Our View | Students learn tough lesson on tolerance

December 11, 2013 

Two Penn State students are getting the message that ethnic intimidation won’t be tolerated here.

They’re also learning the hard way that one bad decision can cost you in your relationships and your community standing, and impact your future.

State College police have charged Eric Hyland, 19, of Export, and Hayden Grom, 19, of New Fairfield, Conn., in connection with the Nov. 8 vandalism at Penn State’s Beta Sigma Beta fraternity.

Now the men face criminal charges and discipline from Penn State, and have been expelled from their own fraternity.

The pair admitted to spray-painting anti-Semitic messages and offensive images, including swastikas, on vehicles, a trash bin and the Beta Sigma Beta house on Berry Alley. Beta Sigma Beta is a largely Jewish fraternity.

Vandalism was also found next door at Delta Sigma Phi.

Charges include ethnic intimidation, criminal mischief and disorderly conduct — all misdemeanors.

State College Police Chief Tom King said Hyland and Grom were remorseful when confessing to the crimes.

But, the chief said, “They knew what they were doing was offensive.”

The men admitted to being intoxicated that night, police said. That’s clearly no excuse for such behavior.

We applaud police for treating this crime with appropriate seriousness, and we applaud those who provided information that aided the investigation, which was built on surveillance video evidence, and reports from those individuals.

We also applaud Penn State for its handling of the situation, and Acacia fraternity for making the right choice and kicking these individuals out of that organization.

“The actions of these two individuals are contrary to the core values of Acacia and in no way represent the Penn State chapter as a whole, nor any of the other 37 Acacia chapters and colonies across North America,” the fraternity said in a prepared statement.

Expelled from their fraternity and headed to court, the men will also go before the university’s Office of Student Conduct.

“Hateful behavior in any form is not acceptable, and perpetrators should be held accountable,” Penn State spokeswoman Lisa Powers said.

Police said Hyland called vandalizing the Penn State fraternities the most regrettable decision of his life.

That lesson is clear after the fact, when the weight of the consequences is falling on your shoulders.

As we seem to write all too often, people need to make better choices to avoid the trouble that one night of drunken, reckless behavior can bring.

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