Penn State Launches “Aggressive” Greek Life Crackdown

Following an investigation into a student's death, the university will enforce new restrictions and ban one fraternity entirely.

Penn State's Beta Theta Pi fraternity house via Google Maps

Penn State’s Beta Theta Pi fraternity house, where 19-year-old Timothy Piazza sustained injuries that led to his death in February. | Image via Google Maps

Pennsylvania State University will ban one fraternity and crack down on Greek life campuswide following the controversial death of a student, school officials announced on Thursday. 

The fraternity to be closed, Beta Theta Pi, housed the party where 19-year-old sophomore Timothy Piazza fell and sustained injuries that led to his death in February. Police said Piazza was not tended to for hours after the fall.

An investigation of Piazza’s death led officials to discover “a persistent pattern of serious alcohol abuse, hazing and the use and sale of illicit drugs” at the fraternity, according to a news statement from the university. The fraternity’s recognition has been permanently revoked, and officials have banned it from ever returning as a chapter at the university.

In addition, Penn State will enforce a wave of restrictions effecting all frats and sororities. The new regulations include:

  • Formal recruitment — or “rush” — will be deferred from fall to spring semester for both fraternities and sororities in the 2017–18 academic year. To participate, full-time students must complete at least 12 credits.
  • The university will strongly enforce prohibition against underage possession or consumption of alcohol at fraternity and sorority events.
  • Only people who are trained by the state (RAMP servers) can distribute alcohol at social events. Only beer and wine are permitted. Kegs are not permitted.
  • Fraternities and sororities cannot hold day-long events and events cannot exceed the legal capacity of chapter houses.
  • Chapters are allowed to hold just 10 socials with alcohol per semester, as opposed to the current 45.

“Today, Penn State is drawing a line and imposing critical changes. Enough is enough,” Damon Sims, vice president for Student Affairs, said in a press release.

According to a statement released by the university, fraternity and sorority members at Penn State are “four times more likely than the general student population to be heavy drinkers; sorority women are 50 percent more likely than other female students to be sexually assaulted; and fraternity men are 62 percent more likely to commit a sexual assault than non-fraternity men.”

In addition to the new regulations, the university will likely increase staff and implement new leadership at the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life, publish “report cards” providing data on chapters, hold regular meetings with chapter leadership, and discuss the possibility of housing residential staff at fraternity and sorority buildings.

“A fundamental shift is required if these organizations are to be truly successful and sustainable, both at Penn State and elsewhere,” Sims said in the press release. “We will work diligently with our students, alumni, national organizations and any other partners who share our commitment to student well-being to ensure that the necessary transformation occurs.”

Follow @ClaireSasko on Twitter.