Turning tragedy into progress: #EndHazingNow, Greek life sponsors prominent speakers to address hazing prevention

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Timothy Piazza (left) and Maxwell Gruver (right) both passed in 2017 due to hazing.

Cal U Fraternity and Sorority Life

Hazing, “an abusive, often humiliating form of initiation into or affiliation with a group,” (www.definitions.uslegal.com) is a real problem on college campuses nationwide.  Across the country, taking a stand against hazing is becoming a big priority, and here at California University of Pennsylvania, Greek life is doing our part to support these efforts. 

Panhellenic Council President, McKenna Ferris, had one goal in mind for her term, to bring Evelyn Piazza, mother of Penn State hazing victim Timothy Piazza, to Cal U to talk to the student body about hazing and the detrimental effects it had on her family.  “As a leader in the Greek Community, I felt that it was so important for our members to hear Evelyn’s story.  Honestly, I think that the more people who hear her anguish firsthand, the less likely it is to happen to any other family. I have watched her talks online and I think that it is something everyone needs to hear,” she said. 

McKenna has been working with Joy Helsel, Director of Fraternity and Sorority Life here at Cal U, to bring in Evelyn Piazza and Rae Ann Gruver, who both lost sons in separate hazing incidents. Piazza died in February 2017 at Pennsylvania State University and Gruver died in September of that year at Louisiana State University.  Bringing these women to speak to our community is a group effort, Fraternity and Panhellenic Councils, Gamma Sigma Sigma Service Sorority and Club Sports have worked together to cosponsor the talk, which will take place on February 23rd in the Steele Hall Mainstage Theatre. 

McKenna continued, “I wanted to bring Rae Ann and Evelyn here because I want to make sure that this doesn’t happen on our campus.  It is so important for people to be aware of what happened and why, and how we can prevent it. No parent should ever have to go through this tragedy and my heart goes out to these families.”

We invite the Cal U community and friends to join us as we hear the hard truth from the people whose lives changed forever due to these senseless tragedies, and to discuss ways we can change the future to put an end to hazing in college organizations and beyond.

Timothy Piazza, a 19-year-old sophomore died February 4, 2017, after suffering from injuries sustained during a hazing incident where he was forced to drink large quantities of alcohol in a short amount of time. Since his death, the Piazzas have traveled to raise awareness about the consequences of hazing and excessive drinking on college campuses. Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf signed the Timothy J. Piazza Anti-Hazing Law in October 2018, which enforces stricter criminal penalties and permits courts to order confiscation of the property (e.g. fraternity or sorority houses) where hazing has occurred.

Maxwell Gruver died September 14, 2017, also in a hazing ritual while pledging. The coroner ruled that his death resulted from acute alcohol intoxication with aspiration. Max’s parents started the Max Gruver Foundation to help combat excessive alcohol consumption, bullying and hazing in college. The foundation creates change and spreads awareness through seminars and meetings with students and fraternity and sorority leadership across the country.