Additional sordid details have emerged regarding the February hazing incident at Penn State University that left one student dead.
The victim, 19-year-old sophomore Timothy Piazza, died during “pledge night” on Feb. 4 after being subjected to a series of hazing rituals by members of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity, as reported by The New York Times.
Text messages exchanged between two members of that fraternity in December 2016 advocated the so-called “Elephant Walk,” which is defined by The Urban Dictionary:
“Often used for hazing where a group of guys form a straight line and grab the genitals of the guy in back of them with one hand and put their thumb in the rectum of the guy in front of them, then they walk in a circle. Should that circle be broken by one of the members, the thumb which is placed in the rectum of the person ahead of them then goes into their mouths.”
The text in question, between Maddie Miller and Penn State Beta Theta Pi President Brendan Young, was published in the university’s student newspaper, The Daily Collegian.
Miller: Take it out on the pledges
Young: Whip the d***k out?
Miller: If ever there was a time for an elephant walk it would be tn
Young: My least favorite part of pledging
Miller: Really? Sounds great to me
Young: You want in?
Miller: Yeah def count me in.
On May 5, 18 Penn State students were charged in Piazza’s death. Eight of the students were charged with involuntary manslaughter — as was the Penn State chapter of Beta Theta Pi. The other 10 face lesser charges, including hazing and furnishing alcohol to minors.
The charges are the result of a grand jury investigation, and the indictment was based in part on videotape from surveillance cameras inside the fraternity house, in addition to text messages between the fraternity members.
The evidence allegedly shows fraternity pledges lined up for a “gauntlet” of drinking stations, where they were forced to rapidly consume large amounts of vodka, beer, and wine. After completing the gauntlet, Piazza fell drunkenly down a flight of stairs, sustaining serious injuries.
In a group text message, one of the fraternity members wrote: “Tim Piazza might actually be a problem. He fell 15 feet down a flight of stairs, hair-first, going to need help.”
Video evidence showed that they “helped” him by splashing water on his face and strapping a heavy backpack on him to keep him on his side so that he wouldn’t choke on his vomit. But they did not call for medical help until 12 hours later.
In a statement, the university’s president, Eric Barron, described the grand jury’s findings as “heart-wrenching and incomprehensible.” He also banned the fraternity from the university and imposed a prohibition on liquor, kegs and all-day parties at campus fraternities.