By Olivia Pan
The death of Penn State student, Timothy Piazza (pictured above), has drawn recent media attention to the dangers of college hazing. According to MSN, Piazza “died of a fractured skull and other injuries two days after drinking a dangerous amount of alcohol at a pledge ceremony and falling down basement stairs.”
On Monday, November 13, twelve additional members of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity were charged with involuntary manslaughter, among other crimes, after new surveillance footage of the pledge party was unearthed. This footage apparently shows Piazza being served several drinks within a relatively short period of time. The total number of fraternity members charged at this time stands at 17.
The question comes down to: Who should be held responsible for Piazza’s death—the fraternity students, Piazza, or the college?
I definitely think that the fraternity members involved in this hazing ritual should be held accountable for their actions. I believe that they deserve some type of punishment. They had to have known that serving someone 18 drinks within the course of an hour and a half would have dire effects. Not to mention, these frat members waited 12 hours after Piazza’s fall down the stairs before finally calling 911. While they may not have realized the extent of his injuries, they clearly failed miserably in helping this poor young man. They failed in basic human decency and caring about a young man who clearly needed their intervention.
However, I do think that involuntary manslaughter is a rather harsh charge to be brought against these fraternity members. Piazza’s death was a horrible tragedy. Still, that does not negate the fact that he was an active participant in this pledge drinking ceremony. He was not forced to drink to the excess that he did. While he may not have sought these drinks out himself, he still chose to drink them when they were handed to him. Of course, the fraternity members were extremely reckless with their actions, and I in no way blame the victim for his own death. Nevertheless, I struggle with whether or not these fraternity members unintentionally caused his death, which is the definition of involuntary manslaughter.
We also must examine to what extent the college is at fault. There are those who believe it is the responsibility of the school and the school alone to protect its students from harm. Nevertheless, this fraternity pledge party took place at a private fraternity house. There is only so much monitoring of student activity that can be done by the college itself. While it is the duty of any college to provide a safe environment for its students, it is the students who ultimately make their own decisions and participate in what they choose to.
At the end of the day, I think that anyone who would engage in a hazing ritual is obviously putting his/her own life at risk. Those who orchestrate the hazing rituals are setting up a very dangerous situation for others. While colleges may not be able to prevent hazing, they should ensure that there are strict consequences in place for those who participate in it. Everyone has to play a part in preventing tragedies such as this from occurring. One important lesson all young people should be schooled in is that alcohol can poison you and kill you. Possibly, a senior year high school lesson about the dangers of consuming too much alcohol, and how playing with fire is actually less dangerous, would be helpful. Far too many players are to blame in the senseless deaths of young people.
Photo Credits: The Associated Press