Fraternity Hazing Is Deadly Essay, Research Paper
Hazing (subjecting newcomers to abusive or humiliating tricks and ridicule) has always been seen as a secretive campus activity when it comes to fraternities and pledging. As a result, Dr. Mark Taff resorted in his article that, “..a series of 168 cases of injuries and deaths related to fraternity hazing activities…[occurred] in the United States between 1923 and 1982″ (2113). Young college men are being hospitalized and even worse, dying, just for a couple of friends that give them a sense of belonging. The major causes of hazing are the students’ wanting a sense of belonging in a big college campus, the college’s infrequent knowledge of what occurs in fraternities, and the unwillingness of fraternities to change tradition. Since hazing has been around for more than a century, one cannot expect the practice of hazing to stop all together. It will probably take years before hazing perishes from the fraternity scene. Nevertheless, until an end is put to hazing, solutions can be used to make hazing less common, until it no longer exists. These solutions that may be able to put an eventual stop to hazing, in the long run, are better education about fraternity hazing, stricter laws to prevent hazing from occurring, and more intervention from college administrators.
Stories of hazing incidents are all too common in the news media today. It would not be out of the ordinary, upon opening the newspaper, to read the testimony of some fraternity pledges “‘We were taken to a deserted park and blindfolded…We sat on our knees for an hour. Then they began slapping us on the back of our necks, real hard, and then they started pouring hot wax down our back’” (Milloy CL). Also, an article stating that “…A sophomore at Alfred University in New York was locked in a car trunk with two others and told to drink a bottle of Jack Daniel’s, wine and a six-pack of beer, one wintry night in 1978. He died of alcohol poisoning and exposure” (O’Connor 32). Fraternities are getting away with hazing practices, every single day. If a stranger did this to a civilian, they would automatically be arrested and imprisoned.
The humiliations of hazing are said to build bonds between pledges and fraternity brothers. According to fraternity beliefs, the theory goes, if you and a couple of friends go through fraternity initiations, drinking excessive amounts of beer and being beaten by fraternity members etc., and only you and your friends go through it, then this gives you all something in common. An example of a hazing victim is typically a white male 19 to 20 years of age, who is experiencing some types of injuries between the months of February and April or September and October (the pledging seasons). Men are experiencing injuries including those caused by “blunt force (beatings, paddling, motor vehicle crashes, pedestrian accidents, and falls from height), cold exposure, heat exhaustion, gunshot, asphyxia, electrocution, cannon and beer-keg explosions,…” (Taff 2113), just to name a few. These supposedly bring the fraternity “together.” Hazing also occurs in both sororities and black fraternities (which are seen differently from regular fraternities), but it is not as severe in sororities as it is in fraternities.
One cause of hazing is that fraternity members do not want to change tradition. Hazing has been a part of fraternity initiations ever since fraternities were founded. Hazing was used to test the pledges that wanted to join the fraternity, to make sure that the pledge was “fraternity material.” According to one pledge, fraternity members have “‘a feeling that if I went through it, you should too…So as long as there are people in the fraternity who were beaten, they feel they have a right to beat you’” (Milloy C10). If fraternity members think this way then how can hazing be prevented so that innocent men do not die just for friends and a “feeling of belonging.”
A second cause of hazing is that since college campuses are so big in population, men believe that in order to make friends and “fit in,” they have to subject themselves to ridicule and torture by joining a fraternity. Not many men would do this for a group of friends, but it is happening every semester in college campuses today. Not only are college men being hospitalized but many are putting their lives on the line, and even dying, just so they can be considered a “brother” in a fraternity. Nevertheless, it is not the pledge’s fault, in getting himself into this type of situation.
A third cause of hazing is that the fraternities know exactly what they are doing and they know what they can get away with most of it, since college administrators are not doing anything to prevent hazing. The events that happen in the fraternity world are largely secretive, some even go “underground,” just so they do not get caught. This should tell college administrators that the fraternities are trying to hide something, and that something is illegal and wrongful. Many fraternities require their members to take a vow of secrecy and “to expose criminal behavior by a frat brother, for example, is referred to within the fraternity as ‘catting’ an offense punishable by even more severe beatings” (Milloy C1). Universities are blind when it comes to fraternity hazing. As stated in the book, “Broken Pledges,” by Eileen Steven, “when administrators have a limited definition of hazing, deaths and injuries will continue to go unrecorded…” (Nuwer 27).
