Frat Ban and Drug Charges After NJ College Student’s Death
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The Penn State fraternity where a student from Readington fell to his death after a night of binge drinking is no longer recognized by the university.
The fraternity's house manager, meanwhile, is also facing unrelated drug charges.
The order against Beta Theta Pi takes effect immediately and will remain in place for five years, according to Penn State spokeswoman Lisa Powers. The order could be permanent based upon completion of the investigation into Timothy Piazza's death. The chapter is no longer considered part of the Penn State Greek community and has been stripped of all privileges and acknowledgements.
"We cannot suitably convey the heartbreak we feel for the family and friends who are grieving the loss of Tim Piazza,” Damon Sims, Penn State’s vice president for Student Affairs, said. “The information available to us about the actions that led to Tim’s death is deeply disturbing, and no sanction or restriction the University can levy is equal to the gravity of his death or the circumstances which we believe led to it.”
Piazza, a 2015 graduate of Hunterdon Central Regional High School, was laid to rest last Saturday. He was an engineering major.
State College Police said Piazza had alcohol in his system when he fell down the stairs of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity house late on the night of Thursday, Feb 2, but no one called police for nearly 12 hours. He was flown to a hospital, where he later died. The Dauphin County coroner ruled that the 19-year-old suffered multiple traumatic injuries in the fall.
The investigation into the accident is focused on "excessive alcohol consumption and fraternity hazing activity" that went on that night, according to State College Police Chief John F. Gardner, who said that 14 pledges were in the fraternity house that night for a bid acceptance ceremony.
“I truly believe if they would have called immediately the chances would be significantly great that he would be alive today and I just don’t understand whether they were fearful … because (Piazza) was underage and drinking or if they were violating some sort of fraternity rule. I don’t know why they didn’t call,” State College Police Lt. Keith Robb previously told New Jersey 101.5.
The Center Daily News reported that Braxton Becker, Beta Theta Pi's house manager, was charged with seven drug charges of manufacturing, delivery or possession with intent, plus four counts of possession of a controlled substance and one count of possession of paraphernalia.
In February 2009, the national headquarters of Beta Theta Pi officially disbanded the Penn State chapter for allegedly violating fraternity policies, according to Powers, but the University was not involved in this disciplinary process.