Grand jury report blasts Penn State over fraternities

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A grand jury report blasts Penn State University and its handling of hazing at fraternities over the last decade and makes recommendations on how the university can improve after the death of a pledge this year.

The Centre County district attorney just released the findings of a grand jury, looking into the fraternity culture at Penn State. It found a shocking history of hazing and says that must change.

The grand jury says even the moves Penn State made to crack down on fraternities after the death of Timothy Piazza this year aren’t working.

That grand jury is recommending significant changes at Penn State and to state law.

“No one should die just because they want to join a fraternity. That shouldn’t be OK. It’s not acceptable. It shouldn’t be acceptable,” said Richard Graham, parent of former PSU fraternity member.

With a former Penn State fraternity member and family of other alleged hazing victims in the front row of a news conference in Bellefonte, the Centre County district attorney revealed findings from a grand jury report.

That report includes recommendations going forward regarding hazing and excessive alcohol use by fraternities at Penn State University.

The grand jury report questions why Penn State labeled Beta Theta Pi as a model fraternity in recent years when there were indications of problems there dating back a decade.

That’s where pledge Timothy Piazza died back in February after a night of heavy drinking.

“They were horrified by the failure of a system that they felt didn’t protect and hadn’t protected others when they found out about other cases in the past at Penn State,” said Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller.

The grand jury says even new rules implemented at Penn State after that aren’t enforced, pointing out violations even on parents weekend — violations that included parents themselves.

Here are some of the recommendations:

A new Pennsylvania law called “Tim’s Law” with stricter penalties for hazing. Stiffer state laws on giving alcohol to minors. A pledge’s bill of rights for new frat members. Establishing a hazing hotline much better that one already available. A rule where hazing equals expulsion at Penn State. “There’s an interview of me saying, you know, ‘death is imminent up at Penn State unless there are some serious changes,” said James Vivenzio, former PSU student.

Newswatch 16 was there back in 2015 when Vivenzio visited the Kappa Delta Row fraternity house, just off Penn State’s main campus. He has sued the university claiming his complaints about hazing were ignored.

“Penn State, you screwed up. You know we are here today due to that. It’s time to take responsibility and move on. We shouldn’t be here at all.”

“You want to make them think twice about engaging in behavior, make it student-conduct punishable individually. Start saying if you’re engaging in hazing, not only are we going to learn about it, but we’re passing it on to police and you are going to be charged criminally, because that is, by the way, an actual crime,” said the D.A.

The grand jury report includes testimony from a Penn State administrator who says the university has had a lot of resistance to its new rules from alumni and even parents of frat brothers.

In a statement released after the new conference, Penn State said:

“Widespread problems of binge drinking and hazing persist at universities across the country. It’s not a solution to simply point an accusatory finger.”

The school went on to say it has been working to address the problems plaguing institutions nationwide.