KARA MILLER MCCARTY: Good morning. Welcome to the 22nd Annual Andrew Dickson White Summit for Sororities and Fraternities. It's nice to see you all here. My name is Kara Miller McCarty. And if I don't know you, I'm the director of Sorority and Fraternity Life here at Cornell. We're glad you chose to spend time with us this morning to discuss what I think is a serious and important matter of hazing in student organizations.
I do want to bring your attention to the resources on the screen that you've seen as you walked in. I'd also like to provide you with a content warning, as the topics we discuss today will be heavy and will be upsetting. If you feel you need to step out, please do. We have staff members near the exit who would be able to talk to you if you need to take a break.
I was able to see our guests last December when they spoke to people who do jobs like mine at different colleges and universities, as well as people who work at your national organizations. It was really impactful, and I have so much respect for the fact that these parents are devoting their time and their advocacy to talk to students like you. I'd now like to invite Ron [INAUDIBLE], who is an alum member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon from Cornell, to the stage.
RON: Good morning, Big Red. We're honored to be the sponsors of this morning's keynote address, "Love, Mom and Dad." One person caring about another represents life's greatest value.
The dedicated parents who are speaking today, Cornell alumni, and Cornell faculty staff and administrators who are here this morning are here because they care for you. In turn, you care for the members of your respective organizations, and that's a part of why you joined. You have a reasonable expectation that the members of your group will care for you, and the friendships that you first made within your organization would be with you many decades into your future.
Tragically, no one stepped up for Tim Piazza, Marquise Braham, and Max Gruver when they needed them the most. As a result, they will never have a chance to cherish decade-long relationships, first made at their fraternities. Their parents will not attend their commencement ceremonies, celebrate their weddings, or welcome newborn children. Instead, they will live with unbearable heartache they will never overcome.
As you learn and grow here at Cornell, we ask you always to remember to care for someone else. Please keep that thought in your mind and heart, especially as you listen to our guests today. Now I'd like to introduce our incredible parents, Rich Braham, Stephen and Rae Ann Gruver, and Jim and Evelyn Piazza. Please give them a warm Big Red welcome to these incredible parents.
RAE ANN GRUVER: Good morning. Thank you all for sharing your time with us this morning. During our time together we are going to talk to you about hazing, what hazing looks like, what to watch out for, and what you can do to keep yourself and your friends safe. Hazing should not be a part of your college experience or the college experience of any of your friends. This presentation is in honor and loving memory of our sons Max Gruver, Marquise Braham, and Timothy Piazza, who all died as a result of hazing in their fraternities.
- Good luck at your first semester of college.
- We hope that you have a great first year at school.
- Have a good time and learn a lot about yourself.
- Make new friends and have fun.
- Make us proud and study hard.
- Make good decisions and be safe.
- Love, Mom and Dad.
- This is an "ABC News Special Report."
- Tonight, a major development in the alleged hazing death of Penn State student Timothy Piazza--
- We have new evidence.
- --surveillance video that authorities say was once destroyed, now recovered by the FBI.
- This is the video that they clearly did not want seen.
- Guess what, guys? Now we know.
- Prosecutors say the footage from the basement of the Beta Theta Pi house shows fraternity brothers giving the 19-year-old pledge at least 18 drinks of beer, wine, and vodka, all in just an hour and 22 minutes.
- The death of Timothy Piazza hits very, very close to home for the Braham family-- their son Marquise, just 18 years old when he pledged the Phi Sigma Kappa house at Penn State's Altoona campus back in 2013. The Bram family says Marquise was under a severe amount of psychological stress after months and months of hazing. Ultimately, Marquise took his own life on March 14, 2014.
- 10 young men under arrest in the suspected hazing death of a college student in Louisiana. The LSU freshman died after attending a fraternity pledge event called Bible Study. Here's ABC's Steve [INAUDIBLE].
- 19-year-old Max Gruver died after what they called a Bible Study September 13. Pledges were asked questions about the fraternity. And police say that Naquin and two others forced them to drink 190 proof alcohol when they got the answers wrong. A coroner's report tonight says that Gruver's blood alcohol level was 0.495, six times the legal driving limit. Police say he was passed out on a couch for at least nine hours, that they checked on him during the night. And in the morning, he woke up with a weak pulse.
RAE ANN GRUVER: Max-- let me tell you all a little bit about my Max. Max was a gentle giant, a sweet soul. He had a big smile and an even bigger hug. And he was always someone who took care of the people around him. He was easygoing and super laid back. He laughed with his entire body, and he loved every single day of his life.
Max was born and raised in Roswell, Georgia. And as the older brother to Alex, who's 18, and Lily Kate, who just turned 15, he went to Blessed Trinity Catholic High School. He dated a beautiful girl named Blakely all four years. He loved sports, journalism, and rap music, some of his favorite artists being J. Cole, Drake, Kendrick Lamar, and my personal favorite, ScHoolboy Q.
Max also wrote articles for Def Pen Radio, writing over 360 sports articles in just three years. He could talk your ear off about any sport and all the statistics that went with it. He was a Little League coach and he coached his sister's basketball team.
He chose LSU because he liked the journalism program and he knew he had a lot of possibilities ahead of him. He had a bright future, one he was ready to go after. He pledged a fraternity to meet people at a really big school. And he was also interested in a fraternity where he could take on a leadership role. He'd even been up for pledge class president.
Max was ready to start the next chapter of his life. But the next chapter of his life would be very short-lived. We drop Max off on August 15, 2017. This picture is the last picture I have of my son and I. It is a moment I will never forget. It is a moment, many of you have probably had with your parents the first time they dropped you off that freshman year.
It is the last time I felt his arms around me, giving me that huge hug. It's the last time I saw that enormous smile. And it's the last time I was able to look at him in the eyes, tell him I loved him, that I would miss him, and that I was really, really proud of him. I told him, this is your time. Go shine your light on the world. 29 days later, my son would be dead because of alcohol hazing in his fraternity house.
According to police reports and trial testimony, pledges were summoned to the fraternity house for Bible Study. They arrived at 10:00 PM on a Wednesday night, and their phones were taken from them. Some brothers descended down the stairs to where the pledges were playing pool. And one said, are you all ready for Bible Study? Y'all better do well, because I'm already effed up.
The pledges were then placed in a single file line and marched up the stairs as they were doused in hot sauce and in mustard. They were placed in a dark hallway with a flashing strobe light and loud blaring music, clearly intended to disorient and distract the participants. At one point, the pledges were made to do wall sits while brothers ran across their legs. At another point, one pledge was accidentally struck in the eye with a bottle causing a severe black eye and laceration.
But the big part of the night was Bible Study. Pledges were placed with their noses and their toes against the wall, and that's when the questions began. Answer a question wrong about the fraternity history or mess up the Greek alphabet and you have to take a pull off of a liquor bottle. The liquor of choice for this Bible Study was Diesel. And a pull, as I think many of you know, is taking a swig off that bottle until brothers tell you to stop.
Some of those pledges were forced to take up to 10 seconds from those Diesel bottles. Max was one of those pledges. And as I think many of you know, Diesel is not just alcohol. It is what is called a high potency alcohol. It's an alcoholic beverage that is 2.5 times stronger than the alcoholic beverage that's more familiar to the average person, like rum or vodka.
