In 2017, former Penn State Beta Theta Pi brother Kordel Davis was an active member on the bids acceptance night when newly accepted pledge Tim Piazza died from hazing.
Two years later, Thursday, Sept. 26 saw Davis leading a talk called “One Night A Pledge” in the University of New Hampshire (UNH) Field House, a personal look into the dangers of hazing as a part of Hazing Prevention Week at UNH.
The 8 p.m. event kicked-off with a leader or president from student organizations coming to the front of the room. Each person, whether it be a team captain or a fraternity president, read a statement about how their organization stands against hazing.
Upon taking the stage, Davis recollected how he was hazed by his Beta Theta Pi brothers during his first year at Penn State University. He discussed the duties the pledges were expected to complete, such as making the brothers breakfast and doing their errands, along with the excessive drinking that was expected. Amidst his experience at Beta Theta Pi, Davis vividly recalled how he was led to believe that everything the older brothers said and did was right. Even after hating his time as a pledge, Davis stayed on with the fraternity.
Davis then explained the events of the night of the 2017 bids acceptance party. He explained that he knew the pledges had too much to drink, but wasn’t in a position of authority in the fraternity.
“If I could go back, I would have called 911 myself, but that would have meant going above my vice president and president,” Davis said in an interview with the Columbian Missourian.
Davis told attendees that he saw Piazza severely intoxicated, but no brothers seemed to be concerned. Later in the night, Piazza fell down the stairs, and at this point, Davis made it clear they needed to call 911, to which the brothers told him he was crazy. Against Davis’ wishes, Piazza was left at the bottom of the stairs all night, and the brothers did not call 911 until 10:48 the next morning.
By then, it was too late, and Piazza died of a brain injury.
After telling his story, Davis spent the remainder of the event reiterating on the dangers of hazing, specifically hazing rituals involving excessive amounts of alcohol. Davis showcased a graphic that compared how many fraternities go about initiating their new members. The image was a set of stairs, with the new members at the bottom and executive members being at the top. He explained how this system put active brothers in the position of power, which is a huge issue with hazing.
Davis’s next graphic showed how the new member process could be more of a straight line, instead of a set of stairs. This line represented how new members could grow into active members, with the welcoming help from their new brothers.
“Pledging can be done in a not so dangerous way. I’m not exactly sure what that looks like now, but the crazy drinking is not really necessary,” Davis told “The Columbia Missourian”.
Davis also suggested ideas on how to improve the pledging process, such as strengthening a university’s policies and also raising awareness about the dangers of alcohol abuse. He also touched on the importance of encouraging schools to have policies where students can reach out for medical help without facing legal consequences.
At the end of the night, Davis gave the audience resources to help end or report hazing incidents, and listed his three main takeaways.
“One, we need to come back to a culture of care,” he said. “Two, there is no place for hazing within the Greek life. Hazing kills. Three, if you ever notice someone in distress, it is best to call for help yourself.”
UNH junior Alpha Chi Omega sister Hallie Contois attended Davis’ talk and appreciated the discussion being brought to the students’ attention.
“I thought his talk was really important to hear for all fraternities and sororities,” she said. “I think that it’s important for us to hear so that we can learn from things that have occurred in the past, although very sad and hard.”
Contois mentioned that she and her sorority sisters discuss how “hazing is not tolerated,” but don’t really discuss how they can prevent other fraternities or sororities from participating in it.
“We would get in big trouble if we were to participate in hazing,” she added.
Contois said that although it is difficult to hear stories such as Davis’, they need to be shared and stressed the importance of learning from the past.
“It also showed us that even we need to make sure we are looking after one another, even if we could get in trouble for it,” she said. “I think [hazing] can be ended by just informing people of what can happen when you haze and [also by] raising awareness.”
Senior Lambda Chi Alpha brother Josh Jasneski described hazing as “disrespecting a new member simply because they’re new. New members deserve the same respect as everyone else.” As a senior, Jasneski has been around to see many classes of new members join his fraternity, Lambda Chi Alpha.
“My fraternity prevents hazing by thoroughly discussing the expectations of brothers when interacting with associate [new] members,” Jasneski said while adding activities Lambda Chi Alpha does with their new members. “Some things to do with new members that isn’t hazing are things like teaching them all the behind the scenes work that builds a fraternity.”
Jasneski said his biggest takeaway from Davis’ story was that “it’s necessary to speak up when you notice someone needs help. Hazing can be ended by all members speaking up and standing up for each other.”
The 24-hour national anti-hazing hotline can be reached at 1-800-NOT-HAZE. To report hazing at UNH, students can call (603) 862-3686.