September 29, 2017
The family of Timothy Piazza spoke openly about their loved one's death during SU's Hazing Prevention Week, Sept. 18-25, and warned students about the danger of hazing on college campuses.
Timothy's parents, Jim and Evelyn Piazza, along with his girlfriend, Kaitlyn Tempalsky, a junior neuroscience major at Susquehanna, talked about his life and the events leading up to his death. A sophomore at Penn State, Timothy died after sustaining injuries related to an initiation ritual for a campus fraternity.
"To say I miss him is an understatement," Tempalsky said. "We want to stop this from happening again."
The family spoke on the meaning and consequences of hazing. They urged Greek Life members and all students to report hazing incidents and to eliminate such rituals and events from their organizations.
"Hazing does not build unity. It is a cycle of abuse," said Jim Piazza.
Hazing incidents affect students' physical and mental health, the family said. According to the website Hank Nuwer's Hazing Clearinghouse, www.hanknuwer.com, there has been at least one reported death related to hazing each year since 1961.
Hazing is classified as a misdemeanor of the third degree. It can result in jail time and fines, as well as suspension or dismissal from institutions of higher education. In Timothy's case, the fraternity involved has been permanently banned from operating on the Penn State campus.
The Piazzas would like to see even stiffer penalties. They have proposed changes to hazing laws around the country that would increase the penalties for hazing incidents that result in serious bodily injury or death to a third degree felony. Proposed changes would also introduce criminal liability for institutions and organizations that knowingly permit or condone hazing, fail to take reasonable measures to prevent incidents, or fail to report incidents to law enforcement authorities.
"We are not anti-fraternity or sorority. We are not anti-Greek life. We are against doing the wrong thing," said Jim Piazza.
The Piazzas' visit was part of a jam-packed week of events aimed at educating the campus community and preventing hazing activities. Susquehanna's Hazing Prevention Week also included a "Healthy You" resource fair, "These Hands Don't Haze!" anti-hazing pledge drive, and fundraisers for the Timothy J. Piazza Memorial Foundation. The foundation was established to help provide prosthetic devices to individuals in need, particularly children, and to provide a scholarship to students of Timothy's high school who embody the interests and attributes that defined his life.