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‘Cherish everyone’: Piazza parents discuss dangers of greek life hazing after son’s death



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Jim Piazza speaks March 23, 2018 about the importance of passing the anti-hazing legislation named after his son, Timothy Piazza, outside of the Centre County Courthouse in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania. Tribune News Service Buy Photos

Jim and Evelyn Piazza, whose son died after being hazed in 2017 at a Penn State fraternity, spoke Sunday at the IU Auditorium about the dangers of hazing in greek life and why it needs to end.

Chapter members from IU’s four greek councils attended the event and filled the entire lower level of the auditorium.

Multiple greek chapters at IU are on disciplinary status, many due to hazing. Five chapters are on cease and desist.

Timothy Piazza, a sophomore when he died, was served 18 drinks in about an hour and a half during a pledge initiation at the university’s Beta Theta Pi house. He fell several times, including down 15 feet of stairs, and hit his head.

Despite his condition, other members of the fraternity shrugged it off until the next morning. Timothy Piazza died Feb. 4, 2017.

“He was slowly dying in front of their eyes,” Evelyn Piazza said.

She said when the brothers spoke out about the incident, it seemed like it was rehearsed and they were just trying to stay out of trouble.

After recounting the events preceding their son’s death, Evelyn asked the audience members to close their eyes and imagine someone they love lying unconscious in a hospital bed. She asked the audience to imagine telling him you love him and are proud of him.

“And there it is, he’s dead,” she said. “The world stops.”

Although it is illegal in most states, including Indiana, students in greek life across the nation continue to haze. Timothy Piazza was one of at least five fraternity pledges who died after alcohol-related hazing in 2017.

Later that year, several universities, including IU, suspended greek life to at least some extent. During an emergency meeting November 2017, IU’s Interfraternity Council unanimously voted to temporarily ban social activities with alcohol and unsupervised new member activities until the following February.

But this was only a temporary solution.

In the 2017-2018 school year, four fraternities and two sororities were suspended, mostly for alcohol and hazing problems, according to the Student Affairs website.

The Piazzas are now at the forefront of an anti-hazing movement, traveling throughout the country to warn about the potentially devastating effects of what some consider innocent traditions.

Jim and Evelyn Piazza directly addressed IU’s greek life chapters on probation or suspension, listing off each chapter’s motto and urging them to use their son’s story as motivation to change.

Jack Rogers, a sophomore member of Theta Chi, said he hopes the talk will change will make a difference in fraternity hazing, especially since IU particularly has a problem with it.

Dani Posin, a freshman member of Gamma Phi Beta, disagrees.

She said she doesn’t think the talk will leave a lasting effect on fraternities at IU. She said she saw several men get up and leave the talk early.

The Piazzas said they now spend Mother’s and Father’s Day at the cemetery with their son. They can’t spend holidays at home. They never fully enjoy birthdays anymore.

Timothy Piazza should have been graduating from Penn State this May with his brother, Evelyn Piazza said. He soon would have received a letter he wrote to himself his senior year of high school, which was supposed to be given to him five years later.

As Evelyn Piazza read the list of advice Timothy Piazza left for his future self, she choked up. He had written that he wanted to contact his family more often.

“I don’t know how long any of us will be around,” Timothy Piazza wrote. “But cherish everyone.”


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