For more than a year, Jim and Evelyn Piazza have toured the country to talk to college students about hazing. They go through graphic details about what happened during and after their son Tim suffered fatal injuries at a fraternity hazing event.
While the Piazza’s appreciate what President Baron has done to lead the conversation on hazing, they don’t know why their message isn’t getting to more people at Penn State.
Jim and Evelyn Piazza have been touring the country speaking to large crowds like at IUP. Thousands come and hear what they went through as they made the heartbreaking decision to unplug the life support systems that were keeping their son Tim alive. He had catastrophic damage after falling down a flight of stairs in his fraternity house after an alcohol-fueled hazing ritual called “the gauntlet.”
They are interested in talking to groups of 5000 people at Penn State like they have at other schools, but that hasn’t happened.
Several months ago Penn State invited them to talk to 250 people including fraternity leaders, pledge masters. An important audience they say, but not the impact they were hoping for.
“Penn State is our smallest group so far, and we’ve been to some small schools,” Jim says. He says he doesn’t know why they haven’t been invited to talk to large groups.
Damon Simms, Vice-President for Student Affairs says the university wants to have a partnership with the Piazzas but there have been no announced plans for a large event.
Simms says, “Well I think the discussion has been about how can we involve the Piazzas appropriately and effectively in what we’re trying to achieve here.”
Penn State professor Kirk French saw the value of the Piazza story. In early April, he invited Jim and Evelyn to speak to his Anthropology of Alcohol class. About 700 people were there, mostly students across all disciplines.
PSU Sr. Briana Rossi says it had a stronger impact than what she heard at freshman orientation. “I almost cried. I was in front taking pictures and I had to put my camera down and take a minute.”
Rossi says more people need to hear what the Piazzas went through. And she says their story made her change her attitude toward drinking. “It’s not just Greek life that has this. It’s every party, You’re going to see someone going “chug” no matter how big or how small.”
The Piazzas hope Penn State expands its anti-hazing message. They believe it should be included in orientation so all incoming students and parents can learn about the dangers of hazing and binge drinking at these parties and events.