Many high school students envision Greek life as essential to their college experience. Sororities and fraternities embody sisterhood, brotherhood, guaranteed social lives and future networking opportunities. The art of engaging in recruitment, or “rushing,” sometimes overwhelms students more than academics. And the eagerness to be included sometimes eclipses the judgment of applicant and, terrifyingly, can cause irreparable harm at the hands of those who are testing their mettle.
That test, called “initiation,” is loosely translated as an opportunity for experienced members to expose pledges to the group’s traditions and expectations. However, when this overzealous activity morphs into “hazing,” a practice that inflicts physical or psychological pain, discomfort, harassment or ridicule, it’s time to opt out…before it becomes deadly.
According to StopHazing.org, 44 50 states have anti-hazing laws in place with the exception of Alaska, Hawaii, Montana, New Mexico, South Dakota and Wyoming. And yet fraternity hazing has claimed the lives of one or more initiate every year since 1969, according to Hank Nuwer, Professor of Journalism at Franklin College. Just this past September, 19-year-old Timothy Piazza died from internal trauma during a Penn State Beta Theta Pi pledging event. Nuwer says that 18 Beta Theta Pi members are facing charges related to his death, after they allegedly forced him to drink alcohol and then waited 12 hours before calling 911. They are also charged with tampering with evidence.
Incoming college freshmen must be aware of these potential fatal consequences. No social organization is worth risking your life, no matter how much you wish to have the advantage of ready-made friends. So what can you do to avoid harm to yourself and others?
- Get informed! Check out some tips for dealing with hazing.
- Participate in National Hazing Prevention Week (NHPW) during the third week of September each year.
- Join or start a hazing-prevention movement on campus.
- If you witness a hazing incident or someone is in danger, call 911!
- Don’t be afraid to say “no” and encourage others to do the same.