PSU frat crackdown right call

Penn State University’s crackdown on fraternities and sororities should not have had to happen.

Members of the university’s Greek-letter organizations are old enough to recognize dangerous, irresponsible, unlawful conduct, and the fact that they are subject to serious consequences if problem behavior occurs.

In the case of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity, which brought about the latest university action, it seems clear that the organization was remiss in adhering to its responsibilities.

What’s now been put in place is an edict under which all Penn State Greek organizations unfortunately will have to pay a significant price.

But it must be said that the university, too, is paying a price stemming from Beta Theta Pi.

The university, which still is (and will always be) trying to recover from the Jerry Sandusky sex-abuse scandal, now apparently will have to defend itself in connection with the death of a Beta Theta Pi pledge Feb. 2 at a pledge acceptance ceremony at the fraternity’s chapter house.

On Monday, there were news reports that the parents of the pledge in question, Timothy Piazza, 19, of Lebanon, N.J., had hired a lawyer to pursue legal action in connection with their son’s death.

Piazza was a sophomore engineering student when, at the Feb. 2 event, he fell down stairs, but help wasn’t summoned until the next day.

He subsequently died at a hospital.

The final report from what Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller has described as a “very intense investigation” could be forthcoming soon; a March 31 Mirror article reported Miller’s statement that the investigation’s conclusions could be made public about the middle of this month.

Whatever the findings, it’s unlikely that the university’s newly announced crackdown will change significantly, if at all — nor should it, all considered.

The university has an obligation to work to curb underage drinking, and underage drinking apparently took place at the Feb. 2 event that turned fatally tragic.

But Piazza isn’t the first Penn State student to die in connection with Greek organization activities, and that tragic reality even has touched the university’s Altoona campus.

Under the new crackdown, Beta Theta Pi is prohibited from ever reopening at the university; following Piazza’s death, the university revoked its recognition of the fraternity’s Penn State chapter for at least five years.

Among the other measures tied to the new crackdown are a change in when fraternity and sorority recruiting may be held, and participation by staff, student leaders and others in a new program to monitor compliance with the university’s underage-drinking ban.

In the aftermath of Piazza’s death, the university banned alcohol at fraternity-related social events on the main campus for the rest of the spring semester.

A ban on beer kegs at fraternity events also has been imposed, and a new rule covers the size of fraternity party attendance.

Piazza was at least partly responsible for his own death, as a result of his willing participation at the Beta Theta Pi party. But those who organized the event had the responsibility to ensure that it was conducted safely and responsibly.

It’s clear now how badly they failed. Penn State’s crackdown should be welcomed, not criticized.