When people think of Penn State they think large alumni network, big party school, football, creamery ice cream and prestigious academics. Now, within the last four months, when people hear the name “Penn State” they think of tragedy, reckless behavior, Greek life sanctions, and the heartbreaking death of Beta Theta Pi pledge Timothy Piazza.
Penn State has had its fair share of negative lime light in the last few years. Now, with the death of Piazza, the institution finds itself inside another cloud of uneasiness.
Piazza’s death has impacted people from all over the country. However, what has this tragedy been like through the eyes of the individuals that call Penn State home? When outsiders realize we attend Penn State and begin asking the questions about Piazza’s death, how do we respond? How do we see the campus culture or atmosphere changing in wake of Piazza’s death?
Monica Powell, a Penn State sophomore, noticed the change in conversations on campus.
“Right after the tragedy happened, everyone was so shocked. All of the overheard conversations felt like gossip at the time because no one really knew exactly what had happened,” Powell says.
Others have witnessed a more unifying effect after Piazza’s death. A sense of coming together to pay respects to Piazza and prevent something like this from happening again.
“I’ve learned if something or someone doesn’t seem right, get help,” Nolan Hausser, a sophomore and Alpha Sigma Phi fraternity member says.
Of course, it’s a touchy subject when Piazza’s death gets brought up in a conversation. Yet, people continue to ask Penn State students about the tragedy.
“Almost every time I wear Penn State clothing or my Greek letters, someone comes up to me and asks how everything has changed since Timothy’s death and how it has affected the whole campus,” Hausser says.
In conversation, some students found that everyone has an opinion on the tragedy.
“After questioning me about what I knew, people feel the need to share their own opinion on what happened, which normally involves some sort of shaming the fraternity brothers involved,” Powell says.
Powell’s friends from other universities aren’t so much reacting to Piazza’s death, but rather all the restrictions on Greek life. Powell says, “It seems odd, like [they’re] kind of missing the point.”
Every major news outlet covered Piazza’s death and the consequences those who were responsible would face.
This horrific incident reflected on the entire Penn State family. “I think campus was hit pretty hard,” Marley O’Brien said. O’Brien recalls most conversations about Piazza’s death and how it could have easily been avoided if 911 was called earlier in the night, rather than the next morning.
For Powell, when hearing what happened that night of Piazza’s death made her think of one thing– responsibility.
“Tim’s death has given me the opportunity to be able to take a step back and look at the big picture of partying on campus, the uglier side of it,” Powell says.
Some Penn State students are plagued with questions by their friends and family about Greek life’s future.
Liz Cooney, a sophomore, says, “Non-Penn Staters usually ask me if Greek life is going to be terminated at Penn State.”
Yes, there are restrictions. Yes, as students who attend Penn State University we are going to be asked question after question regarding the terrible situation. Is campus different? How has this impacted you? The reactions we will get when we say we go to Penn State will gravitate toward Piazza’s undeserving death.
“Most people that ask me are shocked that this happened and begin to question the other aspects of Greek life and if all Greek life is like this,” Alexia Mazzarella, a sophomore, says.
We all know what happened. We know the heartbreak because we have felt it whether we knew Piazza or not. The Penn State community is in mourning of Piazza’s death and is paying our utmost condolences to his family and friends.
“As students of this university, we must band together to bring out the positives of Greek life and increase awareness of measures that should have been taken to prevent Tim’s death,” Mazzarella says.
People will always remember what happened to Timothy Piazza. This, like any other negative story, will not be brushed off with time. We must know in our hearts that Penn State is a wonderful school that has much to offer. We must speak of Penn State with integrity and stay loyal when in rough waters. What happened was wrong, and we must also know in our minds what actions to take to prevent another Penn Stater from leaving us way too soon.