In a report detailing hazing investigations from the last five years, the college released previously unknown details of the seven incidents included in the report. Pennsylvania’s newly enacted Timothy J. Piazza Anti-hazing Law required all colleges and universities to release such a report by Jan. 15, and mandates biannual updates.
Timothy Piazza, for whom the law is named, was a Penn State student who died after a hazing incident at a fraternity where he drank excessive amounts of alcohol.
The information that colleges are required to publish by the law are the name of the subject reported, the date the subject was charged, a description of violation, findings and, “if applicable,” penalties, and the date that investigation was resolved, according to Lexology.
The fencing team was suspended for the fall 2017 semester after charges of hazing and having alcohol at their events, according to the report, which is something the college had not previously stated publicly. The rugby team was also suspended for violations of college policy in 2017. The college had not said at the time the men’s team was charged with hazing—only alcohol violations.
The Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity was charged in 2014 with hazing and serving alcohol, but only received “educational outcomes” as a sanction. Zeta Psi was suspended for five years from 2013 to 2018, but this report is the first time the college has publicly stated that the fraternity was charged with hazing. At the time, the college had said that Zete was charged with violations of alcohol and social events policy.
The investigation into the Zete hazing allegation was the longest at six months, ending with the fraternity’s five-year suspension, while the shortest was Tri Delta’s, lasting a week before no charges were filed.
The college released their report originally on Jan. 15, as mandated by law, and revised it on Feb. 5 to include a report of hazing made against the football team this past fall. No charges were filed against the team after public safety’s investigation.
The location of this incident had been listed as “Fisher Field” in the crime log by public safety, and the college would not reveal what group or organization was involved.
Annette Diorio, Vice President of Campus Life, said the football incident was omitted from the Jan. 15 hazing report originally because the language in the description needed to be revised. The revision was to ensure that it would not be identifying to individuals involved, another requirement of the law.
Diorio wrote in an email that she believed at the time that the incident needed to be omitted entirely due to the identifiable information in the original description, but that “it was a mistake to leave the [football] incident off the report and that was my mistake.”
“Since we will have a lot more time to prepare the reports in the future, I am confident they will not require any revision after posting,” she added. Colleges and universities will be required to update their reports every Jan. 1 and Aug. 1 of each year going forward.
Jennifer Kocher, Communications Director for state senate majority leader Jake Corman, who introduced the law, said there were no penalties for schools that failed to comply with the reporting requirements of the law.
She added that any failure to comply is signal to students and prospective students about the character of a school, and that in order to ensure a school’s compliance, people, such as the legislature and those in the community, should be asking questions about their report.
Karley Biggs Sebia, an attorney specializing in education law, wrote in an email that “there are no penalty provisions in the anti-hazing law for schools that fail to comply with the reporting requirement.” While Sebia said that it is even unclear whether or not cases in which no charges are filed, such as the football team’s, must be disclosed, Kocher said that any investigation into hazing must be disclosed whether or not there were charges.
What would certainly violate the law, she added, would be a disclosure of any personal identifiable characteristics of any person involved, as it would violate not only the Piazza law but also “federal privacy laws, in particular, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA).”
“Violations of FERPA may result in substantial penalty, the loss of federal funding to the school,” she wrote.
The most recent allegations of hazing are from last semester and were made against Delta Gamma, Tri Delta and the football team. Of the three organizations, only Delta Gamma was charged with violations.
Delta Gamma was sanctioned with social probation until December 2019 and was assigned educational outcomes following charges including hazing and alcohol violations.
Delta Gamma’s educational outcomes include attending recruitment workshops which emphasize respectfulness and completing an AlcoholEdu survey, according to Diorio.
Finding an organization not responsible for a specific charge does not mean that educational outcomes are not considered for that organization, Diorio wrote in an email. However, she added, there were no additional educational guidelines given from the administration to the football team or Tri Delta.
She said that the reason that other educational outcomes might be considered, even in the absence of charges being filed, is to “[ensure] that students are fully aware of the policies and also to help students consider how their actions may impact others – even when it fall short of violating a policy.”
Delta Gamma was charged with the alcohol violations “Legal Age” and “Irresponsible use of alcohol.” Rugby was also charged with “Irresponsible use of alcohol” in 2017, along with other alcohol violations. Fencing was charged with the alcohol violation of “student organization events.” Zete was also charged with “Irresponsible use of alcohol” along with other alcohol violations in 2013 before their five-year suspension. Delta Kappa Epsilon was charged in 2014 with “serving alcohol.” All five organizations were charged with hazing, and thus were included in this report.
According to the 2018-2019 Student Handbook, a “Legal Age” violation is “the attempted or actual purchase, consumption, transportation or possession of alcohol beverages by a person under 21 is prohibited,” while “irresponsible use of alcohol” falls under “activities or possession of items that promote the rapid or excessive consumption of alcohol.”
Diorio added in an email that the main difference between the two violations is that “serving alcohol is limited to making alcohol available to those who are not of age. Irresponsible use addresses activities that increase risk related to alcohol consumption.”
Kathryn Kelly ’19 is the Editor-in-Chief of The Lafayette and a member of Tri Delta. She contributed in reporting about events unrelated to Tri Delta.