Stop the craze, stop the haze

A disastrous trend taking place at universities across the nation is hazing, which has been associated with a multitude of injuries and deaths over the last two centuries. Hazing is occurring at university fraternities when underclassmen, who are new to campus, don’t have the experience to say no and stand up to their older fraternity brothers, who pressure them to do unreasonable acts to themselves and to others. College administrators and local police are failing to meet these social norms because they cannot keep students safe.

As someone who plans to attend Michigan State in the fall, not only does this topic speak to me on a personal level, but it’s something that I hope does not affect my social life.
Although as an incoming freshman I will not be pledging because I am playing baseball, I hope that any friend I meet who thinks about pledging is not at risk of injury. On March 3 this year, a 21-year-old student at Michigan State was found “unresponsive” at 2 a.m. This student was fed alcohol at an unsafe rate, and died the morning he was found. This problem of hazing needs to be solved immediately, as I do not want to worry about the safety and security of close friends over my tenure at Michigan State.
The national database of hazing-related deaths, compiled by professor Hank Nuwer of Franklin College reports that “since 1969 there have been more than 200 fatalities at colleges and universities with an average of 4.9 deaths per year between 2008 and 2018.”
Many deaths are alcohol or drug related with alcohol poisoning as the leading cause of deaths. Deadly injuries happen after binge drinking during hazing rituals or as part of drinking “games” as these youths are being forced to drink in order to join their prospective fraternities. “Attorneys filed lawsuits against a Bloomsburg University Kappa Sigma fraternity and 36 of their members in a 2019 death of Justin King” who was fed a large amount of alcohol and then fell down a 75 foot drop and died. He suffered lung, brain and liver damage.
Other students across different universities were forced to do a variety of harmful things during their fraternity initiation, usually while intoxicated, including: consume cocaine, forced to drink urine, forced to urinate in public, blindfolded as an unknown substance was sprayed into their mouths, jump off a high bridge into water with unknown depth, run naked through campus, kept without sleep for multiple days, getting beaten, and forced to steal things.
According to the New York Times on February 27, 2021, at Virginia Commonwealth University, Adam Oakes was found dead after being blindfolded and force fed alcohol at a fraternity event. He likely felt the peer pressure to do exactly what his pledge-father ordered.
The Richmond police investigated and the fraternity was suspended on that campus. Also, according to the New York Times, a few days later, a student at Bowling Green State University died after he was forced to consume large amounts of alcohol in their hazing practices. After a police investigation, the Ohio state senate introduced a bill aimed to reduce hazing. These young students follow absurd requests and orders, which is why these deaths occur.
Administrators at Colleges and Universities across the nation must immediately take action to reduce the harmful hazing which includes overdrinking, dangerous physical activities, and sleep deprivation.
There remain some individuals who support hazing and say it is an important college tradition. They see it as a right of passage as every year the older members of the fraternity haze boys in the incoming pledge class. This teaches respect to the younger pledges, which is viewed as a valuable lesson. Others who are also pro fraternities think the brotherhood and tight bond that fraternities establish between its members is something that lasts a lifetime. Not to mention, these young adults partaking in these various activities have the freedom to say no at any time, but they still willingly participate. Many colleges would argue that they already have guidelines set in stone for fraternities to follow, so they do not want to micromanage and limit the freedom of these college students.
According to Denise-Marie Ordway of The Journalist Resource, “colleges and universities nationwide prohibit hazing but struggle to prevent it even after launching numerous programs over the years to urge students to avoid such activities and report them.” These Universities are making it very evident that hazing is an issue, and they are even trying to crack down on the specific activities that are taking place.
Although they try to reduce the deaths and injuries that are occuring, a lot of these accidents are taking place behind closed doors. Administrators can’t always be in the rooms and houses of these fraternities, so as much as they try to prevent hazing, they can not always enforce it. In regards to the liability of the Universities, there is some sort of blockage between them, in case there is a serious injury to the victim so no one can sue the University.
Despite the claims that supporters of hazing make, their arguments fall flat because students are still dying yearly. Over the past several decades, at least 1 hazing death has occurred every year. Just because important people think fraternity hazing is a “right of passage,” that does not mean dying is ok. Hazing is a major issue that takes place at universities, and some people even believe that fraternities and sororities should be closed.
Following the death of Nathan Valencia, which occurred from being forced to fight in their fraternities “fight night,” many questions regarding the dangers of Greek Life arose. Protests that raised criticism around the dangers of these fraternities, which included sexual violence and hazing related deaths, took place. Hazing protesters are finally trying to make change, after decades and decades of suffering, to reduce the amount of deaths taking place among these universities.
Although protests are taking place, a particular reason why these protests may not be getting through is because of the powerful people in congress that were in Greek Life. According to Naomi, in the 117th congress, there were 143 members in Greek Life, and so were 18 past presidents. Members of our government who control laws support Greek Life, and may not seek help for these struggling individuals.
Another reason why hazing has gotten out of control, including non death related injuries, is because of the lack of medical care for these youths. Colleges don’t make medical care available to these youths who might be suffering because they are pretending that everything is ok, and that the youths and frats are following all of the rules. Colleges do not want to be sued for any liabilities that take place on campus.
Although universities say they aren’t responsible for the immature decisions that these youths make in the privacy of their own rooms, there should still be immediate medical care for any student who is under the influence or has had a severe injury to them.
According to a documentary in 2020 by Anderson Cooper of 60 Minutes, “How hazing led to the death of fraternity pledge Sam Martinez”, the ATO (Alpha Tau Omega) fraternity at Washington State University was clearly found harmful hazing.
Despite supposedly forbid hazing according to ATO rules, Sam recorded a video which showed that he and another pledge were given nearly a half gallon of rum, the equivalent of about 40 shots. Drinking this abusive amount of alcohol clearly goes against the previous claim that Greek Life teaches important values. Had the university been monitoring these boys over the night Sam’s death occurred, this would have been avoided. 911 wasn’t called until 8:30 a.m. “When the police found Sam, his blood alcohol level was nearly 5 times the legal limit.”
Administrators at these fraternities once again are staying out of these overdrinking and dangerous situations because they do not want to be responsible for the hazing incidents that occur. Even though guidelines are set in stone in regards to alcohol limits, without proper enforcement from administrators lives of these children won’t be saved.
Hazing in fraternities is a major problem that needs to get solved quickly before it keeps spiraling out of control. In 62 out of the last 63 years(all except for 2020 during the pandemic), at least 1 hazing related death occurred. There is no reason why this pace will not remain. Youths are being taken advantage of, while universities want no business with any decisions or problems that are occurring, and change is needed fast.
Universities need to be able to monitor these partities and pledges that take place, to ensure the lives of these young adults. The parties should be monitored by at least 1 official from the University. Administrators should reprimand members of fraternities who take advantage of these youths, because they are the reason why students are dying. Families are getting calls from Universities about their beloved children dying, and this needs to end now.