New postings show wide range of Pennsylvania college hazing
HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania colleges and universities began posting online reports Tuesday on documented cases of hazing over the past five years, from forced drinking and toe-licking to the dunking of students in ice water, as required by a law passed as a result of the 2017 death of a Penn State fraternity pledge.
The reports describe the behavior and any discipline that resulted, including closing fraternities and sororities and expelling students. Some also include reports that were disproven or could not be corroborated.
Tougher anti-hazing legislation was enacted last year in response to the death of Tim Piazza of Lebanon, New Jersey. It mandates that all schools that grant an associate’s degree or higher put all violations of their own anti-hazing policies or federal or state laws on their websites.
Piazza’s death brought criminal charges against a couple dozen members of Beta Theta Pi, some that remain pending, and led the university to ban the fraternity.
The reports show the many ways that Pennsylvania college students have attracted the attention of administrators for hazing-related activity.
A Temple University fraternity was dissolved after investigators looked into claims they had required knuckle pushups on bricks or cement, planking, squats, carrying bricks and jumping into a river.
A sorority at Penn State-Altoona was suspended for a year over claims new members were subjected to being called “stupid” and “idiots” and were required to lick the toes of members.
At Bucknell University, a fraternity was cited for making new members carry others’ golf bags.
A Lehigh fraternity was dissolved for five years after a campus police officer found a notebook describing “coerced consumption of alcohol, lineups, servitude, sleep restrictions and other degrading actions regarding new members.”
Penn State reported 31 incidents or allegations across all campuses, including more detail about the punishment meted out to now-closed Beta Theta Pi members after Piazza’s death.
A fraternity at the main Penn State campus was suspended for three years for making new members eat expired food, perform “acts of servitude” and get dunked in a large trash can filled with icy water for giving wrong answers during a biweekly lineup.
Another also received a three-year suspension for making new members clean the house and do members’ laundry. They also taped new members to poles or walls and threw food and other items at them. And they required new members to write and create “stall stories,” described as “a pseudo pornographic newsletter” with pornographic images that was posted around the fraternity house.
Penn State also reported that four participants in a high school sports camp reportedly used a stun gun on another camper, thought to be a minor. Police were called and the campers were taken out of the camp. Local prosecutors declined to press charges.
As to Beta Theta Pi, Penn State said five students were expelled, six suspended, two put on probation and 21 “took a conduct withdrawal from the university.” Three others were punished for other behavior that became known during the investigation — two were expelled and one suspended.
Some reports had comparatively little detail. The University of Pittsburgh provided no information about hazing incidents beyond listing the rule that may have been violated. Indiana University of Pennsylvania described all 10 incidents simply as “hazing.” Millersville University said it had fielded no reports in the past five years.
Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, a Republican from the State College area and prime sponsor of the law, said the reporting rules are designed to help students make informed choices about the groups they join.
“Parents can also use this as a resource to talk with their children about the decisions they are making while adding an additional layer of accountability to the schools and other organizations,” Corman said.
The online disclosures are supposed to include the name of the organization, a description of the violation and any findings or penalties. After the first round of reports, which go back five years, they will be required twice a year, on Jan. 1 and Aug. 1.