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In wake of frat death, Penn State hints at 'drastic' changes

Pennsylvania State University's board of trustees appears poised to announce another set of major changes for its fraternities and sororities in the wake of the February death of pledge Tim Piazza following an alcohol-fueled fraternity party.

The board has scheduled a special meeting for June 2 to "consider a comprehensive set of recommendations to ensure significant change," the university said in a news release Monday afternoon.

Penn State president Eric Barron did not reveal the changes being considered but promised in a statement that a number of them "will depart drastically from measures commonly employed at institutions nationwide."

"The safety of our students and campus community is of paramount importance," Barron said, "and we are resolved to take decisive action. There are no easy solutions, but we will leave no stone unturned as we search for the most effective ways to achieve change."

The trustees meeting is scheduled for the same day on which three former Penn State administrators — Graham B. Spanier, Tim Curley and Gary Schultz — are scheduled to be sentenced for misdemeanor child endangerment in the Jerry Sandusky child sex-abuse case.

Penn State spokeswoman Heather Hottle Robbins declined to provide details on the changes trustees will be considering.

"It would be premature to discuss specific recommendations or plans prior to the board meeting," she said.

Board member Anthony Lubrano said he had not been informed of the proposed changes — and he didn't like it.

"I'm disappointed that a notice has gone out regarding the meeting, and yet as a board we haven't yet been provided with an agenda of items we are to consider during that meeting," he said. "It makes it a little more challenging for us to be prepared."

The university said last week it planned to release a "report card" on fraternities and sororities that included their status — active or suspended — and their history of conduct infractions.

The announcement comes as the university continues to deal with the aftermath of the death of Piazza, 19, a sophomore engineering major from Lebanon, N.J.

Piazza was forced to drink large amounts of alcohol at different stations as part of a pledge activity known as "the Gauntlet" and later fell down a flight of stairs, according to the grand jury presentment. No one called for emergency help until about 12 hours later, and in the interim, Piazza fell several other times, was slapped, had liquid poured on him, and was left to languish on a couch where fraternity members had placed him, the report said. Piazza died Feb. 4, having suffered a non-recoverable head injury, ruptured spleen, and collapsed lung.

The university has permanently banned the fraternity, Beta Theta Pi, citing forced drinking, hazing and other illegal activity, and 18 members have been charged by a grand jury with a range of offenses including involuntary manslaughter, aggravated assault, hazing and reckless endangerment. Their preliminary hearing is scheduled for June 12.

The university this spring cracked down on Greek organizations, banning alcohol from being served at social functions for the rest of the semester, delaying recruitment until second semester of freshman year, and limiting the number and size of parties to be held. About 18 percent of the student body participates in the 83 fraternities and sororities on the State College campus.

The trustees plan to meet privately from 7 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and then in public session at 1 p.m., according to the announcement.