If youre a college student, youve probably heard about the horrific and sad news of PSU student Timothy Piazzas death.
As my friends and I read about how Piazzas brothers neglected him as he vomited, fell down stairs, and struggled to sit or walk, they expressed their shock and disgust. Sadly, I wasnt shocked. The details seemed all too familiar it was like I heard the same story before.
And thats because I have.
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In 2013, a student who graduated from my high school, Mike Deng, was pledging the Pi Delta Psi fraternity at Baruch College. As a hazing activity, Mike and other pledges were blindfolded and forced to carry bags filled with sand while brothers tackled them. He was knocked down and hit his head. He was unconscious for hours.
His brothers tried to wake him up.
Timothys brothers tried everything they could to wake him up, dumping water on him and slapping his face.
They freaked out, and called their president asking him what they should do. He tells them to destroy all evidence linking the frat to the incident.
A brother screams at everyone to get help for Timothy, but hes slammed into a wall and yelled at. The Vice President tells him hes being crazy and overreacting.
When Mike failed to wake up after two more hours, his brothers hid all PDPsi-related paraphernalia and deleted texts and group messages.
When Timothy failed to wake up, his brothers deleted all Beta-related texts and group messages. They wiped his face and dressed him up.
They called for help but it was too late.
They called for help but it was too late.
Mike was pronounced dead at the hospital.
Timothy was pronounced dead at the hospital.
His parents picked up the phone the next morning and had to hear the words: Your son died yesterday from major brain trauma.
His parents picked up the phone the next morning and had to hear the words: Your son died yesterday. He had toxic levels of alcohol in his blood.
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I didnt know Mike personally, but he was a familiar face. I had seen him in the hallways and heard from other students about what a great guy he was. For a week, the atmosphere at my high school wasnt the same. Everyone was devastated. Our community had lost someone. A lot of us didnt know him but as fellow students, we felt sad for him, his friends and his family. He was just like us a Bronx Science student with a bright future. And his future was taken away much too early.
I imagine that right now, Penn State students feel the same way.
Over the past 48 hours, the reaction has been huge. In the comments of the article, I see outraged parents, a frustrated administration and angry students. Each pointing fingers and asking, Who is to blame?
Some fingers are pointing at the Penn State administration. Some point to the culture at Penn State. A lot of these fingers point to Greek life.
As a member of a sorority, I admit that Greek life has become less about ritual, tradition, sisterhood/brotherhood the three foundations it was founded on and has increasingly become more about the parties, the social hierarchy, and risk management. There have been conversations about the administration at Penn State wanting to eliminate the Greek system completely, because of this.
However, it is unfair to say that situations like these are a Greek problem. This is an us problem. College itself has become less about the education and more about the glamor. Going out used to be defined as fun casual nights out with friends, but now its drinking in a house party basement full of strangers until you black out.
When were confronted with situations like these, where a friend drinks a life-endangering amount and its our responsibility to make the call for help, a lot of us are afraid to make that call.
Were isolating this problem so that it seems exclusive to Greek life. Yes, in all honesty, Greek life has a strong focus on social events and parties but this couldve happened at any party Greek or not. This couldve happened to anyone.
It couldve been a high school student drinking for the first time at a house party and dying because his friends were afraid of being arrested for underage drinking. It couldve been an athlete who just joined a varsity team being pressured into drinking excessively and dying because his teammates were afraid of being arrested for hazing. It couldve been a band member who was physically hazed and died, because everyone thought he was fine.
It couldve been any of these people because it has happened to all of these people.
2006 Limestone College student Zach Dunlevy was carried back to his room after blacking out at a lacrosse party, and left in his dorm room bed. He was found unresponsive the next morning and died from an alcohol overdose.
2011 Takeimi Rao died at the age of 14 from alcohol poisoning at a sleepover.
2011 Band member Robert Champion died from blunt force trauma after being physically hazed with drumsticks and mallets on a band bus.
Strict enforcement or elimination of fraternities and sororities is not going to stop deaths like these. Parties will still happen. Students will still drink, not knowing their limits. Their friends will watch, still afraid to step in. What really needs to change is the way we react and think.
Its also not just a Penn State thing. A month ago, the administration at my college, Lehigh University, drafted an email to be sent to the student body notifying them that a student from our school had passed away after being hospitalized for an alcohol overdose. The email was never sent out. After being extremely close to dying, a miracle happened. Even though doctors told her parents and Lehigh that she probably wouldnt make it, she woke up. Hearing this news, I was shaken.
Other Lehigh students also woke up after hearing this, but it shouldnt have to take a near-death experience to get our attention.
In situations like these, we often lose sight of whats important. Our first reaction is What will happen to me? Will I get cited? Will I be arrested? What if my parents kill me? What if the school punishes me? when it really should be What will happen to my friend? Will he/she be okay? What if a family loses their son/daughter? How will I live with myself if they die because I didnt get them help in time?
Ask yourself if avoiding a citation is more important than saving your friends life.
The administration can make 20 different types of alcohol training classes required for students if it wanted to; it can implement medical amnesty policies; it can get rid of Greek life; it can tell RAs to be stricter. But thats the full extent of their power.
I hope that Timothy and Mikes story will encourage other college students to start being less selfish and more smart, so I never have to hear the same story ever again.What Greek Students Can Learn From Penn State