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Frat leaders apologize more than 2 months after student’s death

adrey@centredaily.com

Penn State fraternity leaders, in an open letter, have apologized more than two months after Timothy Piazza died from injuries suffered from a fall during a Beta Theta Pi fraternity party.

Piazza, a pledge, took part in an acceptance ceremony that involved excessive drinking, according to Penn State administrators. Police have investigated the student’s death since Feb. 4, two days after he fell.

“The fraternity community continues to send its thoughts and prayers to the family of Tim Piazza,” the Interfraternity Council said in a statement. “We are sorry for your tremendous loss. The fraternity experience failed your son. We are committed to enacting significant measures to increase safety and enhance accountability throughout our community. We cannot do this alone and need the support of the Penn State family we love so much.”

“... The leadership of the Interfraternity Council has one overarching goal — to ensure we never again need to order 1,500 candles for a vigil for one of our beloved peers.”

The Penn State IFC also addressed university President Eric Barron, who penned an open letter Monday and asked if there is any hope for Greek life. He said continued violations of rules could lead to the end of Greek life at Penn State.

The frat leaders took issue with Barron’s letter and said they preferred not to communicate in open letters in the media.

“It’s disappointing we have to communicate in this manner — meet with us, work with us, and collaborate with us,” the statement said. “We are your students, too.”

The IFC’s statement said it needs “consistent support” from the university in the form of a more expansive Greek life staff and director. The frat leaders also bemoaned that the university has mandated policies and programs without student input.

According to Penn State Vice President of Student Affairs Damon Sims, fraternity and sorority members were involved in a task force appointed to address problems in the Greek system in the aftermath of issues with Kappa Delta Rho in 2015. The 25-member task force included seven representatives of groups including the IFC, the Multicultural Greek Council and the Panhellenic Association.

Sims said in an interview March 30 that some of the members of that task force were “poles apart” in their perspective on the issue, including some who were “very resistant to any effort to limit activities.”

“There was no consensus but a lot of dialogue,” Sims said.

“We need to make real change, and each member must share responsibility in that,” the IFC’s statement said. “We need to work together across chapters and councils and begin to have the difficult dialogue to address the issues of alcohol abuse, hazing and sexual misconduct that plague Penn State. We must take responsibility for our community and can no longer make excuses for bad behavior.”

Penn State IFC ended its letter by asking Barron, the Greek life community, the student body and alumni to “join us in a commitment to work together to address these problems.”

“Taking responsibility for our challenges is the first and only way to start significant change,” frat leaders said. “It is time to stop trying to save reputations and repeating the same failed approaches, because that will not make Penn State a better and safer place. It is time to address these problems head on together. We are willing to take accountability.”

Shawn Annarelli: 814-235-3928, @Shawn_Annarelli

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