Fraternity alumni use of house appalling

The reputation of the national Beta Theta Pi fraternity is facing further damage that needs to be addressed quickly and correctly.

Whatever positive contributions its now-banned chapter at Penn State University might have made at the university and in the State College area community over the years were tarnished last February when one of its pledges died from injuries sustained either during or after a pledge ceremony at the fraternity’s house.

The event has been described as having been an alcohol-related hazing ritual involving drinking stations.

In the aftermath of pledge Timothy Piazza’s death, the university permanently banned the fraternity, saying its investigation had found a persistent pattern of excessive and forced drinking, hazing and drug use and sales.

On the night of the fraternity event, Piazza became severely intoxicated, later falling several times, including down a long set of basement steps.

He suffered severe head and abdominal injuries that resulted in his death two days later.

Fourteen Beta Theta Pi brothers are facing criminal charges stemming from Piazza’s death.

The university community has continued to be saddened by the tragedy, and the university has acted correctly in imposing a number of new restrictions on other campus Greek organizations, aimed at preventing future tragedies.

Unfortunately, Beta Theta Pi alumni have now taken a troubling step that’s an insult not only to the university and Piazza’s family, but also to the national fraternity itself.

Instead of selling the chapter house or donating it to a community organization for positive use, the alumni board notified chapter alumni that the house was being made available to them for home football game weekends.

And the notification provided no indication that the use would be limited to a sedate bed-and-breakfast-type atmosphere. The room-rental pitch, which included photos of a food setup and menus for brunch and late-night dining, also said one of the brothers would be hosting “Friday nights in the party room.”

That “party plan” hardly squares with the fraternity alumni’s purported sadness and shock related to Piazza’s death and the purported alumni grieving for his family.

To the outside world, the idea represents a seedy opportunity made possible by a tragedy built upon immaturity, irresponsibility and arrogance.

Penn State deserves better — regardless of any good for which the alumni and their fraternity chapter might have been responsible during their student years.

Besides the troubling attitude that the football-weekends alumni opportunity displays on its surface, there were varying, sometimes unflattering responses from Beta Theta Pi alumni when The Associated Press sought comments from them.

One that was both rude and lacking in compassion was, “It’s none of their business. Whatever happens legally will happen legally. It would be nice for us to be able to use our house for alumni to gather, and that’s it.”

Another alumnus, who said it would be a travesty for the house “to go into complete un-use,” apparently hadn’t thought of the many possibilities for better use of the property.

The national Beta Theta Pi fraternity would do itself a favor by stepping in regarding what the Piazza family, through its attorney, has rightly characterized as “disgraceful and disrespectful.”

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