Timothy J. Piazza Antihazing legislation signed into Pennsylvania law

October 19, 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State leaders are pleased that today (Oct. 19) the Timothy J. Piazza Antihazing Law was signed into Pennsylvania law, signaling an important step toward adopting critical legislation in support of student safety and well-being across the Commonwealth.

“As legislation that rewrites the current statute, the Timothy J. Piazza Antihazing Law holds anyone accountable for behavior that jeopardizes the safety and well-being of others and demonstrates the seriousness with which the state and University approach the issue,” said Penn State President Eric J. Barron. “I’d like to thank all Pennsylvania legislators for working together to make this critical legislation a priority. I’d also like to recognize the Piazza family most of all for the steadfast dedication to this important measure. I cannot imagine how difficult today must be for them, and I hope changes, like this legislation, might prevent another tragedy from occurring.”

The legislation — Senate Bill 1090 — was announced March 23, 2018, and sponsored by Sen. Jake Corman, who represents Pennsylvania’s 34th District, with full support from Jim and Evelyn Piazza, parents of Penn State student and Beta Theta Pi pledge Timothy Piazza, who died in February 2017 after a night of hazing. In their recent visit to Penn State, the Piazzas touched on the law and criminal consequences surrounding hazing in Pennsylvania and the need for increased legislation. The bill has garnered support from Penn State, the Interfraternity Council and UPUA, the University’s undergraduate student government organization.

"I am proud to sign this new law that will make our colleges and universities safer,” said Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf. “There is no place for hazing on our campuses. And together, we will protect students from hazing and hold accountable those who engage in it.”

Known as Act 80 of 2018, the law establishes a tiered penalty system with stricter punishments for hazing; classifies new types of hazing; holds both individuals and organizations accountable for hazing; and requires secondary schools and institutions of higher education to publish anti-hazing policies and publicly report hazing violations. In addition, the statute provides immunity for individuals in need of medical assistance as a result of hazing or underage alcohol consumption, as well as for those who seek help for others.

“I want to thank Penn State and President Barron for being a partner as we worked to make meaningful changes to the state’s anti-hazing laws in order to ensure the safety of students,” said Senate Majority Leader Corman. “Schools now have a strong law that they can refer to when demanding more from their students when it comes to hazing activities.”

Corman said that Act 80 also establishes clear-cut perimeters on hazing for organizations such as fraternities and sororities, and believes the law will be a model for changing anti-hazing laws throughout the nation.

“This law, in conjunction with the aggressive safety and related measures the University has implemented, is another step toward our mutual goal to increase student safety on campuses across Pennsylvania and beyond. The Pennsylvania General Assembly should be applauded for its bipartisan cooperation in passing this important law,” said Zack Moore, Penn State vice president for government and community relations.

To encourage safety and accountability, Penn State recently updated its Responsible Action Protocol guidelines, which protect students who have been drinking or are under the influence of drugs and seek help for another student. Changes to the protocol now also extend protection from University conduct sanctions to the individual for whom help is sought. This provision makes state law consistent with Penn State’s Responsible Action Protocol, and the update has received strong support from student organizations and the Piazzas.

“This action signifies important movement in an ongoing conversation to identify meaningful solutions that create transformational change. Unfortunately, hazing continues to plague universities across the country, and we hope this law will serve as a model for other state legislatures to effect critically needed national reform,” Barron said. “Penn State has been, and continues to be, committed to addressing this serious national issue.”

In the past seven months, Penn State has led two national conferences in which a growing number of college and university leaders indicated broad support for new collective action to make fraternity and sorority systems safer across the country. The outcome from the recent Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) meeting was the resolve to create a database led by Penn State where universities share promising new approaches to managing Greek life; legislative actions on a state-by-state basis; federal anti-hazing legislation efforts; and other vital reports that could help advance student safety. Penn State is also leading in the development of a national scorecard. To-date the University has made significant progress, reviewing more than 200 APLU universities’ websites for fraternity and sorority information, which provides a public accounting of various aspects of Greek-letter organizations, such as academic measures, community service and disciplinary actions, to name a few. The project team has already begun reaching out to other institutions for additional information. 

University leaders have made clear that hazing is illegal and not acceptable 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, Barron said.

Specific to Greek-letter organizations, in 2017, Penn State announced a comprehensive set of safety initiatives, including immediate revocation of University recognition for hazing that involves alcohol or physical abuse, and support for enhanced educational measures in addition to those already in place. For more information, visit pennstateupdate.psu.edu.

Last Updated February 01, 2019