Mothers who lost sons to hazing make stop at MU

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COLUMBIA – Two mothers who lost their sons to hazing made stop at the University of Missouri Wednesday night to share their personal memoirs and discuss the dangers of hazing.

The mothers of Timothy Piazza and Max Gruver, two students killed in separate hazing incidents, are traveling around the country, sharing their stories in hopes of preventing such incidents from happening in the future.   

Both women said they hope their presentation helps change the culture around fraternity and sorority life. Evelyn Piazza said it's time the mindset changes. She said hazing should not be tolerated on any campus.

"You are choosing them to be your brother or sister. You should be treating them like your blood brother or sister," she said.

Rae Ann Gruver said a "minimum" amount of hazing should not be overlooked. She said all hazing should be banned.

"It starts off small and you never know if it's going to get bigger," she said. "It may start off with khaki shorts and a polo shirt and some people may call that minor hazing, but that's exactly how Max's started, it started with khaki pants and a polo shirt and he died from being forced to drink 190 proof alcohol three weeks later."

The presentation comes just a few weeks after a Pennsylvania court ruled the former house manager of Penn State University's now-banned Beta Theta Pi chapter was guilty of intentionally concealing evidence from a police investigation. 

“You cannot exactly understand all the emotion that comes behind it," MU IFC President Matt Eblen said. "And hearing from parents directly who have lost their sons in these types of incidents really puts a face and emotion behind all of these stories you hear.”

Eblen and other fraternity and sorority executive board members previously heard the two mothers speak at a national conference. He said this gave them the idea to bring the mothers to campus to help eliminate hazing at MU.

“I think it can really be one more step in eradicating the problem through campus,” he said. “This may not have happened on our campus, but we need to make sure that it doesn't happen on this campus.”

Eblen said this is only one of many steps the university has taken to help eliminate hazing on campus, including a variety of policy changes. He said he hopes hosting such presentations will also show parents that the university is taking proactive steps to prevent hazing incidents.

“When you are sending your student off to college for the first time it is a very emotional experience,” he said. “Making sure they know the university and Greek life as a whole is taking active steps to make sure that their son or daughter is going to be safe while joining a Greek organization could calm some of the nerves.”

The Office of Fraternity and Sorority life estimated around 5,000 students attended the event.

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