Penn State

Penn State announces 5-member response team for fraternity, sorority issues

The former Penn State Beta Theta Pi sits empty on Burrowes Road after being shut down.
The former Penn State Beta Theta Pi sits empty on Burrowes Road after being shut down. Centre Daily Times, file

Five Penn State executives will be taking on problems related to fraternities and sororities.

On Sunday, the university announced the members of the Greek-life Response Team, the people “who are responsible for bringing the details of the new Greek-letter community critical measures to fruition, and measuring the effectiveness of each on the community.”

Thomas Poole, vice president of administration, will chair the group. Other members include Vice President of Student Affairs Damon Sims, Vice President of Government and Community Relations Zack Moore, university police Chief Keith Morris and associate general counsel Frank Guadagnino.

The move comes a week after the university laid out a series of steps regarding the future of the Greek system on campus that will make Penn State the authority when it comes to discipline for fraternities and sororities instead of the Interfraternity Council, Panhellenic Association, Multicultural Greek Council and the National Pan-Hellenic Council. There 83 Greek groups at University Park that have been governed by the four groups.

Other steps include deferring rush, a ban on any organization performing the already banned — and illegal — practice of hazing involving alcohol or serious abuse, an increase in education for parents and impending recruits and report cards that will provide a record of behavior.

“I want to emphasize again, the safety of our community is of essential importance and the university is determined to move swiftly to put these initiatives in place. These are actions that require careful planning, resources and partnership with not only our Greek-letter organizations, but their alumni boards, housing boards, councils and national organizations,” said Penn State President Eric Barron in the announcement. “And the Greek-life Response Team will be critically focused on increasing student well-being and safety and the impact from these measures."

Penn State became the focus of discussions about Greek-life problems after the February death of Timothy Piazza, a 19-year-old Beta Theta Pi pledge who died of brain injuries and internal bleeding after prosecutors say he was forced to participate in a gauntlet of alcohol consumption, fell down a flight of stairs and went 12 hours before emergency personnel were called. Piazza’s death prompted a grand jury to recommend charges against 18 fraternity members and the Alpha Upsilon chapter, which Penn State permanently banned.

Preliminary hearings for some of those fraternity members are set for Monday in Bellefonte.

Lori Falce: 814-235-3910, @LoriFalce