I don’t know the parents of Timothy Piazza, who was killed in February as a direct result of a barbaric hazing ritual at Penn State college, but my heart certainly goes out to them.
Timothy died thanks to the idiocy of a bunch of frat boys from a group called “Beta Theta Pi.” They were forcing pledges to drink far too much alcohol as part of what sounds like a horrifically stupid initiation ritual. The young man became severely intoxicated, which was bad enough, but the insanity of these boys didn’t stop there. Timothy fell down the stairs as a result of what he was “required” to drink, from the rituals made up by the fraternity boys. There’s more. Then they moved him, poured liquids on him, and even pushed him into a wall to try to revive him, if you can believe this. They also wouldn’t do the right thing and call 911. One of the frat brothers wanted to summon help, but the rest of them wouldn’t hear of it. If they had listed to that one, the single voice of reason there, and called for an ambulance, Timothy Piazza may have survived.
But the dip-shits of Beta Theta Pi didn’t call for an ambulance. Timothy is dead.
Is this what any child’s parents pay college tuition for their children to experience?
I remember when I was in college and the friend of a friend, two years younger than I was, enrolled. She was a quiet kid, not exactly Honor Roll material, to put it as kindly as possible, and she was shrilly desperate to become “popular” at the college. She was invited to pledge a sorority and hoped I’d join her, but it wasn’t something I wanted to do. I had seen other sorority pledges doing things like walking across the campus doing the box step for a week or being forced to sing “The Brady Bunch Theme Song” in the Student Center. It struck me as something I might have enjoyed if I was, say, ten or eleven years old, but I was twenty and couldn’t see the point. A twenty-year-old doing the box step for a week? Ridiculous!
Yet this silliness appealed to the girl who wanted to be Miss Popularity of the campus so she underwent the initiation for the sorority. What did her group’s hazing rituals involve? Here’s where it takes a dark turn. She told me that one of the pledges “got kidnapped” by the full-fledged sorority members.
“Kidnapped?” I repeated, incredulous. God only knows what kind of stunt those wacky sorority gals just pulled, I remember thinking. I knew kidnapping was a federal offense, but my friend and her fellow pledges either didn’t know that or care.
“Yes,” Miss-Popularity-to-Be whined to me, “She was kidnapped!” Then she related that all the rest of the little pledges were transported to a graveyard at Midnight – naturally, they’d have arranged the timing of such a moronic stunt at Midnight. “And they made us do all sorts of things to get her back! For hours! We were there until three in the morning! You wouldn’t believe some of what they made us do!”
My imagination could easily fill in the blanks there, not that it wanted to, so my next question was, “Why the hell are you putting up with this insanity?”
The Popularity-Wannabe’s erudite wail in reply was, “Because I want to belong!”
It seems to me, then as now, that “belonging” is one matter. Voluntarily engaging with some amoral group that has no problem with putting its potential members at physical risk, whether by enforced substance abuse, abductions done in the name of “fun,” or any of the other horrors that come to light whenever one of these situations goes haywire and winds up on the news, is quite another. Too many of the stories that abound about “hazing” practices cross the line from harmless pranks right into sadism – and should not be ignored. Every year since 1970 there has been at least one death from hazing, sometimes more. This is needless. How many more do there have to be before hazing gets banned outright, by law?
It turns out that eighteen members of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity are now facing criminal charges for what happened to Timothy, as well they should. And while I feel sorry for Timothy’s parents, I can’t help but wonder just what kind of frightening creatures raised those eighteen defendants, who weren’t even brought up with enough sense to call 911 when they saw an unconscious young man had fallen down a flight of stairs, but instead, threw him into a wall.