Love, Mom & Dad: Turning tragedy into progress

Sarah Haber, News Editor

On Sunday, Sep. 20, the Anti-Hazing Coalition (AHC) hosted “Love, Mom & Dad: Turning tragedy into progress,”  a nationwide presentation streamed over Zoom to kick off National Hazing Prevention Week. Members of Greek organizations were encouraged to attend the presentation and, following the discussion, to educate themselves on the dangers of hazing and take action to end such behavior on college campuses.

The AHC is a collaboration between the North American Interfraternity Conference, the National Panhellenic Conference and families of hazing victims. The mission of the AHC is to eradicate hazing rituals through state-level efforts, which includes strengthening penalties for hazing, educational outreach and advocacy to create long-lasting cultural change on college campuses. As part of AHC, the parents of hazing victims travel across the United States and speak to thousands of students, fellow parents and university faculty about the dangers of hazing.

Five families participated in the presentation, all of whom have lost a son because of fraternity hazing. They each discussed the hazing incident that their son was forced into, and then expressed how the loss of their child has weighed on them and completely changed their lives. The parents that spoke included Deb Debrick, Steve and Rae Ann Gruver, Lianne Kowiak, Jim and Evelynn Piazza and Kathleen Wiant.

“I think it is incredibly important to both educate and remind students about the dangers of hazing. No parent should have to speak on their child’s passing so we need to be advocates for change and bring awareness to hazing in order to prevent other tragedies from occurring,” Olivia Garvey ’21 said.

Parents Jim and Evelynn Piazza spoke about the death of their son, Tim, during his sophomore year at Penn State University. Tim Piazza died after a hazing ritual where he was forced to drink at least 18 drinks in the span of an hour and a half. He sustained severe injuries after falling down a flight of stairs. His peers left him alone for 12 hours, causing his injuries to become life-threatening.  

Since Tim Piazza’s death, the Piazzas have been working to stop hazing completely. They were a critical part of strengthening Pennsylvania hazing laws with The Timothy J. Piazza Anti Hazing Law (Senate Bill 1090), which addresses prevention, enforcement and transparency and is designed to prevent hazing-related deaths like Tim Piazza’s.

“The presence of anti-hazing laws still is not enough to stop hazing from occurring on college campuses across the country. The families who spoke at this event have made it their mission to educate others on the effects hazing has on everyone, not just those it harms directly. In my opinion, it was a very eye-opening presentation,” Renee Shahnazarian ’22 said.

While many colleges have taken steps to end hazing on campus, education about hazing still remains a critical and pressing issue. Presentations and discussions like “Love, Mom & Dad: Turning tragedy into progress” allow both participants in Greek life and non-participants to see first hand the devastating effect hazing can have on the victims, their families and the college community in general.

“It was a very grounding experience that I believe should be expanded to not just Greek organizations but be made available to all students on campus,” Renne Venico ’22 said. 

“The talk was a very eye-opening experience on the harsh reality of hazing and truly showed the steps that must be taken not only at Bucknell, but nationally to end hazing.” Andrew Doane ’22 said.

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