What About Human Decency?


This isn’t about Penn State. This isn’t about fraternities or hazing. This is about human decency, and the clear lack of it in the twelve hours leading to Timothy Piazza’s death.

If you haven’t heard on the news or read about it in the paper, Timothy Piazza was a 19 year-old sophomore attending Pennsylvania State University. He died on February 4 after he was hazed at a party given by the fraternity he was pledging, Beta Theta Pi. At this party he was forced to go through a drinking gauntlet in which he had to chug vodka, beer, and wine. This is pretty typical during the hazing of new members, and some may even call it normal. And although it’s so stupid to force other people to drink copious amounts of alcohol, knowing the obvious consequences of what could happen, that’s not why I’m writing this.

I’m writing this because in the hours before Timothy’s death, he fell four times. The first time falling down a flight of stairs head-first, the second time face-first onto the floor, the third time head-first into an iron railing and the last time head-first into a front door. This happened over the course of twelve hours, and twenty of his frat “brothers” saw him fall on different occasions. They saw the visible bruising on his abdomen immediately after he fell down the stairs. They saw how unresponsive he was, his inability to walk, talk, or even sit up straight. They saw him puking, they saw him hunched over on the floor grabbing his stomach in pain. And they did nothing. Correction, they didn’t call the police. What they did do was hit Timothy in the face and punch him in the stomach to try and wake him. They threw him violently on the couch to try and prevent him from getting up. They video-taped him as he was puking on the ground. They stepped over him at early hours in the morning, leaving him on the floor. They watched a human being fall over and over again, they watched him puke, they watched him suffer, and they did nothing. They were more worried about getting in trouble than they were about assisting another human being who desperately needed help.

They finally called 911. Twelve hours after Timothy’s first fall. Twelve full hours after Timothy smacked his head into hard surfaces and puked on himself and was hit by his fraternity “brothers.” By the time they finally called, which took place only after they attempted to clean him up to keep from getting in trouble, it was too late.

Timothy Piazza died the next day of multiple traumatic brain injuries. This young man died because of his fraternity “brothers’” selfishness, because his fraternity “brothers” cared more about not getting in trouble than they did about preventing a death that didn’t have to happen.

Timothy Piazza’s father asked the doctor if the outcome would have been different if the fraternity brothers had called 911 earlier. “Yes.” That is what the doctor told Timothy’s father. If one of the twenty people had the decency to call 911 when they saw what was happening to Timothy, he would not have died.

I think this is something we all need to remember as we go off to college. If you have the ability to save a life, do it.