US & Canada

'Shocking apathy' to fraternity drinking at Pennsylvania university

Timothy Piazza (c) is seen in this undated photo. Image copyright ABC
Image caption Several fraternity members are still facing charges related to the death of Tim Piazza (centre)

A committee probing the Pennsylvania State University's response to drinking in fraternities has issued a blistering report following a student's death.

A grand jury found on Friday that administrators displayed a "shocking apathy" to dangerous levels of drinking and hazing in university social clubs.

The report claims officials knew of the dangers but did nothing.

The report says Tim Piazza, a 19 year old who died last February after binge drinking, "did not have to die".

Penn State officials have yet to comment on the damning report.

The findings say officials "were aware of the excessive and dangerous alcohol abuse indulged by fraternities, such that it was only a matter of time before a death would occur during a hazing event".

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"The university bears the ultimate responsibility for the failure to supervise the safety of its students involved in the fraternity system," the report says, adding that although the university's actions were not themselves illegal, their "inaction set the table to allow these criminal acts to occur", which caused Piazza's death.

Tim Piazza, from New Jersey, was left unconscious for hours and suffered internal injuries after falling down steps during an initiation ritual. He later died in hospital.

Other members of the fraternity waited nearly 12 hours to call an ambulance, and were charged with manslaughter, although the most serious charges were later dropped.

Officials say he was fed 18 drinks in a period of one hour and 22 minutes, and that he never obtained the drinks on his own.

Hazing at the school, the report found, is "rampant and pervasive" and encourages "sadistic" rituals that reach "peaks of depravity".

The jury calls for "profound changes on college campuses and communities in Pennsylvania", and for universities to ensure protections for younger students wishing to join fraternities, and sororities - which together are known as campus Greek social life.

Other US universities have taken measures recently to protect students who are seeking to join social clubs.

On Thursday, a University of Houston fraternity in Texas was indicted for hazing, with officials charging that students were deprived of adequate food, water and sleep during a three-day initiation event.

The president of Florida State University told the Associated Press on Thursday that there is currently no timeline for reinstating campus Greek activities there, after they were suspended in November following a student's death.

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