Hazing Statement from SWGP Jim Boyle
Over the last few weeks, I have heard from many members as well as read many comments on social media regarding the pain and outrage resultant from the incident involving the untimely death of Beta Theta Pi’s new member Timothy Piazza at Penn State University. Like so many, as I read the horrific details about the events surrounding this incident, I found myself struggling to comprehend the senselessness of the tragedy. While the incident does not involve Phi Kappa Psi, such severe incidents certainly impact all fraternities and communities.
In response to the incident and to ensure the tragedy is not examined by Phi Kappa Psi in vain, I want to offer some thoughts in light of the current scrutiny which has arisen from this sad event and the spotlight that the incident has focused on the scourge of hazing.
For over 165 years, our Fraternity has served to advance the ideals of mutual assistance, intellectual growth, trust, responsible conduct and integrity in the lives of our members and supporters. The Fraternity’s strong, heralded and consistent position against hazing and alcohol abuse are cornerstones of our membership expectations and our educational outreach to every chapter and member. The Fraternity has remained steadfast in upholding those standards when they have been challenged, and the Executive Council has remained willing to suspend chapters and remove members for violating Fraternity policies whenever it has been necessary.
For many years, Phi Kappa Psi has allowed the Edict of the Executive Council and risk management policies that explicitly bar hazing to reflect its positions on the issue. In fact, the Edict unequivocally and bluntly states that “No chapter, colony, student or alumnus shall conduct nor condone hazing activities.” Likewise, the Fraternity has plain policies under its insurance program that prohibit hazing, and the Fraternity has put forward many articles and position statements directed toward eliminating hazing and purging it from our ranks.
Still, in spite of clear policies and educational programs that are in place, it is no secret that substance abuse and misuse, and hazing, in all of their silent, camouflaged and indecent forms, is a bane of the existence of fraternities. The reality is that substance abuse and misuse, and hazing are not isolated to any one campus or to any one fraternity. Research shows many high school graduates come to college already having experience with both – meaning these problems are pervasive in much of our culture. But that is not an excuse to perpetuate the problem or passively accept its existence.
However, despite the many policy positions staked by the Fraternity, and despite the constant efforts of our dedicated Staff to develop and implement workout plans for chapters who are struggling, Phi Kappa Psi is not immune from the consequences of hazing. To this end, it is not impossible that we do more! We owe it to each other, to our valued new members, to our chapters, and to our Fraternity, to be better. Put simply, the positive Phi Kappa Psi experience that we all strive to have and support is dependent on individual members holding one another and their chapters accountable to the Fraternity’s expectations and standards on these issues, as well as all others!
It is my sincere belief that young Mr. Piazza’s unfortunate death can be a catalyst for positive change. I am committed to that end, and I am confident that each of you is as well. Having the incident at the forefront provides a moment for reflection, and a moment for self-evaluation of one’s personal commitment to uplifting chapters and each other out of the negative shadows that hazing creates. Constructively, the Fraternity — acting through each of you as undergraduate leaders and alumni mentors / stewards — is capable of eradicating the existence of substance abuse and misuse, and hazing, from our communities.
It is my ask and challenge of each of you to do just that, in making sincere and honest evaluations of your own chapter’s activities vis-a-vis individual members — and particularly new members. The real strength in tackling this issue lies at the chapter level, where the strengths of brotherhood are built and the Assistance is available to help your chapter build a positive and constructive culture, through resources available through the Portal, through Phi Kappa Psi’s partnership with hazingprevention.org (HPO), and through anonymous communication channels that facilitate discussions of these issues. This summer’s WWLS will provide a perfect time to discuss and address these issues, as well.
Such collective efforts amongst all of us demonstrate the best that Phi Kappa Psi has to offer in leadership, positive structuring, and embodying and living the ideals and standards of our Ritual and Creed that each of us has promised to uphold and empower. Similarly, the North-American Interfraternity Conference is engaging in an interfraternal dialogue on this topic and has recently published its own reflections on this issue to start the discussion.
Let us join together to ensure that Phi Kappa Psi’s future is bright and energetic! Together we can commit to ensuring that no member of our Fraternity suffers from misdirected conduct. Let’s allow the circumstances of Mr. Piazza’s story be a catalyst to prevent such a senseless act from ever occurring again. Doing so is an honorable action to take as a member of Phi Kappa Psi!
In the bond,
James D. Boyle
Washington Alpha ’88