Hazing News

NPR interviews the Piazza family

Here is the link and an excerpt


Evelyn Piazza wears a heart-shaped pendant around her neck. It has her son Timothy’s thumb print on it. When she runs her finger across it she says it’s like holding his hand.

Piazza’s son was a sophomore at Penn State last year, when he died from injuries suffered after fraternity hazing rituals. Now she dreads the days leading up to the first anniversary of Timothy’s death on Sunday.

“It’s going to be a rough three days because each day is going to be, ‘This is the day that he was hazed and got hurt.’ ‘This is the day that we spent in the hospital — that nightmare.’ And, ‘This is the day that he died,'” Piazza says while sitting in her Readington, N.J. home.

“You don’t send your child off to school thinking they could come home in a casket,” Jim Piazza says.

“One of the things we’d like to do is look at legislation across the country and see if we can influence legislation in states that may not have significant or any hazing laws whatsoever,” Jim says. Working collectively, he says the families hope they can bring even more attention to the country’s hazing problem.

Much of what happened to 19-year-old Timothy at the Penn State Chapter of Beta Theta Pi fraternity was caught on surveillance cameras.

Prosecutors say pledges were run through something called “the gauntlet.” They drank large amounts of alcohol very quickly. As NPR previously reported, Piazza was given 18 drinks in 82 minutes.

At around 11 p.m. Timothy fell head-first down a flight of stairs. He was moved to a couch where he stayed for a few hours. Then prosecutors say he stumbled around the house before again falling down the same stairs. His new fraternity brothers didn’t call for help until about 12 hours after the first fall.

Some of the fraternity brothers were charged with crimes — ranging from involuntary manslaughter to aggravated assault and hazing. But a new Centre County district attorney was sworn in late last year and he has forwarded the case to Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro because of an unspecified conflict. Shapiro’s office says the case is still under review.

The Piazza case has brought new attention to the hazing issue.

Elizabeth Allan, professor of higher education at the University of Maine, studies how prevalent hazing is and how to prevent it. She defines hazing as, “Any activity expected of someone joining or participating in a group that humiliates, degrades, abuses, or endangers them regardless of a person’s willingness to participate.”

Allan surveyed college students and found many of them don’t even know that they have experienced hazing.

“When we asked students what they had experienced in order to become a member of their club, team or organization, 55 percent reported behaviors that would meet the definition of hazing,” Allan says. But only about 1-in-10 of those students said they had been hazed.

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-- and in his weekly column "Far from Randolph" in the Winchester Star-Gazette of Randolph County, Indiana.

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