This particular alcohol is 190 proof alcohol, grain alcohol. The alcohol's own website includes this warning, and I quote, "Diesel 190 proof is extremely potent and should not be drunk straight, but integrated in drinks in a small amount." According to witnesses, this pledge activity lasted less than two hours. And Max was forced to consume 16 to 20 pulls off of those Diesel bottles.
It has been calculated that he consumed at least 32 ounces of Diesel. He was forced to take significantly more pulls because he answered questions wrong and he had been late to some earlier events and certain fraternity members had singled him out. They singled him out. The actions taken by these hazers resulted in my son's death.
Max was also observed to have a puke bag tied around his neck near the end of the event. But the hazers decided to make the pledges recite the Greek alphabet as they went down the line, each saying one letter of the alphabet. And if anyone messed up, that person had a drink and then they had to start over.
Every time they got to Max, he messed up. He couldn't remember upsilon. It was the only letter of the Greek alphabet he had to remember, upsilon. But with a puke bag around his neck and obviously clearly intoxicated, he was still forced to consume at least five to six more pulls off of that Diesel bottle.
Max was taken back downstairs and left to sleep it off on a couch. And even with obvious signs of distress, no one called 911 to render Max aid during the night, something that could have saved his life. Brothers observed him during the night with labored breathing, with cold clammy skin, with his lips and his fingers turning blue and a weak pulse, some even checking his pulse and checking his breathing, and still not calling 911. If you are checking a person's breathing or checking a person's pulse, you need to be calling 911.
My son died at some point the morning of September 14. He did not wake up in the morning with a weak pulse like that news report claims. The autopsy showed that Max died on that couch between 4:00 and 5:00 AM. And the brothers, instead of calling for help, were more concerned about themselves and getting in trouble than saving Max's life.
It is known that they clean the house. They got rid of most of the Diesel bottles. And they even cleaned up Max. And in the morning when students were in classes, those brothers called the pledge brothers back in to come get Max. They told him to lie, to lie to the hospital. And then they made four of Max's pledge brothers pick up his dead body and put it in the car and drive it to the hospital, again, never calling 911.
Max's blood alcohol concentration was an alarming 0.495. I say this is alarming because it's six times the legal limit at which a person is considered legally impaired, like a DUI. Even more alarming is that a blood alcohol concentration of higher than 0.31 is considered life-threatening. Can you really call this a brotherhood, subjecting pledges to life-threatening hazing activities like this?
Tragically, my son died as a result of this alcohol hazing Bible Study. He was left to sleep it off in the fraternity house, with his brothers right there. And the outcome was fatal. The coroner cited the cause of death as acute alcohol intoxication with aspiration. Max choked to death on his own vomit.
10 fraternity members have been arrested on criminal charges, ranging from hazing to negligent homicide, which is a felony. Four were indicted by a grand jury. Two pleaded no contest, which is the same as a guilty plea in Louisiana. And they were sentenced in July to 30 days in jail, which at the time, was the most they could get under the old law. The individual who was charged with negligent homicide was found guilty on July 17. He will be sentenced this month for up to five years in jail. And he is also being prosecuted for obstruction of justice for deleting over 700 items off of his phone. He will get another five years, possibly, once that trial's over.
So many lives have been ruined because of hazing. But most of all, our family has to live every single day without our oldest son, a brother, a grandson, a cousin, a best friend, a boyfriend. This is not the college experience that we, or I think any of you, are looking for.
EVEYLN PIAZZA: Tim. Tim was an amazing person with an incredible sense of humor. He was shy until he got to know you, and then he was larger than life. He was smart, athletic, loved Netflix and video games, and he kind of had his life figured out. He was going to major in mechanical engineering so he could have a career designing prosthetics, go to grad school, eventually marry his high school sweetheart, and just have fun with his brother and friends.
JIM PIAZZA: So this picture is particularly important to us. It's taken at the 2017 Rose Bowl, which happened to take place on January 2, 2017, which happens to be our anniversary. When Penn State got the invitation to play to the Rose Bowl, Tim reached out and said hey, I'd like to go if we can go. And I said, sure, let's try to make a family trip out of it.
But he had two conditions. The first was that we couldn't leave before New Year's Day, because he felt the obligation to be with his girlfriend, Kaitlyn, on New Year's Eve. He didn't want to leave her alone. And I said, OK, well, we'll make a week out of it. We'll go. We'll add time on the back end. He said, well, I can't do that either.
I said, well, why not? Hey says, well, I have this engineering internship and I need to be back by Wednesday. They need me. I'm like, Tim, you're a college intern. You're a sophomore. How bad could they need you? But he insisted. So I said, so we're going to fly across the country and spend all this money for just a couple of days to go to the Rose Bowl and come right back home.
He's like, well, I'd like to do it. But if we can't do it, that's OK. That is the best money I ever spent. I am so glad we took that trip. This is our last picture together as a family. 30 days later, Tim was dead.
EVEYLN PIAZZA: Tim was a part of his girlfriend's family. He was the big brother to Kaitlyn's younger brother and sister, and he was there for them if they needed him or wanted him for anything. He was loved, trusted, and appreciated far more than he ever knew. They were and are still devastated by his death.
Tim was a big guy, and he took on the role of protector for anyone who needed it. He was a great friend, brother, and boyfriend. He brought lightness to any room, making people smile and laugh. My favorite picture's the one to the right. That, to me, is pure contentment. They truly were perfect for each other.
JIM PIAZZA: So let me set the stage. On February 2, 2017, Tim was in his apartment doing homework and he received a text message from the Beta Theta Pi fraternity. The message told him that his bid was accepted, and they told him to report to the fraternity house by 9:30 PM wearing khakis and a blazer. He was also told not to be late, and that, we are going to get you fucked up.
Upon arrival at the house, he and the other pledges were greeted with a small ceremony and they were handed a handle of vodka. And they were told to finish it before moving on. Simple math would tell you, on average, each pledge had around 3 and 1/2 shots from that handle in just a matter of minutes.
After finishing the handle, they were lined up behind the door. And one by one they were allowed through the door, where they encountered a drinking obstacle course that they called the gauntlet, which had several stations, which included beer shotguns, drinking from wine bags, more vodka, a beer pong challenge, and other things. The pledges were being screamed at and pushed along through the obstacle course.
The obstacle course was followed with a so-called celebratory event in the basement of the house, where the pledges were handed more bottles of vodka, more wine bags, and more beers to drink. All of this was captured on video. The video showed that, in less than 90 minutes, Tim had the equivalent of 18 drinks.
Shortly after 11:00 PM, Tim went upstairs with another fraternity member, who we think was trying to get him out of harm's way, because he was visibly very, very intoxicated. But then the member left him alone. Tim tried to figure out how to leave the house, but he couldn't even figure out how to open the front door. He stumbled around and eventually went back to the basement steps, which is where he fell headfirst down 15 steps.
