Grieving fathers carrying torch against hazing

Tuesday’s Mirror article “Parents, frat leaders launch national anti-hazing effort” was good news that parents and young people alike should have greeted with hope and a sense of optimism.

It can be said confidently that no right-thinking person wants to ever again hear of hazing-related tragedies such as those that claimed the lives of two Penn State University students, one of them a student at the university’s Altoona campus.

Meanwhile, as most people are aware, hazing isn’t a problem that has affected only Penn State; hazing is a problem in play at many — perhaps most — colleges and universities nationwide.

Some educational institutions have begun efforts to attack the problem, especially those that have experienced tragic circumstances and outcomes of their own. Others that have continued to turn a blind eye to the problem are party to a dangerous gamble that they won’t be affected someday in an identical or similar way.

As Tuesday’s article reported, the parents of hazing’s two Penn State victims — Tim Piazza, who was a student at Penn State’s main campus in State College, and Marquise Braham, the Penn State Altoona student — are hoping to bring sight to that “blindness.”

They’ve launched a nationwide anti-hazing campaign that is attracting support from national fraternity and sorority leaders — a campaign in which the fathers of the two PSU victims, and parents who have experienced similar agonies, hope to speak to as many as 25,000 college students this academic year about hazing’s dangers.

The fathers hope that situations like those that claimed their sons’ lives can be preventing from happening again.

Their task won’t be easy, but it’s reasonable to believe that some lives will be saved through their effort to have some good be a product of the sadness that they’ve endured.

But what they’re trying to do needs to extend outside college and university campuses, and that point was alluded to near the end of Tuesday’s article, where it was noted that members of Greek societies would be encouraged to speak to high school and middle school students about the problem.

There probably is not a more effective way to get the message across — to get the students in question to pay attention — than to have young people slightly older than themselves speak frankly about the dangers and peer pressures that they could encounter in the college setting.

Jim Piazza, Tim Piazza’s father, was quoted as saying, “we realize that it takes many years to change a culture.” He said that awareness is why he and Rich Braham, Marquise Braham’s father, are “committed to the long haul.”

“We’re not going away,” Jim Piazza said. “We’ll be here next year, the year after, the year after that.”

Besides speaking to young people, the fathers and their student allies aim to press legislators in all 50 states to toughen anti-hazing laws, including making it a felony to force a student to consume alcohol during an initiation — a crackdown that makes unquestionable sense.

Tim Piazza, 19, died as a result of a hazing ritual during which he was ordered to binge-drink 80-proof vodka until he became so intoxicated that he fell repeatedly, fatally injuring himself. Marquise Braham, 18, committed suicide after what was described as a brutal bout of hazing.

Both deaths were senseless and, hopefully, through the laudable effort initiated by their fathers, others will escape similar fates.

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