For Kennesaw State student, ending campus hazing is personal

For Kennesaw State University senior Juliana Piazza, ending hazing on college campuses became very personal a year ago.

On Feb. 4, 2017, her cousin, Timothy, died two days after a drinking party at a fraternity house at Penn State University, where he was a student. Tim was pledging to join Beta Theta Pi fraternity. A grand jury found Piazza, 19, died as a direct result of "reckless conduct" of members of the fraternity, aided by the permissive atmosphere fostered by Penn State's Interfraternity Council.

Juliana Piazza organized a meeting Monday on campus where Tim's mother, Evelyn, and Rae Ann Gruver, whose son, Maxwell, an 18-year-old from Roswell, died after an alleged hazing incident at Louisiana State University, spoke about the dangers of hazing.

The parents are part of an organization called Parents United to Stop Hazing and Piazza thought “it would be an important message to be heard at Kennesaw.”

“I never thought it would affect my family,” said Piazza, 22, a public relations major.

Piazza was a member of the Phi Mu sorority but said she did not encounter any hazing. She recalled a conversation with her cousin a few months before he died about whether he was going to attempt to join a fraternity. Tim was leaning against joining, she remembered.

Two months later, he was dead.

The deaths of Tim Piazza, Gruver and others have started a national conversation about whether colleges should ban fraternities and sororities.

Piazza said the deaths and her effort to ending hazing have resulted in what she described as “awkward conversations” with friends on campus involved in Greek life. She said many Greek organizations pledged to have students at the meeting.

“These kids come to college and it’s someone’s child or brother or sister,” she said. “You are there to show them college, not to haze them and hurt them.”

Piazza said she hopes through these meetings that more students become aware of ways to communicate with campus leaders if they are being hazed. She also hopes that colleges and universities do more to share such options with students.

“Tim is every student at every university,” she said. “We just don’t want to see it happen again.”