Four brothers were immediately seen carrying his limp body back upstairs, and they threw him on a couch. He was out cold. For the next several hours, the brothers poured beer in him, did a sternum rub to try to revive him. And if you don't know what a sternum rub is, it's apparently very painful and you're supposed to react to it. Tim didn't react to it.
They slapped him. They backpacked him. They threw his shoes at him. They sat on him and they held him down on the couch. He came in and out of coherency. And several brothers knew he needed help and they sought to seek it, but they were overruled by leadership. At some point, all the brothers went to bed, leaving Tim alone in the lower level of the house. And he is seen stumbling around in the video, falling many times and writhing around on the floor in apparent severe pain throughout the night.
At some point, Tim got back up and went towards the basement again. And that was the last time any video of him was seen. The next morning, he was found curled up in a cold basement, no shirt, and in the fetal position, stiff and turning gray. For the next 45 minutes, the brothers debated what to do. The president and the pledgemaster ordered the cleanup of the house while they tried to dress him and clean him up.
But then they let him lay there, as he was slowly dying right in front of their eyes as they were trying to figure out what to do. Finally, after 45 minutes, 911 was called. There was no mention of the fall. There was no mention of what happened during the course of the night. An ambulance took Tim to the hospital by himself. No fraternity member accompanied him. No family members were called, even though they knew he had a brother on campus.
EVEYLN PIAZZA: So now I want you to put yourself in our shoes. Who here has a brother or sister close in age to you, close enough to be in college at the same time as you? If not, consider your best friend and consider that you're both going to the same college. Now close your eyes, and imagine that your brother is going to pledge your fraternity and it started last night.
You get a call from your brother's roommate saying, he didn't come home last night and that's not like him. He always comes home. You decide something's wrong, so you call the hospital to see if he's there. They say, yes, there's been an accident. Come right away. You get to the hospital and see your brother on life support, neck brace, bruises and blood on his body and head.
The doctor tells you, it's bad, that he has a subdural hematoma which is bleeding in his brain. His spleen is ruptured, actually shattered. He has a punctured lung. And he needs a blood transfusion, because as it turns out 80% of his body's blood is in his abdomen. You have to call your mom to tell her that the doctor's going to call, but that your parents need to come now.
You tell her what little information you know, that it was the first night of pledging and that he fell down the stairs. They need to medevac him to a trauma hospital 1 and 1/2 hours away for neurosurgery immediately. You talk to him, even though he's unconscious. You tell him to hang in there, that you are proud of him, and that you love him. A tear rolls down his cheek and you think he heard you. And then they take him away.
Now, picture your mom and dad getting that phone call, as well as the call from the ER doctor. The doctor says, he's a very sick boy, but they don't understand what he's hinting at, that their son is dying. It doesn't click. Both Mom and Dad have to drive 45 excruciating minutes from work to get to home to pack bags, and then drive over two hours to get to the hospital where he'll be having surgery.
Your dad says, this better not have anything to do with that fraternity. And your mom tells him, it was the first night of pledging. They call the police to find out what happened. There's not a lot of information. But they say he fell down the steps once, maybe twice, after drinking. They get to the hospital and feel sick when they see the helicopter still sitting outside. They rush in and have to wait in the surgical waiting room.
Finally, someone comes to take them to surgical ICU to meet with the surgeons. It turns out this man is a chaplain, but they don't understand why a chaplain was sent to get them. It doesn't click. In a small room, a surgeon and a nurse tell them that their son's brain injury is non-recoverable. They feel the world stop.
Another surgeon comes in and says that once the skull was removed to release the pressure on the brain from the bleeding, the brain kept swelling outside of the skull, and that this is considered brain death. They try to comprehend what's happening. He's brain dead? How can this be? He's still on life support. Is there any hope for recovery? No. They have tests to prove brain death, but they can't be done because of his other injuries.
And your parents have to take the doctor's word for it. You get a ride from your roommate to the hospital. And you find out how bad it is from your parents. You try to be the strong one. His girlfriend comes with her dad. They have to tell her that the boy she loves is brain dead. You all cry together. Then you finally get to see him. The only skin showing is his shoulders. He's covered with blankets to keep him warm.
JIM PIAZZA: [WHISPERING]
EVEYLN PIAZZA: OK. Then you finally get to see him. The only skin showing is his shoulders. He's covered with blankets to keep him warm, but his body won't warm up. His head is covered with a white gauze stocking cap to cover the bandages from having his skull removed to release the pressure on the brain from the bleeding. And he's got bruises and swelling on his face.
He's on a ventilator. There are IVs everywhere. There are machines monitoring his oxygen level and body temperature. They need to put chest tubes in his lungs because his oxygen level's dropping. They think he aspirated on vomit. The doctors and nurses are telling you that they're doing everything they can, but that it's just a matter of time. He's going to go into cardiac arrest.
The organ donor person is talking to you about donating his kidneys, the only organs not damaged. Now, you will have to decide whether to resuscitate him when he goes into cardiac arrest, potentially breaking ribs in his already battered body, only to know that he will go into cardiac arrest again. Or do you let him go into cardiac arrest and die so they can take him into an operating room and harvest his organs?
Or do you turn the machines off, now, in an operating room, and let him go so they can harvest his organs immediately? You, your parents, his girlfriend and her dad decide to turn the machines off. But he codes before you can tell the doctors. And they resuscitate him, as you watch from the hallway.
A nurse pulls your mom forward and tells her to kiss her baby goodbye. He goes into cardiac arrest again, and you all let him go. You and the 10 medical personnel in the room, who look at you with sad eyes. And there it is. He's dead. It's 1:23 AM.
A day and a half ago, he was alive and happy. How did this happen? How did we get here? What happened at that fraternity house? This doesn't make sense. He was a good kid. He wasn't a drinker. He wasn't a risk-taker. He was a good student. He had a longtime girlfriend who he was planning a future with. He had plans for his future at school and for his career. What happened?
He was an amazing person who was hazed. And then once he was hurt and unconscious, was slapped, had beer poured on him, had his shoes thrown at his head, was sat on to keep from rolling off the couch, was backpacked, and then ignored and basically left to die because the fraternity did not want to get in trouble. Think about this being your loss. Think about this being your pain. Think about having a funeral, having your brother cremated, and having to watch your mom put his urn in a niche at a mausoleum.
Think about you losing your best friend, your only sibling. Why? Because he was hazed. Everyone's lives are forever altered. And there will always be this hole in your heart, because he was hazed, got seriously hurt, and no one was willing to do the right thing and called for help for fear of getting in trouble.
RICH BRAHAM: I just want to address what we saw happen here a few minutes ago. That was an example of love and compassion and support and kindness. I'm not sure what happened up there. But that's what I saw in this community, people caring for each other, coming to someone's aid, and helping them. That to me is true brotherhood and sisterhood, what we saw happen just a couple of minutes ago.
This is Marquise Alexander Braham. We called him Marquise, because we knew he'd be strong and beautiful like the marquise diamond, Alexander because we knew he was destined for greatness. He was born on Easter Sunday in 1995. And he was absolutely the apple of our eye, our firstborn child, kind, decent, funny, fun. I run out of superlatives to talk about my firstborn son. He was everything any parent could have asked for in a child.
