National Hazing Prevention Week runs through Friday, and Penn State is participating.
The practice, frequently associated with fraternities and sororities but possible in any organization, is defined by the nonprofit HazingPrevention.org as “any action taken or any situation created intentionally that causes embarrassment, harassment or ridicule and risks emotional and/or physical harm to members of a group or team, whether new or not, regardless of the person’s willingness to participate.”
Penn State knows too much about it. In February 2017, police said sophomore Timothy Piazza died after a fall at a Beta Theta Pi pledge party.
In May, Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller charged the since-banned fraternity and 18 members with various charges. For several, that included hazing, a misdemeanor in Pennsylvania. While felonies in the case have since been dismissed, and some individuals were not bound over for trial, the fraternity’s Alpha Upsilon chapter and 14 members still face charges.
The university made a number of changes after Piazza’s death, including taking disciplinary control away from the four Greek-life governing groups, education for students and parents and a zero-tolerance policy regarding hazing. According to Penn State, any organization participating in hazing faces “swift, permanent revocation of university recognition for the chapter involved.”
“... We are committed to educating and empowering students with the skills and tools they need to recognize, report and prevent hazing,” said Penn State President Eric Barron in a release. “National Hazing Prevention Week’s focus aligns with the university’s year-round efforts and educational programming to foster a safe and healthy campus environment.”
Penn State addressed National Hazing Prevention Week in a video, bringing together voices of many different campus groups. The Black Caucus, the College Democrats, Student Programming Association, Panhellenic Council, the University Park Undergraduate Association and the Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon underscored the message and shared a phone number to report hazing: 800-560-1637.
Panhellenic Council is also organizing an anti-hazing event from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday at the HUB-Robeson Center.