The Penn State University campus pictured on Nov. 8, 2011 in University Park, Pennsylvania.
Rob Carr/Getty Images
By Katie Reilly
October 23, 2019

Pennsylvania State University has suspended its Chi Phi fraternity chapter after a 17-year-old died Saturday at an off-campus house allegedly occupied by fraternity members, the school said.

State College police responded to a medical emergency at the house—which was not the fraternity’s official house—around 9:30 p.m. Saturday after receiving a report about a 17-year-old boy “who had become unconscious and was experiencing shallow breathing,” according to a police report. Police found the victim in full cardiac arrest and were not able to resuscitate him. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

The Centre County Coroner’s Office identified the 17-year-old as John “Jack” Schoenig, who, according to local news reports, was a senior and hockey player at Cathedral Preparatory high school in Erie, Pa.

“There were no signs of trauma on the victim and several witnesses were present when the victim became unconscious,” the police report stated. The results of an autopsy are still pending.

Penn State confirmed the teenager was not a student at the university, but did not release further information about his visit to the university or his connection to the fraternity. “Penn State offers deepest sympathies to the family and friends of this young man,” the university said in a statement Tuesday.

The incident comes two years after the hazing death of 19-year-old Penn State sophomore and fraternity pledge Tim Piazza made the school a focal point in a national conversation about fraternity misconduct, sparking calls to bring lasting change or to dismantle the Greek system entirely.

In 2017, Penn State announced a set of reforms aimed at preventing hazing and curbing heavy drinking within Greek life. They were unveiled four months after Piazza’s death in an alleged Beta Theta Pi hazing ritual in which he was forced to drink a toxic amount of alcohol and then sustained traumatic injuries in a fall down a flight of stairs, according to a grand jury report. The university implemented a zero-tolerance hazing policy, shortened the pledging process, and ended the system of Greek disciplinary self-governance, touting the new plan as “unprecedented in its scope.”

A December 2017 grand jury report related to the Piazza case accused Penn State of turning a blind eye to drinking culture and fraternity problems, but the university has emphasized that alcohol abuse and hazing are problems at universities across the country.

In January, Penn State President Eric Barron touted “encouraging” signs of progress, reporting that the number of criminal cases at fraternities and the number of alcohol-related hospital visits by students had fallen since the reforms were implemented. “Penn State remains steadfast in its commitment to transforming the Greek-letter community,” he said in a statement.

In February, Piazza’s parents reached a confidential out-of-court settlement with the university that included an agreement to improve safety and accountability within Greek life, according to a press release from Tom Kline, an attorney who represents the Piazzas.

Kline tells TIME it’s too soon to draw conclusions about what led to Schoenig’s death — and there is no evidence that it was linked to hazing. But he says it’s a sign that “there is a lot of work to be done, not only at Penn State, but on American college campuses” when it comes to addressing dangerous fraternity behavior.

“We are dealing—and Penn State has been dealing—with an enormous cultural problem embedded in the perpetuation of risky behavior which is associated with Greek life,” Kline says. “It’s encouraging that Penn State immediately suspended the fraternity, rather than waiting.”

The Chi Phi fraternity chapter will remain on an interim suspension—prohibited from attending or planning events as an organization—while police and university officials investigate Schoenig’s death, Penn State said.

Write to Katie Reilly at Katie.Reilly@time.com.

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