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Jim Piazza: Universities must stop fraternity hazing

Should fraternities be abolished? This is a question I have often asked myself in the 15 months since my son Tim died at the hands of his future fraternity “brothers” in an out-of-control, alcohol-infused hazing event at Pennsylvania State University.

My initial reaction: Yes, they should all be gone.

Tim Piazza, Penn State hazing victim.

However, as time has passed and I’ve thought about it more, I now realize this is not a question I can or should answer. It is a question fraternities must answer for themselves.

One thing I can say for sure, after 15 months of learning about fraternities, is that we need to see significant reform of the Greek system in this country. Many of the leaders of the national fraternities and sororities that I have met with and spoken to agree that we are at a critical juncture when it comes to keeping our students safe.

Fraternity misconduct, hazing, sexual assault and student deaths have become national news and the topic of conversation at the family dinner table.

Our son’s face, and the faces of other young men whose lives were lost to a similar fate, are recognizable ... for all the wrong reasons. We need reform. What happened in 2017 must never happen again.

First, universities need to take ownership and exercise more control over what goes on at fraternities. They can no longer allow student self-governance, nor can they claim that fraternities are private organizations that they cannot govern. We now know that is not true, as is evidenced by what happened to my son at Penn State. I give credit to Eric Barron, the president of Penn State, for taking this issue on at Penn State and nationally. He has made significant changes to Greek life policies and oversight at Penn State and has also assembled presidents of other large universities to address the problems. There is still much to do, but someone needed to step up and he did. Others need to follow.

Ultimately, universities need to take responsibility for reform. They promise parents a safe learning environment for their children and by allowing Greek organizations to run out of control, they are failing to keep that promise. Our children deserve better.

However, universities cannot do it alone. They need the help of national fraternities, whose job it is to oversee campus chapters. The national fraternities need to cooperate with the universities and provide greater oversight and education to their local chapters. They cannot allow them to sensationalize and promote the party scene. That’s not what brotherhood is about. They need to promote the real benefits of a fraternal environment, such as networking. The national fraternities need to institute rules, policies, and procedures that will eliminate unsafe behavior. Then they need to monitor and strictly enforce them. If the chapters want the privilege of the national affiliation and the use of the national letters, they must play by the rules or go away.

Finally, the legal system also has a critical role in this reform. Hazing, sexual-assault and drinking laws throughout the country need to be stiffened and should be a meaningful deterrent to individuals engaging in this criminal and unsafe behavior. One such law is the proposed Timothy J. Piazza Anti-Hazing Law in Pennsylvania. Prosecutors need to understand the laws, take them seriously, and not be afraid to prosecute offenders (a special thanks to Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, who is such a prosecutor). Judges and juries must also be willing to hold the offenders accountable and not let them walk away with a slap on the wrist. This reckless behavior will continue if there are no meaningful consequences. We also need laws that promote greater transparency of which fraternities violate the rules, so parents and students can make better-educated decisions about joining these organizations.

What happened to Tim should never have happened. It was planned and orchestrated alcohol-infused chaos, which had been going on for years without adequate oversight. I have come to learn that I am a member of an unenviable club of parents who lost children to fraternity hazing. Sadly, our club has way more members than I would have ever imagined, and even more disheartening is that our membership grew after Tim’s death. I suspect that there are more members than we even know about. The public only hears when someone dies from one of these situations, but over the last 15 months I have learned of countless situations where trusting students are severely hurt or have near-death experiences from hazing or are sexually assaulted and no one outside the “brotherhood” ever knows. Those victims are nameless and faceless.

Should fraternities be abolished? That’s not my call — but I am interested to see how the universities, national fraternities, lawmakers, and the criminal justice system respond. I cannot imagine any one of them is a proponent of children dying. Now is the time to stand up and show it.

Elizabeth Swift: Beware the real drug pushers

Beware the real drug pushers

If your car mechanic poured salt into your fuel tank, would you return for advice?

Many patients demand synthetic chemicals to mask pain and then wonder why they don’t genuinely heal. The Bible notes that in the last days, “repented not of their sorceries” (same root word for pharmacy).

While pregnant in 1992, I had an allergic reaction to penicillin. I can’t help but wonder if that episode links to my son’s specialness (celiac, casein allergic, colic). We try herbs, vitamins, minerals and nutritional remedies. If faced with chronic pain, I’d move to Colorado.

I know a bipolar woman who, after her first suicide attempt, has acted as the guinea pig for the drug pushers 55 years. If the medical devils had any healing powers, you’d think they’d cure her by now.

Heart-wrenching, I find it particularly ironic when a troubled person intentionally overdoses on drugs for suicide. Rather than admit any wrongdoing related to the hallucinogenic, addictive poisons, the allopathic industry will conclude, “See, we knew she suffered depression.” Wow, seriously?

I have relatives who have lost their dignity, jobs, money, kids, marriage, mind and life due to prescriptions.

Yet I’m the “kook” who doesn’t vaccinate, refuses any type of prescription, won’t sign up for socialist health insurance and dares to call prescriptions the “gateway drugs.”

I’m extremely grateful for my head-to-toe hives that prompted me to leave the herd.

I’d encourage you to pray, read and make informed choices for you and your own children.

Elizabeth Swift, La Crosse

Assisted suicide shouldn’t be



ln the May 4 edition of the La Crosse Tribune, a columnist voiced his opinion on the advantage of debating assisted suicide.

Such a debate could facilitate that opinion being voted into law, depending upon people’s interest. Oregon and other states, for example, have voted in its favor.

The history of our country is based upon our founders’ belief in the Judeo-Christian teaching of God as the supreme being, a belief that prevails today (whether people practice it or not).

