Penn State president advocates for national database of fraternity violations

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Penn State University President Eric Barron will advocate for a national database of fraternity and sorority violations to keep schools and parents better informed. (Haley Nelson/Post-Gazette)

The president of Pennsylvania State University, where a student died in 2017 after an alleged hazing ritual at a booze-fueled fraternity party, said he will advocate for a national database of violations and suspensions at fraternities and sororities to keep schools and parents better informed.

“The database would allow all university administrators to have a clear view of national organizations, such as Sigma Alpha Mu, whose chapters have widespread troubles,” president Eric J. Barron said in an opinion piece published by PennLive.com. “The database would also allow students (and their parents) to make more informed decisions about which fraternities and sororities to join.”

Barron said he will advocate for the database at a national conference Penn State is helping to organize. The April 23 and 24 conference in Chicago is expected to draw college presidents from around the country.

Barron’s comments come as the Attorney General’s Office prepares to argue its case Thursday against 11 members of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity in the February 2017 death of sophomore Tim Piazza, who died from injuries he suffered after drinking copious amounts of alcohol during a fraternity party ritual, fell down the stairs and was left unattended for hours.

Five fraternity members are charged with involuntary manslaughter, and others face hazing, reckless endangerment, and other charges. The judge in the case, Centre County Judge Allen Sinclair, threw out aggravated-assault and involuntary-manslaughter charges against Beta Theta Pi members last summer. Former District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller refiled the charges last fall. The Attorney General’s Office declined to charge members with the felony aggravated-assault charge but charged five members with misdemeanor involuntary manslaughter.

The court has scheduled six days for the hearing if needed.

Penn State permanently revoked recognition of Beta Theta Pi after Piazza’s death and implemented changes to its Greek Life system, including delaying the pledge process, taking over responsibility for monitoring and disciplining fraternities and sororities and posting a Greek report card on its fraternities and sororities — which Barron said could serve as a model for a national database.

Also in his opinion piece, Barron said the university was working with Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman (R., Centre) to strengthen penalties for hazing in the state law. A draft bill calls for hazing resulting in death to become a felony.

“This legislation has the potential to be a model for other states to adopt, and we look forward to advocating for its passage,” Barron wrote.