Co-led by Pennsylvania State University president Eric Barron, academic leaders from 31 universities met in Illinois on Monday and Tuesday to discuss ways to combat hazing, binge drinking, and other problems in their fraternity and sorority systems.

Also participating in the national gathering, called "Fraternities and Sororities: What Next," were the presidents of Florida State University and Louisiana State University, where students died in hazing-related incidents this school year.

"We've come up with what we think are best practices for recruitment and pledging," Barron said before boarding a plane back to Pennsylvania. "We'll work through that and see if we can get everybody to agree."

He declined to release details until the platform is finished later this year and ready to be presented to presidents of various national groups for endorsement, including the 237-member Association of Public and Land-grant Universities.

The group also plans to pursue the creation of a national database on fraternities and sororities, including violations and suspensions, to keep schools and parents better informed, Barron said. There are about 12,000 fraternity and sorority chapters in the United States with more than 750,000 student members.

The meeting was cohosted by Penn State and the Universities of Iowa and Nebraska-Lincoln and held at the Big Ten Conference headquarters in Rosemont, Ill. Rutgers University also participated.

It came at the suggestion of Barron, who is helping steer Penn State through the tragic death of Tim Piazza. A sophomore engineering major from New Jersey, Piazza died in February 2017 after a booze-fueled party at the Beta Theta Pi fraternity, where hazing is alleged. Piazza drank copious amounts of alcohol and later fell down the stairs; no one called for help for nearly 12 hours.

Tim Piazza died after falling down a flight of stairs during pledge night.
Courtesy of Evelyn Piazza
Tim Piazza died after falling down a flight of stairs during pledge night.

Fourteen fraternity members have been bound over for trial in his death on charges include hazing, reckless endangerment, and furnishing alcohol to minors. Additional members could face a preliminary hearing on charges in his death next month.

The case has drawn national attention and resulted in a crackdown on Greek life at Penn State. The university permanently revoked recognition of Beta Theta Pi and implemented changes, 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.

"Continued tragic deaths of students across the nation due to dangerous behaviors dramatically underscore that a culture shift in fraternities and sororities is needed," Barron said.

Barron and the presidents of Florida State and Louisiana State shared with the group of more than 50 provosts, presidents, and student-life leaders the impact of the fraternity-related deaths on their campuses and what they have learned.

They also discussed the value that fraternities and sororities provide and a problem that often gets little attention — the lack of diversity in fraternities and sororities.