Hazing has been a part of fraternities in the Unites States since 1830. Although warnings about the dangers of fraternity hazing were addressed in the 1980s with anti-hazing laws in some states, and punishments against such activities, the practice of hazing still exists in college campuses today. The causes of hazing, a need of wanting to fit in by the students, no interest from college administrators and the fraternities unwillingness to break tradition, are all making incidents all too common in campuses today. If only there was a way to join a fraternity, without giving away your life in return. Hazing can be stopped if three major solutions are exercised by fraternities and the colleges that they are at. These solutions are better education about fraternity hazing, stricter laws to prevent hazing from occurring, and more intervention from college administrators. Hazing will continue to exist if college fraternities allow it to. One solution that will make hazing less common is better education on hazing for both fraternities and society. Fraternities are looked upon as groups of adolescent males, surrounded by “oceans of beer; loud music; sweating and willing women” (DeParle 39). Although, fraternities were founded to be “…an organization that stresses fund-raising and community service, as well as being a social outlet for members…”(Fraternity Chapter Starts ” I1). If fraternities are tired of being stereotyped, then they have to work hard in changing their reputation. Fraternities have to show society that they do have a beneficial purpose, and that they are not all about beer and women. There are a number of college campuses, in which “fraternities and sororities have endorsed a plan to change, …that would not only ab
lish hazing but also remove the possibility of it ending the generation-old tradition of pledging itself” (Marriot B3). A number of fraternity members that were hazed in the past would probably ask, “How can you accept somebody wholeheartedly into your sacred group who doesn’t pass your tests whatever they may be?” (Marriott B3). Still, physical and “torture” tests are not the only types of tests that can be given to initiate pledges. Some fraternities have “rules already approved, “in which, “applicants for membership must be interviewed by members and then in which they will be taught about the fraternity group” (Marriott B3). Even “some groups, such as Alpha Phi Alpha, will administer written tests” (Marriott B3) instead of physical “torture” or drinking tests. Also, if college men are educated enough and discover what occurs during fraternity initiation ceremonies and what is done to them, if they join the fraternity, then they will probably think twice about joining or demanding some types of changes, on the fraternity’s part. Already initiated fraternity members have to consider that they did not enjoy what was done to them during pledging, so why would future members enjoy hazing.
Another solution that would restrict hazing, and eventually put a stop to it, is intervention by college administration. Fraternities are, literally, getting away with murder, which is seen by the “reported forty-five to fifty deaths between 1978 and 1990″ which include hazing, accidental and suicide deaths (Nuwer 27). For example, in a well-publicized hazing death of Charles (Chuck) Stenzel, Author Hank Nuwer states that, “the then-president of Alfred University, M. Richard Rose, spoke at the memorial service…[and] said that no individual student could be blamed for the death in which Chuck’s mother has called a senseless hazing incident” (Preface). Chuck died in a hazing incident from “a cute alcohol poisoning combined with exposure to cold, and severe pulmonary edema…” (Stevens 24). The college expressed that “although they deeply regretted the tragedy, etc., they could accept no responsibility for what had happened” (Nuwer 11). If the college is not responsible, then who is? The victim? College administrators must take full responsibility of what happens with their students. If something happens to their students, especially when something is done by college-approved organizations (fraternities), then college administrators are responsible. Even though administrators don’t want the responsibility that is asked of them. Even author Hank Nuwer states that, “unless media and public pressure is brought to bear on colleges and other groups in which hazing is common, administrators will continue to call hazing by any other name” (27). One final solution that could restrict hazing, and eventually put a stop to it, is stricter laws that prevent hazing from occurring. Some 35 states have anti-hazing laws which are considered constitutional (Marcus B1). Still, this does not mean that they are preventing hazing altogether. Author Hank Nuwer states that, “In relation to the number of crimes committed annually, hazing laws are seldom invoked by district attorneys. In New York state, for example, the first convictions for hazing did not come until 1985, and involved a high-school fraternity” (250). While anti-hazing laws were passed in some states, college administrators were not the ones who fought to get these laws passed. Parents of children who died in hazing incidents are the ones responsible for getting the laws passed. As stated in “ Broken Pledges,” “Mary Lenaghan, the mother of dead pledge Jay Lenaghan, has a passion to end high-school hazing that Eileen Stevens [Mother of dead pledge, Charles (Chuck) Stenzel] feels for ending college hazing” (251). Organizations like “CHRORUS, an acronym for Campus Hazing’s Offensive Rituals Undermine Schools,” formed by Leanghan helped inspire an anti-hazing law in Massachusetts, just as Eileen [St
vens] and Chuck [Committee to Hault Useless College Killings] has done in New York…” (Nuwer 251-252). Nuwer also states others like “…Joan Cerra, Ray and Maise Ballow, and Dorothy Flowers [who]…[have] helped achieve [anti-hazing laws] in Wisconsin, South Carolina, and New Jersey, respectively” (252). As a result of these people’s interests, “fraternity members are discovering that they are extremely vulnerable to legal action stemming from alcohol-related incidents, hazing abuses and sexual assaults” (Marcus B1). Fraternities are liable to pay large sums of money in hazing related deaths. As Mr. Manley (a lawyer) states in an article written by Amy Marcus, “the students don’t realize “that they could end up in jail, in bankruptcy court, or spending the rest of their lives paying off a multimillion-dollar debt” (B1). All fifty states have to pass anti-hazing laws so that hazing can be put to an end , without having more pledges die as result. As Eileen Stevens states in Marcus’ article, “publicity about larger settlements and damage awards has forced many colleges to re-evaluate the fraternity social system and implement tougher rules” (B1). Without the help of college administrators, anti-hazing laws are useless in preventing hazing incidents from happening.
Certainly, each of these solutions, individually, can prevent hazing from occurring, but if all three solutions are used at the same time, hazing can be put to an end, faster. If fraternities are giving the education about hazing, they should see that hazing has evolved into a big problem. On the other hand, if they do not see hazing as a problem, college administrators can punish and reprimand the fraternities. If hazing incidents still exist, fraternities can be fined and sued since hazing is illegal in 35 states under law. Together, these three solutions are able to prevent hazing now, end hazing in the long run.