Posted: November 13, 2019

 Deaths and serious injury due to hazing is nothing new. The first hazing death occurred at Cornell University in 1873, according to an Indiana professor who has been studying the problem. And over the past six decades, not a single year has gone by without a hazing fatality. Not one.
 But now, there is a feeling, according to a recent article in The Washington Post, that a turning point has finally been reached. Now, enough parents and loved ones have raised a cry for reform that it seems to be having an impact.
 Leading the charge have been Evelyn and Jim Piazza, whose 19-year-old son, Tim, died in a hazing incident at a Penn State University fraternity in 2017. They have held news conferences, done television interviews and given speeches – often to packed auditoriums – at colleges throughout the country. They have traveled the country on a mission to produce change.
 Kansas State, George Washington University, American University, LSU, the University of Florida, Duke, the University of North Carolina and Clemson have all been on their message tour of the country. And they have allied with Greek organizations to schedule meetings with fraternity leaders and enlisted the aid of the North American Interfraternity Conference in planning meetings.
 The Piazzas appearance at Clemson brought out 5,000 students to hear of the dangers and inhumanity of hazing not only at fraternities but on sports teams and various organizations. They have met with students at smaller colleges as well as with legislators, officials at fraternity leadership conferences and other grieving parents who have also taken up the cause. That cause is greater transparency and consequences that will serve as a deterrent for future hazing injuries. That cause is nothing less than a complete culture change.
 In many of their appearances, from small groups to national TV audiences, the Piazzas repeat the story of Tim’s death, how he consumed vast amounts of alcohol and then fell down a flight of stairs into the fraternity basement. He tried to get up several times and kept falling, hitting his head on a metal railing and a stone floor. Almost 12 hours went by before someone called 911.
 Evelyn and Jim tell their audiences of going to the hospital, seeing their son wrapped in gauze, then seeing a chaplain and being asked by someone about kidney donation. “The doctor tells you it’s bad,” Evelyn recounted through tears at a recent appearance. “He has bleeding on his brain, his spleen is ruptured, he has a punctured lung, he needs a blood transfusion.” They live the nightmare every day but confront it by telling it to others who might help such a tragedy from happening again to another student, another son.
 Tom Kline has helped in the effort, both representing the Piazzas in lawsuits that resulted in settlements with Penn State and the fraternity, Beta Theta Pi. He has also accompanied the couple at news conferences and on TV appearances.
 People, important people, have heard the message and taken action. Pennsylvania enacted a state law that treats serious injuries due to hazing as a felony. So has Louisiana, where the parents of another lost child joined in the fight. Legislation on the federal level has been introduced with bipartisan sponsorship.
 But a cure starts with students themselves. And changing a culture starts with each individual. As Evelyn Piazza put it at a recent talk to students: “Don’t be the person who does this to someone.”