Settlement reached between Piazza family, Beta Theta Pi

PHILADELPHIA — A settlement has been reached between the Piazza family and Beta Theta Pi, law firm Kline & Specter announced Tuesday in a news release.

Timothy Piazza, a sophomore at Penn State, died in February 2017 after he fell down a flight of stairs following a night of heavy drinking during a Beta Theta Pi fraternity ritual at Penn State University, investigators said.

The specific terms and monetary payment will not be disclosed in accordance with the terms of agreement, but a release from Kline & Specter says that the settlement includes a sweeping fraternity-conduct reform agreement.

“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,” said Tom Kine.

Beta Theta Pi Executive Director Jeff Rundle added, “From new initiatives to combat hazing and the elimination of substances in all of Beta chapter houses, to enhanced transparency of all chapter statuses, increased education on bystander intervention and the implementation of a Fraternity-wide Good Samaritan Policy, we have never been more focused on reevaluating local chapter cultures and implementing programs and accountability measures that raise the standard of fraternity life wherever Beta Theta Pi exists.”

Kline & Specter issued a summary of the 17-point reform program, which can be seen below:

1. Immediately supporting the proposed Timothy J. Piazza Antihazing Law in Pennsylvania.
2. Requiring all chapter houses to be alcohol-and substance-free by August of 2020.
3. Including the Piazzas in any decision-making process involving the future use of the closed Beta chapter at Penn State if the property is retained by the local house corporation.
4. Withdrawing recognition, a pre-condition to operating a chapter, in the event a host college or university withdraws recognition based on conduct violations that have been fully and finally adjudicated at the local level.
5. Establishing and communicating – on the chapter’s website along with other related conduct policies and procedures – to those throughout the organization that any ‘action causing injury’ to another is grounds for expulsion.
6. Requiring that the college or university’s police/public safety department be immediately notified of any reported student conduct violations that result in serious bodily injury or death of a member, new member or third-party guest.
7. Requiring enhanced education and training – including on a semester rather than annual basis – regarding social event planning, bystander engagement, and prevention of hazing, alcohol/substance abuse, sexual assault and other abuses that could result in personal injury.
8. Requiring chapters to publicly list online all chapter events and dates within their new member education programs as a part of Beta’s standardized new member education program and annual certification process.
9. Requiring all chapters to complete annual safe event planning education prior to holding social events.
10. Encouraging local house corporations to have a policy of a live-in house advisor as a best practice.
11. Using reasonable efforts to implement a standardized new member education program limited to four weeks in length prior to initiation of new members.
12. Encouraging chapters to have security cameras installed at all chapter housing.
13. Establishing a relationship statement between Beta and members, including prospective members, in Fall 2018.
14. Publishing notice on the Beta website regarding chapter status changes that result from violations of Fraternity policies, including Fraternity policies on alcohol and hazing.
15. Encouraging open and full access to all chapter housing common areas to third-parties who are authorized by the Beta or the host institution to visit during social events as a best practice.
16. Requiring all chapters to have a chapter faculty advisor on their advising roster at the beginning of each academic year as part of Beta’s chapter recognition requirements.
17. Including bystander intervention training in Beta’s risk management education each semester and continue to provide anonymous reporting options for students and parents.

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