University revokes Beta Theta Pi fraternity recognition

February 17, 2017

Note: The University has just learned of media reports citing criminal charges that were recently filed against Beta Theta Pi's house manager. The University's statement and actions described below have no relation to these charges and are unrelated.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- The University continues to cooperate with the State College Police Department in its criminal investigation of the tragic death of Timothy Piazza at the Penn State chapter of Beta Theta Pi fraternity. At the same time, the Office of Student Conduct is conducting its own inquiry, focusing on issues related to the University's Code of Student Conduct and behavioral expectations for the fraternities the University recognizes.  

Based on information gained through its inquiry thus far, the University has decided to withdraw immediately recognition of Beta Theta Pi fraternity. This revocation will remain in effect no less than five years and may be made permanent upon completion of the criminal and University investigations now underway. The University's decision to withdraw recognition is made in concert with the fraternity's national headquarters.  

“We cannot suitably convey the heartbreak we feel for the family and friends who are grieving the loss of Tim Piazza,” said Damon Sims, Penn State’s vice president for Student Affairs. “The information available to us about the actions that led to Tim’s death is deeply disturbing, and no sanction or restriction the University can levy is equal to the gravity of his death or the circumstances which we believe led to it.”

The loss of University recognition means that the Beta Theta Pi chapter and its members are no longer part of the Greek-letter community at Penn State. They have been stripped of any and all privileges or acknowledgements that come with University recognition. The University will continue to work with the group’s alumni board to sort through questions about housing for the men remaining in the chapter house. But like all other chapter houses for fraternities recognized by Penn State, the Beta house is private property, and the chapter is a private association. The University’s recognition is a privilege for these associations, not a right, and it can be withdrawn under the appropriate circumstances.

In addition to the action involving the Beta Theta Pi chapter, the University is announcing additional measures impacting all Interfraternity Council chapters recognized by Penn State at University Park. These include:

  • Continuation of the ban on all social activities involving alcohol for the remainder of the spring semester;
  • Immediate cessation of all new member programs now underway in IFC chapters, until the University is assured that effective and credible plans are in place to end hazing;
  • Continued unannounced compliance checks by University staff, who will be given access to the public areas of IFC fraternity houses at their request;
  • The understanding that violation of these expectations may result in additional disciplinary action and possible revocation of recognition.

Further, the University will put into effect several long-term substantive changes needed in its Greek-letter community. These changes must substantially reduce any likelihood of underage and excessive drinking, hazing, sexual assault, and overly large and disruptive gatherings within these organizations. As a requirement for recognition, the following rules will be established:

  • No attendance at indoor or outdoor social events at chapter houses in excess of the legal occupancy limits stated for the facility;
  • No hard liquor at social events, only beer and wine, if alcohol is permitted;
  • Bartenders certified through the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board’s Responsible Alcohol Management Program at all social events at which alcohol is served;
  • Effective monitoring at social events to prevent underage and excessive drinking; and
  • Probation and immediate revocation of recognition for failure to follow requirements.

Penn State will continue its discussions with the undergraduate, alumni and national leadership of these organizations, as well as the Borough of State College, and other interested parties, to enforce these requirements and to identify additional University actions. 

“The values and purposes aspired to by these organizations, which justify the University’s recognition, are too often not the outcomes we see in them,” said Sims. “We are determined, in concert with our student leaders and others, to end any excesses related to the misuse of alcohol, hazing and other activities that are inconsistent with the University’s values and purposes, and should not be commonly found in the experience these groups offer to Penn State's students.”  

The Office of Student Conduct will continue its investigation, in cooperation with the State College Police. Individual students found to have violated the law or University policies will be held accountable, and may be subject to a range of disciplinary sanctions, including removal from the University.

Last Updated February 17, 2017