Alums invited to stay at Penn State frat where pledge died
Alumni of a now-banned Penn State fraternity where a pledge was fatally injured after an alcohol-related hazing ritual have notified members that the house is available for them to stay at during home football game weekends.
An email sent this week to dozens of alumni of Beta Theta Pi, and obtained by The Associated Press, said the house was being “re-opened on a limited basis for your exclusive use,” with catered meals and Friday night get-togethers in the tap room.
Doors were to open Friday night for those in State College for the University of Pittsburgh-Penn State football game Saturday, according to the email.
The fraternity held a pledge ceremony Feb. 2, after which newly accepted brothers had to run between drinking stations.
Sophomore Tim Piazza of Lebanon, New Jersey, became highly intoxicated and later fell several times, including down a long set of basement steps, suffering severe head and abdominal injuries that led to his death two days later.
Organizers and lawyers for the fraternity either declined comment or did not return messages about the new plans for the house.
The email indicated it was sent on behalf of the alumni board, and said members remained saddened and shocked by Piazza’s death and are grieving for his family.
Penn State permanently banned Beta Theta Pi in March, saying its investigation found a persistent pattern of excessive and forced drinking, hazing and drug use and sales. Fourteen brothers and Beta Theta Pi face criminal charges in connection with Piazza’s death, though a judge threw out the most serious counts last week.
The Piazza family views the plans as “disgraceful and disrespectful,” said Tom Kline, their attorney.
Penn State has no oversight over the building’s use because the property is privately owned, and is not part of the college campus, a university spokeswoman said.
The AP emailed dozens of alums seeking comment on the plans.
Yoga teacher Richard Bird of Hobe Sound, Florida, said in a phone interview that “people are going to perceive it however they choose to perceive it.”
“It’s none of their business,” Bird said. “Whatever happens legally will happen legally. It would be nice for us to be able to use our house for our alumni to gather, and that’s it.”
Lancaster, Pennsylvania, oral surgeon Mike Eckhart said he is unlikely to take advantage of the offer to stay at the house.
“It definitely could be looked at in a certain way of, look, they’re going to make it a party house now,” Eckhart said. “I understand that.”
At the same time, he said, “the house itself, just to go into complete un-use, I think in some ways it would be a travesty, too.”
The rental pitch sent Wednesday to alumni members of Beta Theta Pi included photos of the food setup and menus for brunch and late-night dining, with one of the brothers hosting “Friday nights in the party room.”
Costs were listed as $50 for a bed and private locker to $350 for three-bed accommodations, with money going to a fund for the fraternity’s legal costs.
A phone number for reservations had been changed by Friday afternoon. A person who answered the door at the chapter house late Friday told a reporter from the Centre Daily Times he was with a cleaning crew and could not comment.
The planning director for the borough of State College, where the school is located, said the house is located in a zone that allows a range of activities, but a permit would be required to convert it from a fraternity to a different use.