“Something good came of something bad.” Those words were uttered in the aftermath of the famous Hall v. SEPTA case in which an injury to a little boy led Philadelphia’s mass transit agency to revamp not only its escalators but also its inspections program. Now, nearly two decades later, another tragic incident has resulted in a societal benefit that will make fraternity life safer for young college students.
It came as part of the recently announced settlement between the national Beta Theta Pi fraternity and the parents of Timothy Piazza, a 19-year-old sophomore who died on February 4, 2017 as the result of a fraternity hazing ritual. The settlement includes a confidential monetary sum and also a strict litany of reforms to be imposed on the fraternities 139 chapters nationwide. While the Piazza family can never be compensated for the loss of Timothy, the hope is that in the future other fraternities may also adopt many or all of the 17 reforms and that perhaps other lives may be saved..
Tom Kline, attorney for the parents of Timothy Piazza and the lawyer who tried the SEPTA case to a $51 million verdict, told CNN after the agreement was announced: "The settlement represents a unique, cooperative agreement, and is an outgrowth of the determined dedication by Jim and Evelyn Piazza to the cause of preventing hazing injury and death in Greek life in the future. By this settlement, the Piazzas and Beta help to establish a baseline for the new norm of fraternity pledging and fraternity life at universities and colleges in the United States."
The following is a list of the reforms outlined in the Beta Theta Pi settlement:
1. Substance-Free Housing. The Trustees have announced that all Beta Theta Pi Chapter Housing shall be substance-free by August 15, 2020 (“2018 Substance-Free Housing Policy”). The Fraternity shall use reasonable efforts to take actions to make effective the 2018 Substance-Free Housing Policy, including (a) obtaining all necessary consents, approvals or waivers from Host Institutions, if any; and (b) introducing an amendment to adopt this Policy at the 179th Convention.
2. Withdrawal of Recognition. If a Host Institution withdraws recognition from a chapter of the Fraternity based on conduct violations that have been fully and finally adjudicated through the Host Institution’s organizational conduct process, the Fraternity shall withdraw recognition of the chapter for the same period. This withdrawal does not apply when a Host Institution imposes a system wide “moratorium” or suspension of all Greek organizations.
3. Enhanced Chapter Visits. The Fraternity shall use reasonable efforts to increase chapter visits by staff and volunteers, including (a) requiring chapters to publicly list online all chapter events and dates within their new member education programs as a part of the Fraternity’s standardized new member education program and annual certification process; (b) empowering volunteers to make qualifying visits for listed chapter events, as well as other events.
4. Live-in House Advisor. The Fraternity shall encourage all Chapter Housing to have a trained live-in house advisor who is not a student or undergraduate member of the chapter, including (a) encouraging local house corporations to have a policy of a live-in house advisor as a best practice; and (b) exploring financial resources from donors that would assist local house corporations in having a live-in house advisor.
5. Policy Regarding Planning of Chapter Events. The Fraternity shall adopt a policy requiring all chapters to complete annual safe event planning education prior to holding social events. The Fraternity shall use reasonable efforts to encourage local house corporation members to make qualifying visits for listed chapter events, as well as other events.
6. Discipline Structure for Fraternity Members Who Have Violated, or Facilitated the Violation of, Fraternity Policies on Substances and Hazing. The Fraternity shall create a structure showing examples of Fraternity risk management policy violations and potential discipline, with any action causing injury to be grounds for expulsion. The structure shall be available to students, parents, Fraternity members, alumni, and Host Institutions on the Fraternity’s website.
7. Standardized New Member Education Program. The Fraternity is currently piloting a standardized new member education program in the fall of 2018 that is limited to four to six weeks in length prior to initiation of new members. The Fraternity shall use reasonable efforts to implement a standardized new member education program limited to four weeks in length prior to initiation of new members, based upon the results and best practices learned from the pilot program.
8. Reports of Violations. The Fraternity shall adopt a policy that advises all members that violations of the Risk Management Policy may be disclosed to the Host Institution and the Host Institution’s public safety department or police department. The Fraternity shall notify the Host Institution and the Host Institution’s public safety department or police department of all Fraternity risk management policy violations that result in serious bodily injury or death of a member, new member or third-party guest. The Fraternity may notify the Host Institution of anonymous reports.
9. Chapter House Security Cameras. The Fraternity shall promote the installation of security cameras at all Chapter houses, including (a) encouraging local house corporations and Beta House Corporations to have cameras installed; (b) exploring financial resources from donors that would assist local house corporations in increasing the number of security cameras in Chapter Housing.
10. Mandatory Risk Management Education for Local Chapter Members and Alumni Advisors. The Fraternity shall adopt a policy requiring minimum levels of documented education on key topics (e.g., hazing, alcohol use, drug use, sexual assault and bystander intervention) each semester for members as a part of the chapter services platform.
11. Fraternity Relationship Statement. The Fraternity shall adopt a policy establishing a relationship statement between the Fraternity and Fraternity members, including prospective members, in Fall 2018.
12. Disclosure of Local Chapter Risk Management Violations. The Fraternity shall publish notice on its website regarding chapter status changes that result from violations of Fraternity policies, including Fraternity policies on alcohol and hazing (a) by chapter; and (b) by Host Institution. The Fraternity shall include in the notice a description of the policy violation(s) resulting in the status change.
13. Timothy J. Piazza Antihazing Law. The Fraternity shall provide to the Piazzas a letter of support for the Timothy J. Piazza Antihazing Law.
14. Future Uses of the Alpha Upsilon Chapter House located at 220 N. Burrowes Street, State College, Pennsylvania. The Fraternity shall use reasonable efforts to work with the Alpha Upsilon House Corporation and the Piazzas to reach an agreement on appropriate future uses of the Alpha Upsilon Chapter House located at 220 N. Burrowes Street, State College, Pennsylvania if it is retained by the Alpha Upsilon House Corporation.
15. Access of Third-Party Social Checkers to All Chapter Housing Common Areas. The Fraternity shall adopt a policy statement that encourages open and full access to all Chapter Housing common areas to third-parties who are authorized by the Fraternity or Host Institution to visit during social events as a best practice.
16. Faculty Advisors. The Fraternity shall require all chapters to have a chapter faculty advisor on their advising roster at the beginning of each academic year as part of the Fraternity’s chapter recognition requirements.
17. Active Bystander Intervention Program. The Fraternity shall include bystander intervention training in its risk management education each semester and continue to provide anonymous reporting options for students and parents. The Fraternity shall further use reasonable efforts to promote the use of an anonymous reporting “App” that is available to students and parents, including (a) supporting the North American Interfraternity Conference’s initiatives to develop the “Social Safe” App; and (b) piloting this program at four (4) Host Institutions in 2018-2019.