This week, Attorney David Bianchi participated in a discussion on WGN Radio’s Legal Face-Off, a podcast that focuses on unique and controversial legal issues. In this week’s episode, hosts Rich Lenkov and Christina Martini turned to David for his expertise on dangerous hazing practices throughout the nation.
Attorney Bianchi was joined by Jonathan Zimmerman, a professor from the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School to discuss the persistent problem of deadly hazing incidents at colleges throughout the nation. Both agreed the problem remains out of control despite laws and litigation meant to prevent it.
What Attorney David Bianchi Discussed on WGN Chicago
The podcast’s focus was on a New York Times article about Antonio Tsialas, a freshman at Cornell University who died after attending an illegal and unauthorized hazing event at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity.
Attorney Bianchi was able to reach a settlement with Cornell for Antonio’s fraternity hazing and wrongful death. As a part of the settlement, Cornell agreed to create a perpetual scholarship in Antonio’s name and to establish an annual anti-hazing program for the University’s Greek community that will be named after Antonio each year.
While the civil case has been resolved, details about how and why Antonio died remain a mystery. What is known is that Antonio Tsialas was found at the bottom of a gorge with injuries that the Medical Examiner determined were “consistent with a fall from a height.” Antonio had an elevated blood alcohol reading as a result of the hazing he was subjected to and, strangely, the white shirt he had been wearing under his dark sweatshirt when he was hazed was found in a tree over the side of the gorge well above where his body was found with the imprint of a sneaker and vomit on it. The sweatshirt, however, was still on his body.
Despite nearly 100 people being at the Phi Kappa Psi house the night of Antonio’s death, no one has come forward with information about what happened to him. Each person claims that they know nothing.
Over a year after Antonio’s body was found, the chief of the Cornell Police Department announced that he was closing the case. No one was charged with a crime, no students were expelled from the university for organizing and hosting the hazing event, and Antonio’s parents still have no answers for what happened to their son.
“I’m just a mother wanting to know what happened to her son,” Antonio’s mother, Flavia Tomasello, told The New York Times. “We don’t care about anything else other than knowing what happened to Antonio so that it does not happen again.”
Universities & Fraternities Aren’t Doing Enough to Stop Hazing
On Legal Face-Off, Attorney Bianchi argued that not enough is being done by universities to stop dangerous hazing practices.
“The national fraternities know about these hazing events, the universities know about them, but they just don’t care. They just don’t do enough to stop them.” Bianchi told Rich Lenkov. “I’ve been on these cases for literally decades, and it’s now very clear to me, despite all the new laws and all of the efforts, that none of them work.”
When asked how hazing deaths can be stopped in a system that allows them to thrive despite laws that should prevent them, Bianchi suggests that—if they’re serious about saving the lives of students—it’s time for schools to adopt zero-tolerance policies.
Attorney Bianchi asserts that the time has come to implement university rules that unequivocally state that if there is any act of hazing at a fraternity chapter every chapter officer will be immediately from the school with no questions asked, even if the officer was not present at the time the hazing event took place.
“It is the only way these things are going to stop. It may seem harsh, but it is necessary. I guarantee you that if we did this, hazing deaths would slow to a trickle,” Bianchi commented.
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