Penn State bans frat for 5 years amid probe of student's death

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The Beta Theta Pi fraternity house on the Penn State campus. The university has withdrawn recognition of the fraternity chapter for at least five years amid an investigation following the death of a student there earlier this month.

Pennsylvania State University has withdrawn recognition of its Beta Theta Pi fraternity chapter for at least five years amid an investigation into the death of a student this month.

The revocation could become permanent once criminal and school investigations are finished, the university said Friday.

The university last week banned fraternity parties from serving alcohol, a move that came four days after the death of Timothy Piazza, 19, a sophomore engineering major from Lebanon, N.J.

Piazza, according to authorities, was intoxicated and fell down a stairwell during a fraternity party at the Beta house. Members of the fraternity didn’t call for help until about 12 hours later.

“We cannot suitably convey the heartbreak we feel for the family and friends who are grieving the loss of Tim Piazza,” Damon Sims, Penn State's vice president for student affairs, said in a statement. “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 recognition means the fraternity and its members cannot take part in Penn State’s Greek community.

Also on Friday, the university said its alcohol ban on fraternity events would continue at least through the spring semester, and the university has halted admission programs for new members of fraternities “until the university is assured that effective and credible plans are in place to end hazing.”

The university is cooperating in the investigation by the State College Police Department.

Penn State in September 2015 established a task force to look into Greek life on its 46,000-student campus after allegations that Kappa Delta Rho members posted pictures of nude and partially nude women — some of whom appeared to be sleeping or passed out — on private Facebook pages. The task force has not yet issued a report.

The university said last week that its alcohol moratorium also was in response to  "growing allegations of misconduct in these organizations, including hazing and sexual assault."

About 18 percent of Penn State students belong to the school's 82 fraternities and sororities.

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