Penn State

Will this new Penn State IFC policy make fraternity parties safer?

Despite high rates of cardiac arrest, many Americans still can’t perform CPR

More than 300 thousand people suffer cardiac arrest each year. Doing CPR properly can save someone’s life in these situations, but according to a recent Cleveland Clinic survey, only half of Americans say they know how to perform bystander CPR.
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More than 300 thousand people suffer cardiac arrest each year. Doing CPR properly can save someone’s life in these situations, but according to a recent Cleveland Clinic survey, only half of Americans say they know how to perform bystander CPR.

Penn State’s Interfraternity Council is introducing a new policy that will mandate that there be one sober CPR trained brother at every social event.

“We are excited to help support our Interfraternity Council (IFC) find new an innovate ways to keep students safe. This is a great example of students exhibiting a culture of care and implementing their own student safety ideas,” Steve Veldkamp, special assistant to the VP for Student Affairs, said in a statement.

The policy will go into effect at the end of October, after four CPR training courses are offered to the fraternities.

Penn State IFC and the university’s Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life are splitting the cost of training for four members from each of the 36 fraternity chapters — about $8,000 — so that the individual chapters don’t have to pay. The CPR trainings are being taught by Penn State Emergency Medical Services Association, a student organization. First aid and “Stop the Bleed” classes are available to fraternity members at an additional cost.

“The idea of this program is to give fraternity brothers the knowledge and skills to be able to initiate lifesaving measures while waiting for an ambulance,” Alex Salzinger, president of Penn State EMSA, said.

Inspired by Penn State tragedy

Alec Gutsche, Penn State IFC’s vice president of Civic Responsibility, said the hope is to make parties “much safer.”

He said the idea for the program grew out of a student’s assignment for a class.

“What started out as an ENGL 202 assignment for me is now a fully realized harm reduction program in our very own community. As a former member of PSU EMS, my personal connection to the Beta Theta Pi tragedy inspired me to make every effort to prevent or at least reduce incidences like that from happening,” Arman Saeedi, a Penn State graduate and master of public health student at Thomas Jefferson University, said in a statement provided by Penn State IFC.

In February 2017, 19-year-old Timothy Piazza, a Beta Theta Pi pledge, had 18 drinks in 82 minutes during an event at the fraternity’s house on campus. He sustained fatal injuries after falling down the basement stairs, according to court documents. It was almost 12 hours before someone called 911.

After spending the past year talking it through with the university and EMSA and figuring out the logistics, the program is now getting off the ground. The first CPR training was held Sunday at the University Health Services building.

“If they remember nothing else, we’re trying to get them to remember how to recognize that 911 is needed and to get that on the way. So we really stress that the whole time — how to recognize a life-threatening injury and how to get the help that you need on the way,” said Joshua Hamilton, who serves as the course coordinator for EMSA.

Joining the list of Greek life reforms

It will be yet another way to try to prevent tragedy from happening again at Penn State, which has been in the national spotlight for years because of Greek life.

Following Piazza’s death, Penn State put into place a number of restrictions on the Greek system. Now, fraternity and sorority chapters must submit individual proposals on how they plan to manage social events. There’s a limit of 10 socials with alcohol per semester. No daylong parties are permitted, and only wine and beer can be served. Alcohol service at parties must follow Pennsylvania law and be distributed by Responsible Alcohol Management Program (RAMP)-trained servers, according to Penn State.

Additionally, social events with alcohol are monitored by coordinators from Penn State’s Office of Fraternity and Sorority Compliance. Coordinators “will gather information through observations and conversations with students to determine risk related to alcohol, capacity, sexual violence/assault, hazing, and compliance with Penn State Greek mandated measures. If risk is determined to be high or a safety concern is observed, coordinators will take the appropriate action to mitigate the risk,” according to Penn State.

Once the new policy goes into effect, compliance checkers will also make sure that the person registered as the sober CPR certified brother at social functions is indeed sober and in attendance, Gutsche said.

He said he doesn’t foresee any issues with the designated person being sober because that brother is “taking on a huge liability” so Gutsche said he doesn’t think that person would risk that by drinking.

“I think this is a great way for the fraternity men to be role models and undergo training and dedicate their time to making the campus safer,” Gutsche said.

And Penn State IFC is the first in the nation to implement a policy like this, he said, adding that he’s “very happy” that IFC and EMSA are the leaders on this.

Heather Kirk, chief communication officer for the North-American Interfraternity Conference, said in an email that she can’t confirm that Penn State IFC is the first with this type of program because NIC hasn’t surveyed for that specific information.

Even though Gutsche’s time in his position with IFC will be up in November, he said he’s “definitely” going to push for first aid and “Stop the Bleed” classes to become mandatory as well.

There’s also been talk of, in the future, requiring that all new members in Penn State IFC get CPR certified, he said. If that was implemented, it would only take a few years for the entire fraternity population at Penn State to have that training.