Two mothers who lost their sons to hazing are to sharing their personal memoirs and discussing the dangers of hazing on campuses across the country this week.

University of Missouri

Via KOMU; by Michael Van Schoik

COLUMBIA (KOMU) – Two mothers who lost their sons to hazing are making a stop at the University of Missouri Wednesday night to share their personal memoirs and discuss the dangers of hazing.

The mothers of Timothy Piazza and Max Gruver, two students killed in separate hazing incidents, are traveling around the country, sharing their stories in hopes of preventing such incidents from happening in the future.   

“If people are sitting in rapt attention, not on their cell phones, leaning in, closing their eyes when I tell them to, and crying, then I know they can feel it,” Evelyn Piazza told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette during a previous stop. “And if they can feel it, I know they are going to remember it.”

Wednesday’s presentation comes just a few weeks after a Pennsylvania court ruled that the former house manager of Penn State University’s now-banned Beta Theta Pi chapter was guilty of intentionally concealing evidence from a police investigation. 

“You cannot exactly understand all the emotion that comes behind it,” MU IFC President Matt Eblen said. “And hearing from parents directly who have lost their sons in these types of incidents really puts a face and emotion behind all of these stories you hear.”

Eblen and other fraternity and sorority executive board members previously heard the two mothers speak at a national conference. He said this gave them the idea to bring the mothers to campus to help eliminate hazing at MU.

“I think it can really be one more step in eradicating the problem through campus,” he said. “This may not have happened on our campus, but we need to make sure that it doesn’t happen on this campus.”

Eblen said this is only one of many steps the university has taken to help eliminate hazing on campus, including a variety of policy changes. He said he hopes hosting such presentations will also show parents that the university is taking proactive steps to prevent hazing incidents.

“When you are sending your student off to college for the first time it is a very emotional experience,” he said. “Making sure they know the university and Greek life as a whole is taking active steps to make sure that their son or daughter is going to be safe while joining a Greek organization could calm some of the nerves.”

The Office of Fraternity and Sorority life anticipate nearly 8,000 people to be in attendance at Wednesday night’s event. 

University of Alabama

Via The Crimson White; by Madison McLean

On Aug. 28, the University of Alabama’s Greek community hosted an anti-hazing event called “Turning Tragedy into Progress” at Coleman Coliseum.

The speakers at the event were Rae Ann Gruver and Evelyn Piazza, two mothers who lost their children to hazing.

Max Gruver was from Roswell, Georgia and a freshman at Louisiana State University in the fall of 2017. He died 29 days after he moved in. According to his mother Rae Ann, he pledged a fraternity to meet new people and possibly gain a leadership role within his organization. Max was told to come to his fraternity house one Wednesday night for what was called “Bible Study.” The active members brought the new pledges down to the basement and made them stand with their noses and toes toward the wall. The pledges would be interrogated with questions about the history of their fraternity and the Greek alphabet, and if answered incorrectly, the pledges were forced to take a pull (to drink straight from the bottle until told to stop) of 190-proof Diesel alcohol.

“This is not the college experience we, or any of you, are looking for,” Rae Ann said. Timothy Piazza was 19 years old when he died in the hospital on February 4, 2017. It was two days after his first night of pledgeship in his fraternity at Penn State.

The mothers closed with hazing prevention tactics and encouraged students to speak out against hazing because it could potentially save lives.

“It was powerful, and it makes me very sad that people had to deal with that and these families were hurt like that,” said Lewis Todd, a freshman from Memphis, Tennessee, and a pledge in Alpha Tau Omega, a fraternity on campus.

Around 5,200 students attended the event Thursday evening. This event was hosted by all four Greek councils and the Greek Programming Board at the University.

“Being from out of state and not having much of a clue about fraternity life and what goes on, I was slightly nervous (about hazing) but now I don’t have any worries at all, and I know that every single guy here has my back and they really are my brothers,” said Cordon Vidger, a freshman from Colorado and also an Alpha Tau Omega pledge on campus.

The University of Alabama does not condone hazing, regardless of its form. Under the University’s Code of Student Conduct, hazing is defined as “any completed or attempted action, inaction, situation created, or communication that recklessly or intentionally harms or threatens or is intended to harm or threaten the mental or physical health or safety of a student or individual, or any completed or attempted act that destroys or removes public or private property, for the purpose of initiation, admission into, affiliation with, or continued membership in a group or organization.”

Hazing is a violation of the University’s policy and any student found to have committed the misconduct is subject to the disciplinary sanctions outlined in Article V of the Code of Student Conduct which can include, but are not limited to fines, suspension or expulsion.

To report any type of hazing, call the University’s Hazing Harassment Hotline at: (205) 348-HALT (4258).