Banned fraternity sues PSU

Beta Theta Pi involved in hazing death of Piazza

From Mirror staff reports

A Penn State University fraternity that was banned after a pledge’s death is now claiming the university “supported an environment generally recognized as the ‘number one party school in the nation.'”

In a complaint filed Friday, the Alpha Upsilon Chapter of Beta Theta Pi Inc. accused the university of issuing the ban in order to cover up past negligence.

In addition to the university, Vice President of Student Affairs Damon Sims, Senior Director of the Office of Student Conduct Danny Shaha and University President Eric Barron are listed as defendants. In the complaint, it is noted that Sims once referred to Penn State’s Beta Theta Pi chapter as “the gold standard” among all college fraternities.

The complaint also contends that, throughout its history, the chapter has “enjoyed a stellar record of extraordinary accomplishments.”

According to the complaint, Sims, Shaha and Barron — because of their respective positions — are responsible for ensuring the safety of Penn State students.

The complaint contends that on Feb. 2, 2017, Piazza tripped over at least one student not associated with the fraternity, which caused him to lose his balance and fall down the stairs. Unknown to others, the complaint continues, Piazza was taking medication and had previous injuries and internal bleeding at the time of the fall. Following his initial fall, Piazza suffered subsequent falls, which resulted in fatal injuries — his death was ruled accidental by the Dauphin County Coroner.

Within 90 days after the incident, the fraternity was banned by Penn State.

The complaint contends that Penn State officials “unfairly” punished the chapter by commencing an investigation without following university procedures. The chapter claims that several interviews and reviewing of information took place without any notice to the corporation or chapter.

Additionally, the chapter claims it was not permitted access to a video recording that captured the events leading up to and after Piazza’s fall.

According to the complaint, Sims knew about Penn State’s “unsafe” social culture prior to Piazza’s death. The banning of the fraternity, the suit continues, was an effort by Sims, Shaha and Barron to “cover up their prior negligence in failing to adequately address Penn State drinking culture.”

Sims, Barron and the university also ignored efforts of Penn State’s Greek Life Task Force, which was created to implement changes to the university’s drinking culture, according to the complaint.

The complaint claims that Sims, Barron, Shaha and the university have ignored numerous deaths, serious injuries and sexual assaults that have occurred both on and off Penn State’s campus. According to the complaint, these instances have involved students both affiliated and unaffiliated with Greek life, but the blame has been placed on the fraternity system as a whole. The complaint contends that because of this attempt to deflect blame, the defendants have ignored the due process and equal protection rights granted to Beta Theta Pi members and the corporation.

The corporation that owns the fraternity house is also alleging that Penn State’s reaction was “designed not only to insulate Penn State from liability,” but also to ensure conditions in which it would be Penn State’s right to purchase the Beta Theta Pi house, which is one of three fraternity houses situated on Penn State’s campus.

The suit is seeking unspecified damages in excess of $75,000, and notes future economic damages include lost profits, lost business opportunities and the loss of the house’s real estate value.

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