Piazza, Gruver families present 'Love Mom & Dad' program about hazing prevention

November 19, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — About 2,500 fraternity and sorority students from Penn State University Park attended one of two presentations Nov. 17 featuring the parents of two young men who died during hazing activities in 2017.

Jim and Evelyn Piazza along with Stephen and Rae Ann Gruver presented "Love Mom & Dad," a program that shares personal stories of how hazing impacted their families, educates about hazing and hazing prevention, and calls for action around hazing prevention.

The Piazzas are the parents of Timothy Piazza who was a sophomore at Penn State in 2017 when he died after a night of pledging at the former Beta Theta Pi fraternity. Since then, Jim and Evelyn have been working to stop hazing. They were instrumental in passing legislation in Tim’s name to strengthen Pennsylvania’s hazing laws and started the Timothy J. Piazza Memorial Foundation to provide help for children and adults who need prosthesis, doing their part to fulfill Tim’s dream.

The Gruvers are the parents of Max Gruver who died weeks into his first semester at Louisiana State University after a fraternity hazing activity. The Gruvers have been fighting hazing ever since, including founding the Max Gruver Foundation and working to pass new hazing laws in Louisiana. 

At the event, students listened to the Piazzas and Gruvers detail what happened to their sons, as well as talk about ongoing grief and the impact of the loss on their family and others close to their sons. The families walked students through the common behaviors that constitute hazing as well as the very real consequences of hazing activities. Jim Piazza noted that no type of hazing is acceptable, including what he referred to as hazing with a little “h.”

“Hazing often starts small but then it escalates and moves to something more,” said Jim Piazza. “When alcohol is involved nothing goes well. Little “h” hazing is not acceptable and that’s just the beginning of when everything starts to go bad.”

The families talked through the various hazing laws in states across the country and noted that in Pennsylvania the Timothy J. Piazza Antihazing Law, signed into legislation in 2018, establishes stricter penalties for hazing, including potential felony charges for students found to be involved in hazing activities.

The statute also provides immunity for individuals in need of medical assistance as a result of hazing as well as those who seek help for others. The families stressed that the most important thing students can do is report hazing and call 911 if someone needs help or appears to be in danger.

The parents challenged students to change the hazing culture by living the values their organizations espouse, holding each other accountable, and speaking out against behaviors that “don’t feel or look right.”

“You can stop the cycle; you can change this,” said Rae Ann Gruver. “From this day forward you have to say no [to hazing activities] and break the cycle. You do not have to do it to the next group of new members.”

The event was sponsored by Penn State’s offices of Fraternity and Sorority Life and Fraternity and Sorority Compliance, both units of Penn State Student Affairs, as part of ongoing efforts around member education related to hazing and other dangerous behaviors.

“I am grateful for the Gruvers and the Piazzas for delivering this important message regarding the dangers of hazing,” said Chris Jefferson, Penn State’s director of Fraternity and Sorority Life. “The message is simple and straight forward: Put an end to hazing; if you see something take action and report it. Fraternities and sororities are built on principles that encourage members to simply be better men and women. All members must honor those principles and confront individuals that seek to go against those principles.”

University officials also urge students to call 911 in an emergency and to report hazing wherever it occurs. Information about hazing can be found at: https://studentaffairs.psu.edu/involvement-student-life/student-organizations/policies-procedures/hazing-sexual-assault-alcohol. In addition, Penn State offers several options for reporting hazing, including online and anonymous at https://secure.ethicspoint.com/domain/media/en/gui/55078/.

Last Updated November 19, 2019