You see him here with his little sister and his baby brother. And that's what brotherhood is to me-- goofing around with your sister, who's three years younger, doting on your younger brother, who's 10 years younger. That's what brotherhood is.
For many of you who are in Greek life here-- and I know that most of the folks in this room are members of Greek life-- brothers and sisters are supposed to look out for each other. They're not supposed to harm each other. They're not supposed to be cruel to each other.
They're not supposed to literally beat the crap out of each other or to shame them. He didn't do that to his siblings. Why would you do that to someone you chose to be your brother or sister?
As I mentioned, Marquise was a great kid, great student, smart, decent. His focus was always out and on other people. He volunteered at the senior citizen center. He cared for the young. He cared for the sick. God was always with this kid. He was just a decent person. What a great role model for his younger siblings.
He was such a good kid that, when he turned 16, we decided to throw him a sweet 16 party. It really was his mom but I wasn't opposed to the idea. We rented a boat, invited all his friends from high school, and took a cruise around Long Island. And because he was such a good kid, we threw in a belly dancer.
Because every kid who turned 16 should have his own belly dancer. And you can see Marquise making direct eye-to-eye contact with the belly dancer. You can all see that.
And I'm glad you're laughing, because I'm telling you-- that's what Marquise was-- fun. And there was a lot of laughter when Marquise was there. But it's silent now. It's not like what you guys just experienced. That fun, that laughter, for us, it's gone. It's not the same.
We like to cruise all the time. We cruise to Alaska, we cruise to Mexico, the Caribbean often. This was the last cruise that we took together as a family. This was in Bermuda, just before he was due to go away to college. We had so much fun. We just enjoyed ourselves.
That summer, he had been a camp counselor just before he went to Penn State. He was due to take up biomedical engineering. He was going to be taking 18 credits, studying to be an RA, working in the student cafe. He was the dorm leader on his floor. This kid was packed. He was so throwing himself into life as an 18-year-old.
But then he said-- well, I'll tell more of the story. A girl came up to him when he was working in the student cafe and said to Marquise, if you want to be around a girl like me-- and she was beautiful, I'm told, absolutely stunning. If you want to be around a girl like me, you need to join Phi Sigma Kappa. And like any red-blooded American teenager, he was like, I'm there. And he said to us, it was the only fun thing to do here.
We used to take Christmas card pictures, just like your families, all the time. My wife is incredibly artistic. She would have us do themes. This theme was clearly a white theme, after my youngest was born. People thought that we were the perfect family. We thought we were the perfect family-- again, just loving each other, enjoying each other's company.
And people would look forward to our Christmas cards every year. They would literally ask me, Rich, when's your card coming? It's late. We don't do Christmas cards anymore. Again, I'm trying to explain to you that our family is shattered now. And the reason why we're here is because we don't want you or your families to end up like us.
We know what it's like to have a shattered family. We care so much about you and your families that we come here to speak to you about our horror, our grief. I hope you care enough about each other that you wouldn't want that to happen to each other, that if you saw something happen that you knew was wrong to each other, you wouldn't just stand by silent and let it happen.
I mentioned Marquise said he was looking to join the fraternity because of the fun. So take a look at the fun. Even before this, Marquise suffered brutal, brutal hazing. One of the things they did was called a locked in ceremony, where the pledges were locked into a closet, nothing but lots of bottles of alcohol and a tall garbage can. There was no light. It was very hot in that closet. There was no air. And they were told to drink and puke and drink and puke and drink and puke until they could fill that bucket, fill that garbage can. And they were puking all over each other and pissing all over each other, mostly missing the garbage can because they were that drunk.
There was another ritual called the dildo challenge, where you could choose-- because they gave you a choice. You could do a line of cocaine or you could get a dildo up your ass. They'd let you choose. And someone was recording you on a cell phone. So either you were doing an illegal activity, snorting some coke, or you were doing a humiliating activity, getting a dildo up your rectum. And if you ever crossed the fraternity, this could just anonymously pop up on the internet, social media. What would that do for your family, your friends, your career? Not good, I don't think.
So as Marquise was coming home, he texted his friends from high school. Hey says, I know, dude, I'm just hanging in here. Hazing season just started so I'm kind of glad to be going back home. Some of this shit is just hard to watch when you're a brother. Again, shit like that. And if you can't see, that is a blindfolded pledge with a gun to his head. That's crazy. But my 18-year-old son took that picture just before he was coming home for spring break.
While Marquise was home, he went to visit his teachers from his junior high school, went to go visit some teachers from his high school. And then he died as a result of suicide. That was two days before he was due to go back to school. And he was going to have to go back to school to more of what you just saw. He couldn't do it.
He didn't rat out his brothers, but he knew he couldn't go back and do it either. So instead, his life came to an end. And this is where we spend all of our special days now with Marquise. This is from Thanksgiving of 2014. But New Year's, birthdays, Mother's Day, Father's Day, Christmas, all spent here.
We are here because we care about all of you. I don't want any of you to end up like this. I want you to live full, long, rich lives. We all do. We want your parents to be able to enjoy your company and the company of the kid sitting next to you, who maybe you don't know that well. But they've got a mom and dad, too, and siblings who love them. So you need to care about them, just like you are caring about this person who is up there in the aisle. We've got to care about each other, people.
The hazing that our kids suffered was evil. It was torture. What we know is that our kids were tortured to death. Before they died, they were tortured. It's not normal. It's not decent. It's not kind to do that to another human being. And I know that you are all grieving now. We're not quite sure what happened to Antonio, but we understand that loss of life and how his parents must feel, waiting to go to dinner and never hearing from their child again.
Can you think about that for a second? You're waiting for your kid, and your kid, you can't reach them, at homecoming week, to go to dinner. And you never see your child again. We bear and share our grief with you because we don't want that to happen to you. Look out for each other. This is even more than hazing. It's about being human. Are you a human being, because no human being would torture or humiliate another person. That's not being a good person.
JIM PIAZZA: So let's talk about hazing a little bit. The definition up on the screen-- there's a number of definitions, but they're all pretty similar. But any situation where you're putting somebody at emotional or physical risk in exchange for joining your organization is hazing. And the important part of it is the last statement there-- regardless of the individual's willingness to participate. Because there are studies done that show-- and I'll talk about it in a second-- that people will do things to join an organization that they would not ordinarily do. In most states-- and we'll talk about this in a second as well-- hazing is a crime. And as we all know, it has tragic consequences. The bottom line is, no student should be put in jeopardy just because they're trying to join an organization.
So I'm going to ask you some questions. Think about these as you are bringing new members into whatever your organization. Is what you're doing causing emotional or physical distress to others or to yourself? If so, why would you be doing that? Does participating in the activity go against your values or the values of your organization? If they go against your values, why would you do that?
And if they go against the values of your organization, that doesn't make sense. At least for the fraternities and sororities, we know that each one has a value statement, a credo, a motto of some sort. Nowhere in there does it talk about feeding alcohol to your new members. Nowhere does it talk about beating them, paddling them, hazing them, or doing any of that. So why would you be doing that?
