PA Governor Tom Wolf on Friday Oct. 19 signed into law new criminal penalties for hazing in light of the death of Beta Theta Pi pledge Timothy Piazza.
Present for Wolf’s signature of PA Senate Bill 1090 included Tim’s parents Jim and Evelyn Piazza, his brother Michael, The Pennsylvania State University (PSU) President Eric Barron, PSU senior leaders, the Piazza’s attorney Tom Kline, and other key sponsors of the bill.
PA Senate Bill 1090 was originally introduced on March 23, 2018 by Senator Jake Corman of PA’s 34th District. Since then, Jim and Evelyn Piazza, the PSU Interfraternity Council, the University Park Undergraduate Association, and President Barron have all strongly advocated for the bill’s enactment.
Following the terminal injuries to Tim, which were sustained in an alcohol-fueled Bid Acceptance Night, the university has enacted their own anti-hazing initiatives and penalties.
Among these measures is the implementation of a comprehensive national scorecard for fraternities and sororities, which includes their total members, cumulative GPA, alcohol and hazing violations, and history of chapter suspensions. Additional actions include the use of critical sanctions, the ability to investigate, and strict application of the student conduct process.
In coordination with PSU’s benchmarks, PA Senate Bill 1090 requires state schools to implement aggressive anti-hazing policies and reporting procedures. The legislation establishes a tiered penalty system which amends the Commonwealth’s former anti-hazing law. According to President Barron, the Timothy J. Piazza Anti-Hazing Law will, “hold anyone accountable for behavior that jeopardizes the safety and well-being of others and demonstrates the seriousness with which the state and University approach the issue.”
Specifically, within the tier structure of the new law, hazing resulting in bodily injury will be classified as a third-degree misdemeanor, including imprisonment up to one year with fines up to $2,500. Additionally, hazing which results in a serious bodily injury or death will be classified as a third degree felony including imprisonment up to 7 years with fines up to $15,000.
The law further distinguishes categories of Organizational and Institutional hazing penalties. For organizations such as fraternities, sororities, societies, clubs, or any other associations with primarily students or alumni, those intentionally or knowingly involved in the promotion of hazing will be subject to the above new tiers.
Also, the court gains the ability to order an organization to forfeit their property involved in the hazing violation. Similarly, for institutions within the Commonwealth which grant associate or higher academic degrees that are responsible for hazing, there will be initial fines up to $5,000 for these offenses. Aggravated hazing by an institution will also be punishable with a fine up to $15,000.
Supplementary provisions to the law mandate that institutions and high schools must adopt a written anti-hazing policy, a copy of their rules must be made accessible on their public website, programs enforcing the penalties for violations, and maintenance of a report for all violations relating to their anti-hazing policies or State and Federal laws.
In agreement with PSU’s underage alcohol consumption immunity policy, the law declares that institutions and high schools must create, “safe-harbor criteria that will protect someone from prosecution for involvement in a hazing incident if they seek assistance for someone in need of help.”
The law will go into effect in November of 2018 and change anti-hazing prevention, enforcement, and transparency among collegiate institutions and high schools within the Commonwealth.
The Piazza family declared, “legislators have given the justice system the tools to punish this egregious behavior, and we can only hope they use these tools so that the law becomes a deterrent to prevent other families from having to endure the loss and pain that we have.”