Penn State reminds community that hazing is illegal and has serious consequences

September 15, 2021

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — With Sept. 20-24 marking National Hazing Prevention Week, Penn State is reminding all students of their obligation to protect the safety and welfare of their peers by eliminating hazing.

Hazing, or attempting to encourage group loyalty by demeaning, injuring or endangering members of a team or organization, is illegal and against University policy. Student safety is a top priority at Penn State, and the University will investigate every allegation of hazing to the fullest extent possible.

Any individual or organization found responsible for hazing is subject to University discipline that may include expulsion from Penn State or termination of University employment.

Individuals and organizations also are subject to criminal prosecution and the forfeiture of property. Under Pennsylvania’s Timothy J. Piazza Anti-Hazing Law, passed in October 2018, hazing in the commonwealth can lead to a felony conviction and a possible prison sentence. The law is named after Timothy Piazza, who died tragically in February 2017 after being hazed at the chapter house of the now permanently banned Beta Theta Pi fraternity at Penn State.

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. It applies to all organizations, including athletic teams, clubs, service organizations, fraternities and sororities, and similar groups.

The law also 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, as long as the caller notifies the proper authorities, believes they are the first caller, provides their name, and stays with the person until authorities arrive.

Hazing broadly includes any activity that demeans, injures or endangers a student, or causes a student to violate the law for the purpose of initiating, admitting or affiliating into or with an organization, or for the purpose of continuing or enhancing a student’s membership or status in an organization.

Students and others in the University community can take action to prevent hazing by:

  • Learning to recognize hazing and reporting incidents.
  • Resisting anyone who encourages you to join hazing activities.
  • Notifying police and appropriate University staff if you are aware of a potential incident.

Penn State offers online anti-hazing training through Prevent.Zone, a two-course virtual learning experience that teaches how to identify, prevent and report hazing. For spring 2021, the percentage of Penn State students knowing how to report hazing increased from 60% to 91% as a result of completing the PreventZone modules, and 86% of Penn State students reported that they feel more empowered to prevent hazing on campus. Access to the training is available to anyone with a Penn State login.

To report instances of hazing by an individual or within any University-affiliated or recognized organization or group, contact the Office of Ethics and Compliance, the Office of Student Conduct or the Penn State Hotline, or submit a report through an anonymous online form. In an emergency, call 911 or contact Penn State Police at 814-863-1111.

National Hazing Prevention Week programming

In observance of National Hazing Prevention Week, Penn State will offer educational activities and events to raise awareness around the issue of hazing. Created by HazingPrevention.org in 2007, National Hazing Prevention Week is an initiative that focuses on educating university communities about hazing and encouraging students and others to take a stand against hazing.

Hazing Prevention Week programming will include:

Wear purple to support hazing preventionTuesday, Sept. 21. All members of the University community are encouraged to wear purple and take the hazing prevention pledge on Sept. 21 to signify solidarity against hazing. Community members are encouraged to post photos of themselves wearing purple on social media to represent their commitment to ending hazing.

“Breathe, Nolan, Breathe” viewing and discussion 8-9:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 22, Alumni Hall, HUB-Robeson Center, University Park. The Panhellenic Council, Interfraternity Council and Multicultural Greek Council will host a screening and roundtable discussion of the documentary “Breathe, Nolan, Breathe,” which details the 2014 death of West Virginia University student Nolan Burch.

Anti-hazing pledge banner signingnoon to 4 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 23, HUB-Robeson Center. Facilitated by the Panhellenic Council, Interfraternity Council and Multicultural Greek Council.

“Hazing Prevention and Intervention Strategies and Early Warning Signs”4 p.m. Friday, Sept. 24, virtual presentation, register here. Hosted by HazingPrevention.org, the presentation features two speakers from Penn State’s Timothy J. Piazza Center for Fraternity and Sorority Research and Reform: Pietro Sasso, assistant professor at Stephen F. Austin University and a Piazza Center research fellow, and Brian Joyce, director of fraternity and sorority life at George Washington University and a Piazza Center scholar.

“Love, Mom & Dad: Turning tragedy into progress”7 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 3, virtual presentation, register here. The Anti-Hazing Coalition will host a live nationwide presentation and discussion via Zoom and Facebook where parents who have lost a child due to hazing will share their stories and educate current students about hazing prevention. Parents scheduled to participate in the program include Jim and Evelyn Piazza, whose son Timothy Piazza was a sophomore at Penn State in 2017 when he died after a night of pledging at the former Beta Theta Pi fraternity. The program will include a Q&A session with the parents.

Additional information about hazing prevention programming and resources is available from the Penn State Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life. For more information about National Hazing Prevention Week 2021, visit HazingPrevention.org.  

Last Updated September 15, 2021