The parents of Timothy Piazza, the 19-year-old Pennsylvania State University sophomore who died in February after succumbing to injuries he sustained frat party, have asked the university to expel the students and fire the teachers who they say were culpable in their son’s death.
James and Evelyn Piazza addressed the university’s Board of Trustees in a letter that called on the university to “admit responsibility” in the incident and “fix” what the parents see as “broken” Greek Life culture.
“As I am now learning, Penn State has a long history of harsh hazing, excessive drinking and sexual assaults in its Greek Life,” the letter reads. “Penn State also has a long history of looking the other way at difficult situations. This must stop and all those who are part of turning a blind eye must be held accountable, just as the individuals who committed the crimes and recklessness should be held accountable.”
The letter specifically calls for Penn State to fire two employees: Damon Sims, the vice president for student affairs, who chaired the Greek Life Task Force, and Tim Bream, who served as the advisor of Beta Theta Pi, the now-shuttered fraternity house where Piazza was pledging and partying the night he fell multiple times and sustained the injuries that killed him. According to police reports and video footage, it took students about 12 hours to call for help after Piazza fell. Throughout the night, he was slapped and doused in liquor.
Eighteen fraternity members were charged in Piazza’s death, and eight of those students (plus the fraternity itself) were charged with involuntary manslaughter.
In addition to asking the Board of Trustees to expel any students believed to have “culpability” in their son’s death, the Piazzas requested that the university introduce “strict policies and procedures for existence and interaction of Greek Life,” including random spot checks and inspections of fraternities, the immediate loss of recognition of any fraternity that violates the university’s code of conduct, a mandatory annual safety class for all Greek Life members and a safety and orientation class for pledges.
The parents have also asked that any student who fails to promptly report hazing or is found to be associated with hazing – and any student who is found to be providing alcohol to underage students – be subject to expulsion.
“You now have an obligation to make the appropriate statements and changes to make sure this never happens again,” the letter reads. “The world is watching. Take the lead and do the right thing!”
In response, Penn State said in a statement that the university’s “focus is on solutions to the problems of student alcohol misuse, hazing and other misconduct.”
University officials are expected to discuss plans to advance student safety at public session today at 1 p.m.
Follow @ClaireSasko on Twitter.