Is what you're doing illegal? If so, why would you be doing something illegal? And we're not here to talk about alcohol, by the way. But providing alcohol to someone under 21, it is illegal. So you take on a responsibility when you do that, and you own that responsibility. Now, we don't know everything that happened with Antonio, but there's people that probably gave him alcohol. I don't think he was 21. So somebody did something illegal in connection with what happened to him.
You need to think about that, because you can be held accountable for it. Are you being asked to keep these things a secret? And if so, why? Would you get in trouble if a college administrator or a faculty walked by and saw what you were doing? What about your parents? Would you do these things if your parents were around? And if you wouldn't, again, ask yourself, well, why would I do it now?
I like to use the example and equate it to your career. Because that's what you guys are here for, right? You guys are here, at Cornell University, which I could never even have dreamed into getting into. But you're here to build the foundation for the next 40 years of your life, to build out your careers.
So I'm a corporate tax consultant. I provide corporate tax advice to large corporations. And when I think about the advice that I have to give to corporations, I think about, is it edgy, is it in the gray area, is it black and white? If I think it's a little too edgy or goes across the line, I won't let my clients do it. Because I don't want my name in The Wall Street Journal or The New York Times or on TV for doing something fraudulent, something illegal.
As you are doing things with your new members, you ought to be thinking about that. Do you want to have yourself end up in the news like some of the people that you saw there, or in the newspaper? If you Google any one of our son's names, you will see names of students that were charged with crimes in relation to our son's death. And that is going to be there forever.
One other thought on that is, just think about some of these new member initiations. Would you do those things to your own sibling? If you wouldn't do that to your own brother and sister, your blood, why would you do it to somebody else that is trying to join your organization?
So some manners and types of hazing-- you all probably know these as well as I do. Obviously, there's mental and physical abuse, like paddling. We've come across situations where there's fight night, where pledges are told, all right, you guys need to fight with each other until one of you can't take it anymore. That's just unbelievable to me. But it happens, and I can't understand it. People have ended up with brain injuries as a result of things like fight night.
Sleep deprivation-- that's a big common hazing strategy. What happens there, your grades will suffer. People are made to stay awake for several days in a row. What if that person gets behind the wheel of a car, and because they're so sleep deprived, they hit somebody and they kill somebody? Well, that's on you.
What if they're so sleep deprived and they're walking to class-- and I could see, there's traffic around here. You're crossing streets. They're not paying attention. What if they get hit by a car and they're killed because they're sleep deprived? That's on you.
Binge drinking-- well, we know that all too well. In our situation, it was called the gauntlet. In Max's situation, it was called Bible Study. That term alone is offensive. The binge drinking seems to be one of the key choices, one of the key ways to haze people. And again, just providing the alcohol in the first place is illegal. But then to do it in mass quantities like that, it's criminal, for sure.
Road trips for brothers-- this is a big one we heard about at Penn State. So the brothers would tell the pledges in the mid-evening-- probably after they were drinking already-- go to Philadelphia. Get us cheesesteaks from Geno's and Pat's, and bring them back, because we're hungry. We need them. So anybody that's from Pennsylvania or knows anything about that area, you'll know that Penn State's about a 3 and 1/2 hour ride from Philadelphia.
So now you're putting your pledges in a car, that probably had been drinking, in the evening, sending them down to Philadelphia, 3 and 1/2 hours. They get the cheesesteaks. They drive back. It's the middle of the morning when they get back. Do you think anybody's waiting up for cheesesteaks? No.
But what you did do is, you put all those kids, all those young people, at risk, being on a highway, probably after drinking, for seven hours. Anything can happen. Anything could go wrong. Anything can go bad. Again, if it does, it's on you. It makes no sense. You're essentially playing Russian roulette with people's lives when you're doing these things.
And let's talk a minute about the little h hazing. So hazing often starts pretty easily or pretty simply, wearing khakis and a blazer, something like I'm wearing right now, or carrying a brick in your backpack-- because that makes a lot of sense-- or maybe just carrying cigarettes for brothers and whatnot. But then it ramps up.
Because then somebody says, well, you know what, I saw this. I heard about this going on at another university or another chapter. We should be doing that. We should ramp it up a little bit. And then it gets ramped up a little bit more and then a little bit more. And then finally, you get one or two or three individuals that bring the dangerous stuff in.
They'll bring the alcohol, the binge drinking in. Hazing builds on itself. We, unfortunately, have learned that from our travels over the past couple of years. It only takes one or two people to bring down the whole organization, to ruin it for everybody-- in some cases, to ruin it for the whole system, the whole university. Ohio University suspended all of their Greek life and several other organizations recently because of hazing. But as I said, it only really takes one person to bring it all down.
In Max Gruver's case, the individual that was charged with negligent homicide was told a few days before by the other brothers, hey, you're being a little too hard on the pledges. You need to chill it. You need to cool it. You can't be so hard on them. But we're going to give you one more chance. Max Gruver was his one more chance.
So you need to stop. We know it goes on. There's a lot of different ways to haze. You need to think about the things that you're doing and think about whether they're hazing. And by all means, don't let it build up to the point where there's dangerous things going on.
EVEYLN PIAZZA: So there are both physical and psychological consequences to hazing. On the physical side, there are numerous cases of traumatic brain injuries due to beatings falls or alcohol poisoning due to forced drinking. And hazing can be exposed when a victim is hospitalized.
Also, you aren't generally taking a medical history of somebody before you haze them. You probably don't know about their prior medical conditions. They may not know about their medical conditions. And you don't know what medication they're on and how it will be affected by the method of hazing that you're doing.
On the psychological side, this is not usually reported, and the negative effects of hazing can be long-lasting. It can include depression, suicide, poor grades, withdrawal, and shame. And you don't know if something in somebody's past can make them highly susceptible to serious repercussions if they're hazed.
Hazing can have long-term damaging effects to a person's well-being and their future. You may not be able to hold down a job. Your memory may have suffered. You may have developed addictions. And as we know, hazing can kill.
JIM PIAZZA: So again, over the past couple of years, we've learned there's a psychology to all of this. The senior members in an organization feel like they have power and control over the new members, and the new members will do whatever they feel like they need to do to join an organization. And once they get bought in, especially, with the little h hazing, they're bought in, so now they will continue to do what you ask them to do.
So again, it's on you, because there is a psychology to it. You're putting these members under duress. In many cases, you're bullying them. You're abusing them. Hazing is just another word, in some cases, for abuse. It's more than just peer pressure. It shouldn't be that these individuals have to have this type of rite of passage.
It shouldn't be that this is what builds a brotherhood or a sisterhood. There are so many other things that can be done to build brotherhood and sisterhood. We've often found that it's a cycle of abuse. We've talked to a lot of people. Somebody that was abused later becomes the abuser. Because the view is, hey, it happened to me. I should be able to do it to somebody else, right? No. No, you shouldn't be able to do it to somebody else.
The fact of the matter is, we know-- and I'm disappointed, because this is Cornell University. But we know stuff goes on here. We know hazing goes on here. And again, for the most part, it happens all the time, but you get lucky. You get lucky, until something like what happened last weekend, happened to Antonio. And we don't know that it was hazing or not. But we get lucky.
