With more violations, Penn State president warns of “end of Greek life”

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Penn State President Eric Barron warned Tuesday that “the end of Greek life at Penn State” was a possibility if students continue to flaunt rules laid out by the university in the wake of a student’s death at a fraternity house in February.

Nine of the university’s 82 fraternities and sororities violated at least one rule during parents weekend in early April, Barron said in a blog post, and one fraternity, Sigma Alpha Mu, violated almost every rule including underage drinking.


Penn State President Eric Barron

“Even some parents were visibly intoxicated,” Barron wrote.

The information about Sigma Alpha Mu was gathered by unannounced spot checkers the university has been sending out since instituting the new rules following the death of New Jersey resident Tim Piazza, who was intoxicated and took a fatal fall down stairs at Beta Theta Pi during pledge night, said Lisa Powers, a university spokeswoman.

The university in February announced a moratorium on serving alcohol at Greek parties through the end of the semester, but decided to allow one social event during parents weekend where alcohol could be served as long as rules were followed.

“Apparently this was a mistake,” Barron wrote.

Sigma Alpha Mu was the worst offender, he wrote.

“The drinking was excessive and was not restricted to beer and wine,” Barron wrote. “There was no third-party licensed server. The party was open to anyone and people with no formal association roamed freely in and out with access to handles of liquor. Those roaming in and out included some who were underage.”

The fraternity faces sanctions, Powers said.

“A lot of things are being weighed,” Powers said. “Given they have broken just about every restriction, I’m thinking there’s going to be some very deep conversation about it.”

Barron also wrote that a member of Penn State’s Interfraternity Council sent an email to chapter houses advising them to move “the alcohol upstairs” where spot checkers can’t go. The spot checkers are restricted to public areas of the house.
That council member, whom the university declined to name, also used a derogatory term for women in the communication, Barron wrote.

“If new rules can just be ignored, or behavior just goes underground, and if there is no willingness to recognize the adverse impact of excessive drinking, hazing, and sexual assault, then is there any hope?” Barron asked in his post.

Dean Vetere, president of the Interfraternity Council, did not respond immediately to an email for comment. Neither did several other members of the council.

The university last month announced sweeping new rules for its Greek system, including moving recruitment back to second semester freshman year, reducing the number and size of allowed parties and increased monitoring. The announcement came as authorities continue to investigate the circumstances surrounding Piazza’s death.

Members of the fraternity didn’t call for help until the next morning, almost 12 hours after the 19-year-old sophomore engineering major from Lebanon, N.J., had fallen. Piazza, who suffered a ruptured spleen, collapsed lung and non-recoverable head injury, died on Feb. 4.

The university permanently banned Beta Theta Pi, citing evidence of forced drinking, hazing and other illegal activity. Beta Theta Pi had been known as one of the university’s best fraternities, university officials have said.

“The brothers had a ‘no alcohol’ policy, which stated that anyone caught drinking would be expelled from the fraternity,” Barron wrote.

The university is waiting for the conclusion of the criminal investigation before taking disciplinary action against students involved.

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