Penn State leaders applaud Senate's passage of Timothy J. Piazza Antihazing Law

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State leaders applaud the Pennsylvania Senate for passing the Timothy J. Piazza Antihazing Law, critical legislation that will strengthen the state’s anti-hazing provisions in support of student safety and well-being across the Commonwealth. 

The legislation — Senate Bill 1090 — which passed the Senate today (April 18) by a 49-0 vote, now moves to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives for consideration. The bill was announced March 23 by state Sen. Jake Corman, who represents Pennsylvania’s 34th District, with support from Jim and Evelyn Piazza. The bill also has the support of Penn State.

If passed into law, the bill would establish a tiered penalty system with stricter punishments for hazing, classify new types of hazing, hold both individuals and organizations accountable for hazing, and require secondary schools and institutions of higher education to publish anti-hazing policies and publicly report hazing violations. In addition, the bill would provide immunity for individuals in need of medical assistance who have been hazed, as well as for those who seek help for others.

In a recent letter to state senators, Penn State President Eric Barron reiterated Penn State’s support for the legislation, as well as the University’s commitment to being a leader both in Pennsylvania and nationally to combat hazing and dangerous drinking among college students.

“Unfortunately, hazing continues to plague universities across the Commonwealth and nation, as student deaths and other near tragedies persist despite the renewed attention the issue has received,” Barron wrote. “Penn State is committed to taking a lead on this issue, but universities across the nation cannot accomplish this alone.

“Over the past year, Penn State has made strong progress in implementing far-reaching new measures designed to re-focus our Greek community on safety. If we are to change the current model and see an end to the hazardous behavior that we have witnessed at Penn State and nationally, we need the Commonwealth's help.”

In Pennsylvania, hazing is defined as any action or situation that recklessly or intentionally endangers the mental or physical health or safety of a person or that willfully destroys or removes public or private property for the purpose of initiation or admission into or affiliation with, or as a condition for continued membership in, any organization.

The elements of the new legislation include:

New types of hazing and stricter penalties: Under a new tiered penalty system, hazing that results in bodily injury to a minor or student would remain a misdemeanor, while a new category of “aggravated hazing” — that involves hazing resulting in serious bodily injury or death — would be classified as a felony in the third degree. Summary offenses also have been introduced for hazing that does not result in injury. 

Organizational and institutional hazing classifications: Penalties for organizations (such as fraternities, sororities and clubs with student members) and institutions (public or private institutions that grant academic degrees) that knowingly aid or participate in hazing or “aggravated hazing” would include fines or criminal penalties and, in some cases, forfeiture of assets (for organizations only).

Safe harbor: To encourage students to seek emergency assistance for those who have been hazed, individuals would be immune from prosecution for hazing and underage drinking if they call 911 or law enforcement, believe they’re the first to call for help, and remain with the victim until emergency personnel arrive. In addition, immunity also would be given to the person who receives the medical assistance. Student leaders, especially the University Park Undergraduate Association, have been advocating for this provision in state law.

Institutional reports: Beginning with the 2018-19 academic year, institutions would be required to maintain a public report of hazing violations, including when an organization was charged with misconduct, a description of the incident, findings, and, if applicable, sanctions and charges.

Anti-hazing policies: In line with the state’s current anti-hazing law, the bill upholds the requirement for institutions and secondary schools to adopt an anti-hazing policy.

In addition to the University’s advocacy efforts at the state level, Penn State leaders also have backed the federal Report and Educate About Campus Hazing (REACH) Act. Sponsored by U.S. Rep. Patrick Meehan, who represents Pennsylvania’s 7th District, the REACH Act, if passed into law, would require universities nationwide to report hazing under the Clery Act and provide educational programming on the dangers of hazing.

Penn State’s support for updating and strengthening anti-hazing laws at the state and federal levels is just one piece of the University’s overall efforts to address the challenges posed by hazing.

In 2017, Penn State announced a comprehensive set of safety initiatives aimed at reforming Greek life, including immediate revocation of University recognition for hazing that involves alcohol or physical abuse, and supporting enhanced educational measures in addition to those already in place. A Greek Chapter Score Card, updated each semester, displays critical information to educate parents and potential new members on such things as total members, cumulative GPA, alcohol and hazing violations, as well as any chapter suspensions. For more information about the University’s Greek-life reforms, visit http://pennstateupdate.psu.edu/greek-letter-organizations/.

Penn State has no tolerance for hazing. Hazing is illegal and unacceptable behavior for any student group at Penn State. When Penn State is alerted to evidence of hazing, the University takes immediate action to investigate and impose significant sanctions, including application of the student conduct process where appropriate.

Last Updated April 18, 2018