Maybe you weren't informed. But now you're informed. We're telling you, things can go wrong. You don't wake up in the morning and say, hey, I'm going to kill somebody tonight. But you do wake up, often, and you plan out these activities, which can go bad and can kill somebody, as we know. So we're asking you, you're informed now.
From this day forward, you say no to hazing. You say no, we don't do that here. You put a stop to it. If you had plans to do something with new members, stop it. Change it. Figure out better ways to build your brotherhood. We talk about, it's everyone's problem, therefore it's everyone's responsibility. It's your responsibility. Because as I said, it just takes one or two people to bring down your whole organization.
Why would you let that happen? If you see something, you need to say something. If you see something going on in your house or your organization, you need to call it out and you need to put a stop to it. And maybe you need to get that person out of your organization. And if you have a pledge that says, hey, when do we get hazed-- because we know that happens, too-- maybe they're not the right person for your organization. You need to put a stop to it. It's your responsibility.
And if it's happening at another organization, again, you need to step up and report it. Because it could bring down the whole system, and that would reflect on everyone here. Hazing happens every day. We've been to a lot of college campuses. We know it goes on. You used to only hear about it when someone died. And even then, you didn't hear about all the deaths. But now you hear about it.
Now you hear about when hazing is going on and no one has died. As I said, Ohio University just shut down all of their Greek life and a number of other organizations because of hazing. At LSU, because of the Gruver's, 10 people were charged at the Deke fraternity, I think it is, at the Deke fraternity, with crimes for hazing. No one died, no one got substantially hurt, but they were charged with crimes. There's an awareness now.
So we're starting to see more and more of it. And that will continue, and that's the mission that we're on. And by the way, as we said, it's against the law. You'll see in a moment what the New York laws are. But we're working hard on laws throughout the country. So again, as of today, please say no. Please step up and do the right thing.
STEPHEN GRUVER: So we're going to talk to you a little bit about the laws as they pertain to hazing. And I don't want to threaten you with these laws. I want you to understand what they are. And as Jim said, we want these laws to empower you to do the right thing.
The ones you see in red are the states that have felony hazing laws. There's four up here that have no hazing laws whatsoever. We've created an organization called the AHC, the Anti-Hazing Coalition. And we partnered up with the NIC and the MPC to go state by state, to all the ones that don't have red, to create felony hazing laws.
We started in Louisiana after Max died. The law in Louisiana was a misdemeanor, up to 30 days in jail, and $100 fine. In Louisiana, they had a law on the books that, if you had more than three chickens in your property in a residential area, you're subject to fines of up to $500 and six months in jail. They have more value placed on the life and the worthiness of chickens than you did human life in Louisiana.
Well, that's changed drastically now. It's now a felony and with fines of up to $10,000. The Piazza's worked very hard, and Rich has worked very hard to get these laws changed in Pennsylvania as well, your neighboring state.
Here in New York, it's a misdemeanor. It's $1,000 fine and up to a year in jail. But I can tell you, we're coming here next. This is Rich's state. And we're going to create change here. And we would love your help. We attack the criminal code at the state level.
And then we are also working at the federal level, as well, to create laws with transparency, which your university does a wonderful job. And really, we just want every other university in the country to do what you do and have a page on their website that shows all the Student Code of Conduct violations for every organization on this campus, so that you have an informed decision, and you can do your due diligence and understand the track record of that group and give you an educated decision to join it.
Again, these laws are here to help empower you to stand up. And if you see something, say something. Do the right thing. This is a big one for doing the right thing. I think you heard a lot of a common theme here, that no one was calling 911 in our son's cases.
I'll tell you a story about a young man who went to Cal Poly back in 2008. He was in SAE. He was in a hazing event at his fraternity. And he was pretty much in the state of where our sons were-- visibly intoxicated, looked like he was in duress. Some of the brothers realized that, hey, he needs help. His name was Carson Starkey. So they thought they were doing the right thing.
They loaded Carson up in the car and they started driving to the hospital. But on the way to the hospital, a couple of them started talking. You know what? We've been drinking, too. When we get to the hospital, they're going to ask us a lot of questions. And we're not going to have good answers for them. We're going to go down for public intoxication, for underage drinking, for giving drinks to a minor.
So they decided turn around. They turned the car around, went back to the house. They laid Carson down on a mattress. Carson didn't wake up. It's a similar story to all the rest of our kids. Carson died from alcohol hazing.
His parents started in Texas and worked tirelessly. As you can see, most of these states are red. This law gives you limited immunity when it comes to calling and dialing 911, doing the right thing. You're not going to go down for drinking. You're not going to go down for drugs, if you do the right thing and you call 911. We ask you to call 911.
So before we got started here today, how many of you all knew that hazing was against the law? Good, a good number of you. How many in this room believe that hazing is a good thing? Not a hand. I have another question for you. Is drinking and driving against the law? Show of hands, we all know that, right? Who thinks drinking and driving's a good thing? Again, not a hand goes up.
But we all know that there's still a lot of people-- maybe not in this room, but in this country-- that are drinking and driving on a daily basis. So why are they doing it? Why are people still hazing? When no one in this room raises their hand and says that hazing is a good thing, why are we still doing it? There is one or two people, maybe three or four. There's a few people in here that wanted to raise their hand and didn't.
They're the cowards. You should feel empowered to stand up against them. You are in the majority. Those folks that get behind the wheel and drink and drive, they do it because they believe they're in control. They believe that they can do it. I can make it home. I'm OK. I'm not doing anything wrong. I'm in control.
And I promise you that the Phi Delta Thetas, the morning that my son died, believed they had their hazing under control. We're here to tell you, they didn't have their hazing under control. And anyone in this room that is hazing and you believe you have it under control, you don't have it under control. You can't control it. You don't know who that person is that didn't raise their hand. But behind closed doors, you do.
In 2017, Max died. We thought the first death in 2017 was Tim. And we met the Piazzas very soon after Max passed away. And the first thing I said to Jim was, Jim, you know, while I'm full of piss and vinegar, I'm going to make sure this doesn't happen to another kid. I'm going to make it my life, my challenge, to go out and talk to everyone and make sure no other family goes through this pain.
And Jim looked at me. A tear runs down his cheek, and he says, Steve, I just wanted to make it through 2017 without another death. Seven deaths in 2017, we have five deaths in 2018. It's escalating. It's on the rise. Everyone believes they have it under control.
We also live in a world where there's social media, and we have people looking at hazing going on across the country at other universities. We talked about how it escalates. It's all about one upmanship. I can outdo that last guy. The hazed becomes the hazer, and they want to outperform. It's out of control. It's getting worse. You'll see from the next slide just how bad it's been.
EVEYLN PIAZZA: So this is a partial list of some recent deaths. And I just want you to notice how many times alcohol is highlighted in red. It seems that hard alcohol is the tool of choice in college hazing. And it has to stop. It's killing people. And we know that there's a procedure called backpacking that people will do if they think somebody's had too much to drink.
And for those of you who don't know what backpacking is, it's when you fill a backpack with heavy books, put it on a person's back so they can't roll over on their back and choke on their own vomit. The problem is, it doesn't work. Don't do it. Because at a certain level of intoxication-- alcohol poisoning, and it's called poisoning for a reason. And it's not hard to get to.
