Grand Jury Tim Piazza Beta Theta Pi

District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller presents the recommendations of the grand jury at the Bellefonte County Courthouse Annex on Friday, Dec. 15, 2017 almost a year after the death of Tim Piazza at the Beta Theta Pi fraternity house.

Editor's note: Follow the links below this story for full coverage of the grand jury report and recommendations


Penn State and the Interfraternity Council were on the receiving end of more criticism Friday for their handling of Timothy Piazza's death and prior hazing allegations. 

Soon after the release of the grand jury's report and recommendations for the future of Penn State greek life,  the university combatted several of the claims made. 

"Our new safety and reform initiatives represent a significant departure from the Greek system’s broken self-governance model and provide a pathway to improving student safety here and nationwide," Penn State President Eric Barron said in the statement.

Barron said the university's Greek Response team will review the grand jury's recommendations to evaluate if they will add to the efforts already taken by Penn State.

"Penn State strongly disagrees with many characterizations of the university and our record of action as presented by the District Attorney, but we remain deeply committed to turning the pain and anguish of this tragedy into reforms that continue to improve the safety and well-being of our students,” Barron said.

Barron pointed to several measures taken by the university in the 10 months since Piazza's death.

"We banned Beta Theta Pi forever, have suspended or revoked recognition for seven other Greek-letter organizations and have implemented extraordinarily far-reaching reforms, many of which have not previously been tried by any other universities," Barron said.

The statement also includes that all colleges, not just Penn State, are having to make changes to deal with hazing, underage alcohol abuse and sexual misconduct. Along with the university's initiatives, the statement said Penn State is also working with officials on "tougher legislation."

"The horrific nature of Timothy Piazza’s death must catalyze others in the Commonwealth and nationally, from elected officials to university presidents to help develop solutions to the scourge of reckless drinking and hazing that are prevalent," the statement said. "Further, participants in the Greek life system — students, parents, alumni and the local and national Greek organizations, including their affiliated housing corporations — need to do much more as we all focus on student well-being."

The university’s initiatives will be evaluated and modified over time, the statement said, but it added that change requires participation from everyone.

"We take note of the Report's struggle to provide even a single specific recommendation to the University that would help in the ongoing effort here and across the country to combat issues related to dangerous drinking and hazing among college students," Penn State responded in the grand jury report. "It cannot be fairly stated that the cause of Timothy Piazza's death was unique to Penn State's culture."

Penn State went onto list additional measures it could take in the near-future. They include, "a review of the growing size of sororities at the University; coordinating a national conference hosted by the Big Ten in Chicago to examine problems shared by other institutions with Greek-letter organizations and explore solutions; supporting legislative initiatives, such as a congressional proposal to expand Clery Act reporting to include hazing violations."

IFC Vice President of Communications Daniel Lee said the council recognizes the "genuine need for change at the core of the Penn State fraternity culture."

"Working alongside others in our campus community, the IFC has begun to work towards this change and will continue to do so to help ensure safety, support, transparency, and accountability," Lee said.

During her presentation of the Grand Jury Report, District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller called out the Penn State IFC and called its regulations "a joke," according to a previous Daily Collegian article.

The grand jury presentment from May indicated the IFC needed to re-evaluate its then "self-regulation".

"The Greek community nurtured an environment so permissive of excessive drinking and hazing that it emboldened its members to repeatedly act with reckless disregard to human life. Thus, the Grand Jury concludes that the death of Timothy Piazza was not a result of isolated conduct or simple mistake. Rather, the Grand Jury concludes that Timothy Piazza died as a direct result of the extremely reckless conduct of members of the Beta Fraternity who operated within the permissive atmosphere fostered by the Pennsylvania State University Interfraternity Council."

UPUA student government Director of Communications Lexi Shimkonis also provided a statement to The Daily Collegian.

"It is our job to ensure the safety and well-being of all Penn State students and we will continue to advocate for that as we have all year," Shimkonis said.

FULL COVERAGE 

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