Reports documenting alleged incidents of hazing at the University of Pittsburgh main campus in Oakland lack the detail included in reports from other schools across the state.
University officials said they provided information mandated by a new anti-hazing law that requires Pennsylvania colleges and universities to post public, online reports documenting cases of hazing over the past five years.
“We did not review other institutions’ reports prior to posting,” a statement provided by Pitt Director of Media Relations Joe Miksch said. “We are committed to creating an environment of transparency and will decide what additional information, above what is required by law, would help our students make a more informed decision about student organization membership.”
While reports from schools like Penn State, which documented a total of 31 alleged incidents of hazing across all campuses, included descriptions of specific incidents — some involved physical and verbal abuse, sleep deprivation, licking the toes of senior members or dunking students in ice — Pitt only included university policy violations and any sanctions that followed.
The Oakland campus reported 21 alleged incidents over the five year period.
The Timothy J. Piazza Law, named for a 19-year-old Penn State sophomore who died during an alcohol-fueled fraternity pledge event in 2017, requires schools to have policies and reporting procedures in place to stop hazing. Schools were also required to post public, online reports by Jan. 15 documenting cases of hazing over the past five years.
The law does not direct the schools to describe the incidents in the reports, only to “include information concerning violations that have been reported to the institution,” according to the text of the bill.
Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-State College, who proposed the law alongside Piazza’s parents in 2018, acknowledged that some of the reports released by schools this month are more detailed than others.
“But it’s the first time, so I’m not going to be critical of anyone,” he said, adding that the legislature will monitor feedback on the reports to see if any adjustments are necessary moving forward.
Corman, who said he spent the past summer looking at colleges with his daughter, said the public reports are intended to not only help give families and prospective students the information they need to choose a school but also to give colleges and universities incentive to stay on top of the issue.
“I think the more detailed the better, obviously,” he said.
Seton Hill University in Greensburg, Saint Vincent College in Unity and the University of Pittsburgh-Greensburg campus did not have any incidents to report during the five-year period, according to statements posted to the schools’ websites.
Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh reported three alleged incidents, and Duquesne Unviersity, also in Pittsburgh, reported seven incidents. The report from CMU described alleged hazing incidents in detail, including one incident in which new members of a student organization were “forced to eat cold pizza and bread as fast as they could and force the food down with water.”
The Duquesne report was less detailed but noted when students were asked to engage in dangerous activities, competitions or excessive drinking. It also included a description of who reported the hazing activity.
Gov. Tom Wolf lent his support to the law after it passed unanimously in the state Senate in April. In a statement from his office, Wolf encouraged the new public reporting process.
“Gov. Wolf believes more reporting and transparency is an important step to shine a light on hazing and make students safer,” Wolf spokesperson J.J. Abbott wrote to the Tribune-Review following the public release of the reports this month. “Gov. Wolf would encourage all institutions to be as comprehensive and forthcoming as they are able in these reports.”
The North American Interfraternity Conference (NIC), a trade association representing 66 international men’s fraternities, also expressed support for increased transparency and campus efforts to increase education and awareness of hazing. In the fall, NIC introduced a ban on hard alcohol in fraternity houses and events across the organization’s 6,100 member chapters.
“To be effective, transparency efforts should include all student organizations, bands and athletic programs as research has shown hazing is a campus-wide issue,” according to a statement provided by communications director Todd Shelton.
Jamie Martines is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jamie at 724-850-2867, [email protected] or via Twitter @Jamie_Martines.