At that level, the whole body shuts down. All your reflexes shut down. So the vomit comes up, but it's not propelled out of the body. So whether you're on your back or your side or your stomach, you will breathe it back in, essentially drowning in your own vomit, like Max Gruver, like Andrew Coffee, like Nolan Birch, like Dalton Deibricht, time and time again. It's got to stop.
And by the way today, today is the anniversary of David Bogenberger's death. So it's just really sad to look at this list. And we know a lot of these people now. We know a lot of these parents. And as one of our friend says, we don't want to meet your parents. Don't put your name or anybody else's name on this list.
RICH BRAHAM: How many of you know who this is? Not a lot of hands-- I mean, a number, but not the majority. This is George Desdunes. George was one of you. In 2011, he was a sophomore here at Cornell-- premed track, brilliant, stunningly handsome. And he was hazed to death.
This is George's mom. Her name is Marie Andre. George was her only child. She raised George by herself after her husband died when George was just a baby. She put her heart and her soul into her son, and got him to this Ivy League institution, this prestigious institution.
Then, for the hazing ritual-- he was in SAE by the way-- was to kidnap a big brother. So George was tied to a chair, bound at the hands, and it was a drinking guessing game. And if you guessed wrong, you had to have a drink. Well, you guess a few wrong, after a while, you're not thinking so good. And then he kept on having drinks. And then he passed out in the chair.
And what those brothers did, in panic, in fear, was not to call 911. They knew something was wrong, but they were afraid of getting in trouble, getting the organization into trouble. So they took George, brought him back to his dorm room, put him in bed, where the life in George drifted away.
George could have been saved, if they dialed 911. For those of you who are in Greek life, your creeds, I think for every major Greek organization, says you build better men and women. That's not what better men and women do. Terrible people do that.
This is an Ivy League institution. You guys are literally the best and the brightest. But are you the kindest? Are you the most decent? Do you actually care about other people? Only you can answer that. But that cuts to who a human being really is. It's not about grades. It's not about what you do after graduation.
We're here to make sure that all of you get to graduate, and, again, that all of your families get to celebrate you. Think about Marie, who now has no child. She'll have no grandchildren, nothing to pass on. Like we have said, our lives are shattered. Her life is shattered. Nothing can bring George back. Can we please get the plaque? Thank you.
This plaque, dedicated to George, was dedicated last September, 2018, and hangs above the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life. So for every Greek president of every Greek organization on campus, they have to pass by George to get into the Greek Life office. Remember him. His mother had hopes and dreams for him for success, just like your parents have for you, and just like the parents of the other kids next to you, on your right, on your left, and outside of these doors. Their parents have dreams for their kids, too.
So what gives you the right, what gives you the right to harm someone else's child, to humiliate them, to put your hands on them, to force them to drink, to pummel them, to beat the crap out of them? Who gives you the right to do that? It's not a better man or woman that does that. But you get to choose who you are. We get to choose to be on this stage speaking to you, letting you know who we who. Who are you?
JIM PIAZZA: So let's talk about what life is like now. A lot of people say, gee, you have a new normal. I can tell you, there is really nothing normal about any one of our lives right now. I'm not supposed to know these folks. I love them, but for all the wrong reasons. I'm not supposed to be here talking to you guys. It's not normal.
The life that we're leading is not normal. Running around the country talking to students at universities, not normal for me. When we have holidays-- basically, we have to leave on the holidays. We can't stay at home. There's empty chairs at the table. Mother's Day and Father's Day, I know, for me, I'll go to the cemetery and talk to Tim like he's there.
Birthdays, graduations, seeing some of his friends getting married and whatnot, it's painful. It's just painful. It's not normal. Our whole lives have really changed. We have a new calling, but it's not what we want to do. It's not what we should be doing. And it's not just us. It's our extended family. They have a big gap in their life. The aunts and uncles, the cousins, they lost somebody that was so important to them.
My other son, he lost his only brother, his best man, his best friend. We don't even know what's going on in his mind. We know what we feel. But he saw Tim the first time out of anybody. He saw how bad it was. We don't know what's going through his head. And all of the siblings have to deal with this missing sibling of theirs.
And then there's the friends. I know a number of Tim's friends had to go to therapy. They can't understand how something like this could happen to someone like Tim. Tim was much more comfortable playing video games in the basement with his girlfriend sitting next to him watching then going to parties in high school. All three of our kids seemed to be similar, in that they were happy-go-lucky, loved to make people laugh.
If you didn't love Marquise, you didn't know him. These were good, good kids. And personally, for me, I mean, I miss doing things. We have a house at the Jersey Shore. One of the things I looked forward to all the time was throwing the football with Tim on the beach, because he enjoyed it. And I really enjoyed it. And once in a while, if there was a pretty girl walking by, I'd throw the ball near her so Tim would have to go get it by her, and he would get mad at me.
I don't get to do that anymore. But that was something I enjoyed. And then he was getting into golf, and I'm a golfer. And he used to get so mad. He was a much bigger guy than me, but I could hit the ball further than him. And I would bust his chops, and he would get all angry. And he would swing really hard and he'd hit the ball all over the place. And I'd bust his chops even more. I miss that. I don't get to do that, and these folks have the same issue.
And then obviously, there's the girlfriend, too. They're like widows without the title. They go through tremendous pain. And then what about the individuals, the perpetrators, the hazers? Well, first, many of them have criminal records now. That will be with them for the rest of their life. Hopefully, that's enough to make you say, gee, you know, maybe I shouldn't be doing this.
And then there's the financial aspect of it. We've been to court over 10 times already. And every time we go to court, all of the attorneys and all of the individuals are in court with us. And those attorneys have to prep for those court appearances. And they have to write briefs. And they're not short. They're long. They're spending substantial amounts of money.
Their parents are tapping into their retirement funds to pay for attorneys. If that doesn't make you nauseous and sick to your stomach, I don't know what would. We think that, already-- and there's still trials to be had for some of our guys. We think already they've spent over $250,000 in attorney's fees. That should turn your stomach. You shouldn't do that to your family, to your parents, spending their retirement money.
And then of course there's their career. I work at a large professional services firm. We hire a lot of people from this school. I can guarantee you, if you have a criminal record, and even if you're charged with a crime, we're probably not going to hire you. Because it's such a competitive world out there. We get great resumes all the time. And if two of them look alike and one of them has a criminal record or there's criminal charges all over the internet when we do the background checks-- and we background check everyone-- we're not going to hire you.
My god, you guys are at Cornell University. You have the world at your feet. You guys are going to make a difference in the world. Why would you put it in jeopardy for a night of what you believe to be fun, to put somebody through this new member orientation, which you now know really doesn't make sense and it puts people in harm's way? So think about that. Don't do that to yourselves. Our lives are ruined in many respects. Don't do it to yourself.
RAE ANN GRUVER: So what can you all do here at Cornell to change the hazing culture? And it really starts with all of you being leaders. All of you need to take action. And taking action takes courage. And it's not always easy or the most popular thing to do. Speaking up will not be the easy choice, but it will always be the right choice. And you may be saving someone's life.
