18 members of a fraternity at Penn State University have been charged with the death of 19-year-old Timothy Piazza, who fell down a flight of stairs during a pledge night event at the university. They will face various charges such as simple assault, alcohol-related violations and hazing. Eight of those Beta Theta Pi members will be charged with involuntary manslaughter and aggravated assault, which are felonies in Pennsylvania. According to the district attorney, they will face arraignment some time next week. James Piazza, Timothy’s father, called the incident “a senseless and very preventable tragedy” at a news conference held on Friday.
According to local police, Timothy Piazza was attending a fraternity acceptance ceremony on February 2 and was drinking. The fraternity failed to call an ambulance until almost 12 hours after he fell down the stairs. Piazza was taken to Hershey Medical Center and died two days later, in part due to the delayed response time.
Since then, Penn State disbanded the Beta Theta Pi fraternity’s local chapter as part of a crackdown on these off-campus organizations. Also included in that crackdown was a ban on kegs and a limit on the amount of events that could be held per semester with alcohol. Furthermore, Penn State said that it would no longer grant the same level of self-government that was allowed to fraternities and sororities in the past by the university.
As for the fraternity’s top brass, Jim Ewbank released a statement on behalf of the worldwide organization, saying that “The early findings of that investigation indicated that the behavior of several undergraduate members was in direct contradiction of the International Fraternity’s expectations and risk management policies, as well as the International Fraternity’s reputation and commitment to character development.” They specifically rebuked the hazing and alcohol abuse demonstrated by these college students.