Thousands of years have not erased the meaning of the Ten Commandments God presented to Moses, the fifth of which declares: “Thou shall not kill.”

ls compassion the dominant reason for agreeing with assisted suicide, or might other motives be in play? As in the case of abortion, when a child is considered an inconvenience, the same slippery slope may apply to those in our culture who are sick, elderly or cognitively impaired, and therefore considered a burden on society. Who would be the “concerned” individual to legislate for ending such a person’s life?

My father was an old-school general practitioner. He did not abort babies, he delivered them. I doubt that any patient ever asked him to aid in their suicide, but if they did, he would have responded with compassion, reason, common sense and a definite no.

Death will come to us all. May we be kind, loving, listening, alleviating pain as much as possible to those who face it, yet remember that God is in charge of life, from conception to its natural end.

“Thou shall not kill.” — God.

Therese Skemp, La Crosse

Remove ‘Hiawatha’ statue immediately

I am in full support of removing the “Hiawatha” statue as soon as possible.

I anchor my support in my Unitarian Universalist faith, which compels us to promote justice, equity and compassion in human relations.

This statue is deeply offensive. It does not represent the Ho-Chunk Nation, which wants it removed because it is an insult to their people. Their wishes should be the primary consideration regarding the future of this statue.

For centuries, whites have used the image of the “Indian” to symbolize meanings over which indigenous people had no control. The statue is part of this ugly history, created by one more white man who projected his own ideas on a white-created symbol of indigenous people.

Those favoring the statue hold up the good intentions of its creator. For centuries, whites have wounded Native people through “good intentions.” These good intentions led to forced relocation onto reserves, mass epidemics, residential schools, cultural genocide and forced poverty. We must rightfully prioritize impact over intentions.

Others argue that the statue is a part of La Crosse’s history; a reframing of its meaning could be added at the present location. This option is not supported by the Ho-Chunk Nation. The damage of keeping the statue where it is outweighs any attempt to reduce its harmfulness by retroactively reframing its meaning.

La Crosse needs to do the right and moral thing. Remove the statue immediately and provide funding to the Ho-Chunk Nation to dispose of it as it sees fit.

Rev. Krista Taves, La Crosse

Tom Still: Foxconn is planting deep roots in Wisconsin

MADISON, Wis. – Even before the Foxconn Technology Group begins moving dirt for the construction of its mammoth Racine County plant, the company is sinking deeper roots into Wisconsin’s economic development soil.


The company announced 28 subcontractors and suppliers for the town of Mount Pleasant project May 7, and all but one of those companies is based in Wisconsin. The only non-Wisconsin firm is a trucking company in Rockford, Ill., just across the border.

Those contractors and suppliers will tackle about $100 million worth of work in the opening phase of the Foxconn project and draw their workers, directly and indirectly, from 60 of Wisconsin’s 72 counties – in cities such as Black River Falls in the west, Marathon in central Wisconsin, Neenah and Seymour in the Fox Valley, and across southeast Wisconsin.

Those companies will work with general contractors M+W and Gilbane as the Racine County project, projected to be the size of 11 Lambeau Fields, embarks on what is likely to be a four-year buildout.

A second announcement came Thursday when Foxconn’s director of U.S. Strategic Initiatives, Alan Yeung, stood alongside representatives of Wisconsin’s public universities, private colleges, technical colleges and other partners to announce a $1-million initiative that promises to pay benefits long after the construction work is done.

Yeung, a UW-Madison chemical engineering graduate who coordinates Foxconn’s efforts in Wisconsin, said the company will work with higher education and others on a “Smart Cities, Smart Future” initiative – basically an “ideas competition” to engage students and faculty statewide.

The goal is to tease out ways to harness technology and other disciplines to enhance quality of life and workplaces; inspire attractive streetscapes, transportation systems and living spaces; and promote sustainable economic growth. Details aren’t yet fleshed out, but Yeung told a Kenosha crowd the initiative is all about ideas, communities and talent retention.

“We’re doing this because we want to seek the best new ideas for developing smart, connected cities and systems across Wisconsin,” Yeung said. “We want to help build communities across Wisconsin. If you live in La Crosse, Eau Claire or Green Bay, your concept or ideas of a ‘smart’ city or a ‘smart’ community may not be the same as those if you live in Milwaukee, Madison, Racine or Kenosha. We want to learn from those ideas.”

He noted it’s not a competition for “technical geeks alone,” but for the liberal arts students, staff and faculty who still make up the bulk of most colleges and universities. “Writers, digital creative artists and musicians are welcome, too,” he said.

Anticipated categories include Smart Building, Smart Citizens, Smart Energy, Smart Governance, Smart Healthcare, Smart Infrastructure, Smart Mobility and Smart Technology. Along with its partners, Foxconn is still designing the contest and essentially changing tires on a moving car.

It turns out that car may be a flying car.

“We are now talking about connected and autonomous vehicles and highways … self-flying drones,” Yeung said. “Soon, I can guarantee you, we will not only be talking, but riding, in flying cars.”

The emerging picture is of a company that won’t be content to make televisions and other current-tech electronics in Racine. As the 27th largest company in the world, it will use its Wisconsin foothold to invest more in research and development of cloud computing, the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, robotics and automation.

While some Wisconsin companies occasionally choose to criticize state universities for not doing enough to produce the workers they need or question their educational priorities, Foxconn – a newcomer to Wisconsin that was initially drawn by its people, their collective work ethic and its education system – has elected to partner with higher education and others around some lofty goals.

The car may be not flying yet, but tapping into the collective ingenuity of 350,000 students, staff and faculty will help get that and more ideas off the ground.