellenic Council, the National Panhellenic Council, and the MultiCultural Greek Council. One advisor alone will not be able to effectively manage and supervise forty three fraternities.
- If Penn State intends to maintain Greek life, it must prioritize resources to funding those departments charged with monitoring and protecting such a large percentage of its students who are at demonstrably higher risk of dangerous intoxication, injury, and sexual assault. Specifically, the University must hire enough staff such that every organization and every individual believed to be in violation of hazing and alcohol regulations can be fully investigated and adjudicated.
10. Penn State Should Adequately Fund and Staff the Offices Responsible for greek life
- Prioritizing the objective of these departments also requires the University to ensure that it ‘Tlaintains a full staff. For instance, since November of 2016 until at least the summer of 2017 when he was interviewed, Danny Shaha simultaneously shouldered the responsibility for at least three substantial positions at Penn State’s direction-Director of the Office of Student Conduct; Director of the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life; and Title IX Coordinator. The University cannot possibly expect its administrators to perform effectively when spread so thin.
- The University must endeavor to hire qualified, competent candidates as soon as possible when a vacancy occurs, rather than redistributing responsibilities to employees who already oversee essential assignments that demand their undivided focus.
11. Universities Should Train All Employees-Including Students-To Recognize the Gravity of Hazing and to Report It Immediately
- As the Grand Jury learned in Marquise Braham’s case, fellow student RAs may often become the first point of disclosure for pledges experiencing hazing and, consequently, could serve as the first line of defense against it.
- Universities must impress upon these I RA students that reports of hazing cannot be dismissed, overlooked, or fodder for joking camaraderie. Hazing is not a normal, everyday activity that an RA takes in stride when a fellow student brings it to the RA’s attention. An RA should have a duty to report such information, and not encourage a student to “gut it out” or “that it will soon be over.” Hazing must be repugnant to all, and not accepted as normal and ordinary. If students and universities continue to treat hazing with a “boys will be boys” indifference, then it will remain alive and well behind doors bearing Greek letters. It’s an epidemic on these campuses and it needs to be treated as such.
- Universities must conduct and reinforce training with all employees to educate them on the serious safety risk hazing activity poses to students. Universities should direct employees that reports of such risk by any student should be treated as the real threat to life and limb they represent and passed on to high level administration officials immediately. In turn, high level administration authorities should be required to immediately report this to the police
- The Grand Jury tasks Penn State University with setting a per capita fee to defray the costs of these safety recommendations. This cost shall be assessed to all Greek life members at the beginning of each semester. The Grand Jury believes that Greek life will only be true stakeholders in this reform to protect the lives of all students if they directly contribute to the costs of implementing the measures.
12. The General Assembly Should Enact Compulsory Reporting Processes For Any Elementary, Secondary, or Higher Education Institution, Including Identifying Mandatory Reporters
- The Grand Jury approves of Universities supporting internal investigations into violations of the Codes of Student Conduct. As the Grand Jury has explained in earlier recommendations, it believes a thorough, prompt investigation of all accusations as serious as hazing and excessive alcohol consumption is crucial to the safety of all students. We also understand that violations of Student Conduct Codes and the criminal law sometimes can-and should-overlap.
- When they do, however, the University should defer to law enforcement’s investigation. In order to assure this occurs, every institution of education throughout the Commonwealth should be legally required to report allegations of the crime of hazing to the appropriate law enforcement agency.
- As the Grand jury has well learned during this investigation, the bonds to secrecy inherent in fraternities create reluctant witnesses. Law enforcement needs every legal tool at its disposal in order to ferret out the truth. These tools include Grand Juries, search warrants, and wiretaps among a variety of others. These tools-not to mention good, old fashioned police work such as canvassing all parties-demand immediate action because delays often mean destruction of the evidence. Unfortunately, as illustrated in the case of Marquise Braham, critical evidence of hazing can be lost or discarded when an administrative investigation precedes a criminal one, with trained investigators who have access to compelling information from others that civilians lack. The Grand Jury received testimony that State College Police Department seized and extracted, either by warrant or consent, the data from at least 20 cell phones from Beta Theta Pi pledges and brothers. The data stored on those phones, as the earlier Presentment made clear, became vital evidence-evidence that may have been deleted and unrecoverable if law enforcement had been unaware of the crime and thus unable to react quickly. Over 30 witnesses testified before the Grand Jury, and State College Police detectives interviewed far more. The Grand Jurors reviewed hours of surveillance video and pages of text messages. This investigation alone required a staggering amount of resources, time, and effort; other similar investigations will demand the same. If these cases fail to be reported to and investigated by law enforcement immediately, the truth may never be revealed, justice may never be served, and the danger may never abate.
- Much as the mandatory reporting requirements already exist for suspicions of child abuse, the Grand Jury calls upon the General Assembly to be guided by that structure and create a similar reporting process and procedure that identifies individuals with legally recognized responsibility to report the crime of hazing.
- For the same reason, Universities should ensure that all of its staff, and administrators receive training on why the need for immediate law enforcement involvement is significant. Administrators such as Mr. Kelly and Mr. Shaha informed the Grand Jury that they would be completely willing to prioritize early police involvement, and that any failure to do so in the past stemmed from sheer unfamiliarity with the avenues required for successful investigation and prosecution.