You have to say no to hazing. In Max's case, witnesses noted that the hazing was getting out of control. But they didn't do enough to stop it. In Tim's case, three fraternity members also recognized that Tim was in danger and needed to get some help. In both cases, valid concerns about Tim and Max were ignored. They were overruled by the hazers who were leading those hazing events. So please, let me reiterate to you guys-- speaking up will not be the easy choice, but it will be the right choice. And it may be saving someone's life.
If something doesn't look right to you or feel right to you, you know it's probably not right. You have to go with your gut. Take action. Get help. Just because it happened to you-- we can't reiterate this enough. Just because it happened to you does not mean you need to do it to the next group of new members. You guys can all break the cycle. You just have to say, no, we are not doing this again.
You need to report it. If you see an incidence of hazing or you hear about it, please report it. You guys have many avenues here at Cornell, and I heard you guys are really good at reporting stuff. Continue that. You can do it through your website. You can call your Greek Life director. You can call your dean of Student Affairs. Call your chapter advisors. Call us. But call somebody and get help before something gets out of control. You have to say no to hazing.
And again, if someone is in immediate danger or in distress, please call 911. Do not be a bystander. Do not wait for help. Don't play Russian roulette with someone else's life. And the tone from the top of all of your organizations is absolutely critical. You must set the tone, that hazing will not be tolerated and has no room in your organization.
During Max's trial, it was explained over and over again that there was an official formal calendar and a non-formal calendar. And pledges were told, you didn't have to do anything on that non-formal calendar. But pledge after pledge and brother after brother that testified on that stand-- and it was over 30 young men-- they all said that they knew that it was expected to them to go to all of those non-hazing events. And if they didn't show up to them, they were either going to be cut or scared that it might be worse the next time that the hazing event happened.
Just because your organization tells these pledges or new members that it's not mandatory does not make it OK. It is still against the practices of your organization. It is still hazing. It is still against the law. And again, a pledge's willingness to participate does not matter. It can not be used as a defense.
And if you have alumni that are encouraging hazing in your chapters, you need to report them also, either to your Greek Life or to your national organization. Your alumni should be your mentors. They should be helping you become better young men and women. And again, hazing is absolutely unnecessary for any one of your organizations to be strong.
We're going to challenge you here at Cornell. What can you do to change the hazing culture that exists? What can you do that will encourage true brotherhood and true sisterhood? What can you do instead of hazing? You guys don't haze 12 months out of the year. You have a season that you haze-- your new member period, your pledge period, whatever you want to call it.
What are you doing those other times that makes you guys strong and makes you guys bonded to each other? There's a lot of things you do. Because again, you're not hazing 12 months out of the year with each other. And what can you do to be leaders and make your chapter an example to all the other organizations on your campus.
And to be honest, I think you're IFC and your Panhellenic has done a fabulous job just this past week and showing you what leaders can be like. It's very admirable that your IFC president put his foot down and said there was going to be no activities right now after everything that happened with Antonio. And from what I heard last night, Panhellenic right now, until things change and things get better, I believe there's going to be no mixers and socials between a bunch of you.
So you know what? Kudos to you guys. Make a difference. Make it happen. Because it's all up to you guys to change your culture that's here, and you guys can do it. You absolutely can. And this is what it's all about. And this is what Cornell, your campus, your organizations, your community, should be all about. And it's about caring enough to educate yourself and your members on what's right and what's wrong.
It's caring enough to make sure that those around you are making safe decisions. You care enough about each other that you remove others from harm's way. You care enough about others that you don't have to demean them or demoralize them or ridicule them. You care enough to report when someone else is not caring. You care enough to live the values you have committed to in your organizations.
All of your organizations have an oath or creeds or mottos that you abide by. I'm in AD Pi. We live for each other. We believe at Alpha Delta Pi. Phi Delts, you guys have the three pillars of friendship, learning, and morality. Alpha Gamma Rho, you're making better men. Lambda Chi, an ethical life of growth service and leadership. KD, let us strive for that which is honorable, beautiful, and highest.
If you are living by these oaths and creeds and mottos, where does hazing fit in any of these words? The fact is, I think we all know they don't. Hazing does not fit if you are living by these oaths and these creeds that you say every week at your chapters and to each other and on your social media websites.
I'm going to share with you guys something that we found in one of Max's journals the night before we buried him. It was from a paper he wrote on blessings when he was just 16 years old. And the last paragraph ended like this. "God works in funny ways. He does bad things sometimes, because in the end they are good. Something bad can happen to you, but it may happen because it will make you better. He does bad to ultimately create good."
Our sons were no different than you all. They went away to college. They wanted to find a home away from home. They wanted a brother when they couldn't be with their brother. They wanted a family when they couldn't be with us. They just wanted to feel safe.
So please, take these words of Max's back to your chapters and across your campus, and put an end to hazing. Make something good out is something that's been so horribly bad for our families. Make this change happen.
EVEYLN PIAZZA: So when Tim was in high school in his junior year, his teacher for one of his classes had everybody write themselves a letter. And he was going to send it back to them in five years. Sadly, Tim did not live long enough to see that day. But his teacher came to Tim's wake.
And he left us a manila envelope in the back of the church. And when we opened it up, we were shocked to see Tim's handwriting, and then to see what he wrote himself. And it was beautiful. But it was painful because he wasn't here to read it for himself. And it was so deep.
And he told himself, don't sweat the small stuff. Relax a little and enjoy life. Find happiness. Not everything's on a silver platter. You need to find what makes you happy. Contact your old friends. Contact family more. I don't know how long any of us will be around, but cherish everyone. Cherish everyone. Everyone is important. Everyone is worthy of being treated like they matter. It is not hard to be kind.
RAE ANN GRUVER: So thank you everybody for your time today. We've distributed, when you guys leave, Love Marquise, Fly High Max, Live Like Tim wristbands. And we ask that you guys all wear them proudly. And please remember the three young men that they represent and the meaning behind them. Our sons died because of hazing. Making this hazing culture change will save lives. And it may be your own.
You can contact us at the information behind me right here. You can reach us through our social media websites, our emails, the boys' foundations. But we all really wish all of you so much success in this world. You guys all have so much to look forward to. So stay true to yourself and to your values. And please, please keep each other safe. Thank you so much.
KARA MILLER MCCARTY: I am so grateful for your message today. And everyone, please hear me say, I'm committed to making our community safer. I am in the fifth floor of Willard Straight Hall with a team of six people who would love to talk to you about what that looks like.
I really value your time here. If you are continuing for the rest of the Andrew Dickson White conference, we will proceed to the Statler Ballroom for lunch. Our guests will join us. And then there will be two educational programs, one of which will be about unpacking and debrief today's session.
There will be programs on your chairs. We're asking five people from each chapter to be there. Please use us as a resource. Please think about how we can care for others. Thank you for being with us today.
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Parents of Tim Piazza, Max Gruver and Marquise Braham, who tragically lost their lives to fraternity hazing, share their stories in an effort to end hazing in any student organization. The discussion was part of the A.D. White Annual Summit for Sororities & Fraternities on Nov. 2, 2019.