CENTRE COUNTY, Pa. (WTAJ) — February marked the four-year anniversary of Penn State student Timothy Piazza’s death in an alcohol-fueled hazing accident. This weekend, students pledging fraternities at Penn State will receive their bids.
While a lot has been done to prevent hazing rituals, there is still work to be done on a national scale.
19-year-old Adam Oakes was found unresponsive Saturday morning at an off-campus house near Virginia Commonwealth University. His family says he was just asked to join the Delta Chi fraternity and was attending one of their parties that night.
“Unfortunately, this most recent tragedy shows us we have not cleared the hurdle yet,” said Tracy Maxwell, founder of the Hazing Prevention Organization.
Statistics from 2020 brought some hope.
“The pandemic started and schools began going virtual, I actually made the comment, ‘Well, at least no one will die in a hazing-related incident this year’,” said Maxwell. “For 2020, that was true. For the first time in 60 years, we didn’t have a hazing death.”
Maxwell says the start of 2021 has not been as bright.
“Students are beginning to get together and unfortunately most of the hazing deaths do involve serious alcohol use,” said Maxwell.
As Penn State students prepare to pledge Greek life organizations, friends and family members are urged to look out for red flags.
“If you’re noticing that your student is withdrawn, or angry, or just really not acting like themselves, it’s really important to start asking some questions,” said Maxwell.
If you witness something, you’re encouraged to report it, as Maxwell says 95% of hazing goes unreported. Even more effective, she notes, is starting a conversation.
“We recognize that prevention and intervention at earlier stages, before it gets to a tragedy like we have now, is what’s necessary to make that change.”
Maxwell reminds students that the effects of hazing can last a lifetime, and those involved can face criminal charges.