NBC News reports that a grand jury has blamed Penn State University for allowing a culture of underage drinking and hazing that caused the death of a fraternity pledge last February. The jury published a report stating that school administrators “displayed shocking apathy to the potential danger associated with doing nothing” when it came to lacking oversight of the school’s fraternity social functions.
NBC says that Timothy Piazza, 19, was given alcohol at a pledge event at Beta Theta Pi before he fell down a set of stairs and was left for 12 hours before anyone called for help. This gathering of the grand jury was called to determine whether the school should be held responsible and face charges in Piazza’s death.
After a 10-month investigation, the report was written using testimonies from former employees and students. It was also critical of the Interfraternity Council, or IFC, which is a student-run organization in charge of monitoring the 49 Greek chapters on campus.
Of particular note in the report is the complicated relationship between Penn State and its fraternities, as membership dues to the fraternities are used to pay some employee salaries and the security firm hired to monitor fraternity parties.
During testimony, IFC members did state that at times they would not forward the security firm’s checklists from such parties to the Office of Student Conduct.
Beta Theta Pi also faced some difficulties in 2008 when members were allegedly hazing pledges and encouraging underage drinking. The school did nothing other than shut the fraternity down for a year.
Penn State disagrees with “many characterizations of the University and our record of action as presented by the DA,” said President Eric Barron.
One month before the report was published, 17 people from Beta Theta Pi faced new charges related to the case, after more serious ones were dismissed in September. In connection with Piazza’s death, 26 people are facing criminal charges, and 14 have already been ordered to stand trial on lesser charges, states NBC News.
*Photo credit Patrick Carns/AP