Penn State to Launch Database Tracking Incidents at Greek Organizations

The centralized system, modeled on the university’s existing Greek Scorecard, will record alcohol violations and sexual assaults, among other metrics.

timothy piazza, beta theta pi, penn state

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As Ryan Burke, the first defendant to be prosecuted for the hazing that led to Timothy Piazza’s death in 2017, received his sentence on Tuesday, Penn State is moving forward with plans to launch a national database that it hopes can mitigate future tragedies.

WHYY reports that the centralized system will keep tabs on Greek campus organizations and their infractions, including alcohol violations and sexual assaults, among other metrics. The Centre Daily Times reports that the database will also include information on pending anti-hazing legislation.

Penn State has faced intense pressure to refocus its oversight of fraternities and sororities following the February 2017 death of Piazza, a fraternity pledge who consumed large amounts of alcohol during a bid night and fell a number of times, hitting his head. His prospective brothers in Penn State’s Beta Theta Pi chapter did not call for help until 12 hours later; Piazza later died at the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.

Penn State will begin looking for other universities to join the database in the fall. President Eric Barron, speaking at a New York Times Higher Ed forum last month, spoke on the power of inter-university collaboration.

“I can imagine that if I had a national organization that was really a bad actor and they knew the presidents across this nation were going to look at them and say, ‘You know what? You don’t belong on our campuses if you can’t help us do the right thing,’” Barron said.

The university currently produces a Greek Scorecard for on-campus organizations, which will be the model for the national database.

In a joint Washington Post op-ed in May, Barron and Piazza’s father, Jim, argued for a national database as a solution to senseless fraternity deaths. “The memory of Timothy Piazza — and far too many others — deserves nothing less,” the two wrote. “And that’s why we’re calling for the creation of a national database to put a spotlight on what’s really happening inside many Greek-letter organizations.”

By involving many universities, Piazza wrote, the scorecard may be able to highlight problem organizations and shared rituals.

“It may surface a cumulative look at issues any one fraternity or sorority may be experiencing nationwide,” Piazza said, “such as ‘traditional’ unspoken hazing practices or dangerous abuses of alcohol.”