President Simon and other administrators sent out an email to the campus community on Jan. 15, 2019, announcing the university’s support for the Timothy J. Piazza Anti-Hazing Law, which passed last year in Pennsylvania after the death of Penn State sophomore Timothy Piazza in 2017.
The new law includes stricter punishments for the crime of hazing, holds both individuals and organizations accountable for hazing and requires secondary schools and institutions of higher education to publish anti-hazing policies and publicly report hazing violations.
On Jan. 31, the parents of Timothy J. Piazza and the father of Marquise Braham, who committed suicide at 18 years old after witnessing the hazing rituals of his fraternity, spoke to hundreds of current and prospective sorority and fraternity members in Packard Hall as part of their nationwide anti-hazing campaign.
Evelyn Piazza provided a heartfelt account of what had happened to Tim when he was viciously abused and hazed at the Beta Theta Pi fraternity at Penn State University in 2017. His mother left students, faculty and alumni in the audience emotional, moving some to tears.
“Put yourself in our shoes,” Evelyn said. “Imagine if your loved one, brother, friend or son had been treated and left to die like my son was.”
In addition to the new law, there are new regulations that Lehigh staff are committed to enforcing in order to ensure the safety and prosperity of the student body.
Ricardo Hall, Lehigh’s vice provost of Student Affairs, said that there will be “visible changes,” including the creation of the hazing prevention section on Lehigh’s website, which will showcase five years of alleged hazings.
“It is the right thing to do,” Hall said. “It’s first and foremost a safety measure. It informs campuses and communities of the risks associated with student organizations. This is a common sense approach of informing the community and students of risky behavior.”
Hall hopes that this new law will turn hazing into a public conversation and that students will be comfortable reporting it.
Christopher Mulvihill, the associate dean of students, said that student organizations have the responsibility to raise each other up, not bring each other down.
“There is absolutely no reason that someone who wants to join a group of friends should die,” Mulvihill said. “In fact, it is the opposite. It’s about loyalty, supporting each other, and brother/sisterhood. Lehigh absolutely supports its Greek system as long as it’s a good Greek system. It should be a safe, meaningful, academic environment for its students and hazing is not a part of that.”
Nova Stoller, ’21, the Safety and Wellness Chair of Lehigh Student Senate, said that Senate stands behind the Timothy J. Piazza law. To Stoller, strong support for the law stemmed from the previous president of Student Senate, Matt Rothberg, and when she became the chair of her committee, her goal was to see it through and make a difference.
She said she predicts that people will feel more comfortable to report incidents that may arise with the passage of the new law, including as it relates to medical amnesty. Stoller said, people will only need to worry about the medical consequences of their actions, and not legal or university repercussions.
“We were really excited to cure any blurred lines regarding medical amnesty,” Stoller said. “Many had social anxiety about it and wanted to avoid it altogether. I’ve been in many close calls where I did not know for certain if I made the right decision and I’m sure a lot of my peers have been in the same position.”