Contributor Tweets
Other Tweets
Search Site
Subscribe to blog's feed

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner


Information on this site is for educational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. If you have a legal problem, consult your institutional counsel or an attorney licensed to practice law in your state. Information and views presented in this blog are solely those of the individual contributors and not their employers.

« The University is to Blame for My Child’s Death | Main | Just for the record, It’s not a pet: Emotional support and service animals on college campuses »

Fraternity pledge gone fatal

Join a fraternity or sorority it will give you a social network, everlasting bond, brother hood, strong lifelong friendships and career advancements they say. Obviously, students can accomplish all these things without pledging and being part of an organization. A big part of pledging is becoming familiar with the fraternity: learning about every single member and learning about the history of the fraternity and the Greek system. The other big part of pledging is proving oneself worthy to be a brother. Will the pledge uphold the ideals of the fraternity? Will he be someone they are proud to call a brother? What happens when you pledge?

Hazing in college has been around since 387 B.C, at Plato’s Academy. In some cases, it has been around as long as the organizations themselves were established. More people have taken notice of the extreme college hazing occurring at universities. Some are rituals and others considered as hazing. Hazing, is any intentional, knowing, or reckless act occurring on or off the campus of an educational institution, directed against a student, that endangers the mental or physical health or safety of a student for the purpose of pledging, being initiated into, affiliating with, holding office in, or maintaining membership in an organization. What is the difference between hazing and bullying? Is it illegal?

At this time, there are no federal laws that look at the issue of hazing. Federal anti-hazing law has been proposed but never made it to the floor of the House of Representatives or US Senate. Most states have laws regarding hazing, 44 out of 50 states have laws . Alaska, Montana, South Dakota, Hawaii, Wyoming, and New Mexico do not have anti-hazing laws. The University of New Mexico, has a zero tolerance policy for hazing but the state of New Mexico does not have a law prohibiting hazing. States have different definitions and punishments for hazing there is no commonality among universities on how they handle hazing incidents that occur on campus. Without laws is there no violation? Is it not a crime?

Some of the organizations blur the lines between hazing and torture. For example, a TCU sophomore of Kappa Sigma consented to some of the branding of his backside. After the student fell into a heavy, alcohol-induced sleep, his "brothers" took liberties with his earlier consent. The Kappa Sigma members pulled his shorts down and continued the branding process, targeting another area of the young man's rear while knocked out without consent.  Question is, off-campus house/chapter events governed by University policies. A University of Texas Lambda Phi Epsilon pledge died from acute alcohol poisoning. Six pledge brothers were required to chug a handle of Bacardi rum while more than 30 fraternity brothers chanted along, challenging the pledges' manhood and loyalty to Lambda Phi Epsilon. His face was then marked numerous anti-gay epithets and obscene drawings.

Universities prefer to turn a blind eye to hazing because they want to avoid the public scrutiny that comes with being at the center of a major campus crime. To help avoid public scrutiny, some universities use the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act ("FERPA") as a shield to avoid reporting hazing incidents that occur among university. In the Texas Education Code in  to Section 37.153 , if an organization commits an offense under this section, hazing is a misdemeanor. Is the cost of a life a misdemeanor charge and a $5,000 fine? What is the difference between bullying and hazing? Who is to blame? 

This post was authored by Jessica Redwine, a masters student in Higher Education Administration at The University of Texas at San Antonio and a Pre-K teacher in the Edgewood Independent School District. 

PrintView Printer Friendly Version

EmailEmail Article to Friend

References (1)

References allow you to track sources for this article, as well as articles that were written in response to this article.

Reader Comments (11)

When I was in college I was often asked why I was not a member of a sorority. My answer was of course sarcastic but true ( at least for me) . I would reply , “I don’t feel I need to pay to have friends. “ I had friends who were members and I heard about the silly and sometimes dangerous things they did just to fit in . Many students join because they need to fill in the hole that high school has left , the accolades of being on the sport teams and the pep squad. I think if they looked deep inside they would be okay just being part of the crowd. As far as who is to blame for extreme hazing , I feel that everyone is to blame. The students for going too far , the university for not taking complaints seriously and the student himself for allowing themselves to be in that spot in the first place. It is NO DIFFERENT than bullying in my eyes but to some it is seen as a right of passage to adulthood and college life . SAD !!!😡

April 18, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterCynthia Alvarado

Hazing needs to be handled by the states and not the Federal government. States have since the beginning been in control of public colleges and universities and public education. By keeping this issue out of the federal government will also allow federalism to work and process the different ways this issue can be resolved. Through political pressure and plenty of time the results will fall in favor of those who oppose hazing while also protecting the liberty of states.

April 22, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterKyle Richey

It is popular opinion that hazing is widespread and endemic to the variety of higher education campuses. Each state (minus Alaska, Hawaii, Montana, New Mexico, South Dakota, and Wyoming) carries its own definition of hazing and classifies the offensives and repercussions in their respective Education Codes (Texas EDUC § 37.151).

So states creates their own laws with regards to hazing, but the ultimate responsibility to find remedies befalls on the campus. I would like to know how many students are aware of the repercussions of hazing and the complete dissolution to their academic and career endeavors if individuals choose to engage in hazing.

Therefore, the Division of Student Affairs / Campus Life must have mandatory workshops at the beginning of the school year to where every individual in Greek Life must attend a hazing and sexual assault workshop with post-assessment before hosting any events. Since organizational events are crucial to Greek Life, this mandate should help mitigate the horrid consequences of detrimental hazing.

April 29, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterDeon Turner

I personally feel that most college students seeking to join a fraternity or sorority are well aware of some of the outrageous things that take place within the organizations. I also feel that students are willing to take on the temporary risk when going through the intake process of joining such organizations. When it comes to hazing, I do believe that the individuals who take part in such behavior should be held lawfully responsible and not the university.

April 29, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterTrenshae Gilbert

As a member of a fraternity (name left out for obvious reasons), I agree with this post. I feel as though hazing has been primarily accentuated through media and gives students a wrong idea of what Greek Life is about. I can personally say I was never hazed when going through pledgeship, and if a situation came up where I would be hazed, I would have stepped away and changed my mind. I tell everyone who is thinking of greek life to look into the Greek Life at that University. It is not uncommon to find a fraternity who is actually only about brotherhood. Of course you have your rituals of initiation which have been kept secret from society, but from my personal experience it was only symbolic (no physical activities involved, that's all I can say). There are good aspects to being in a fraternity, and can actually be beneficial after college when it comes to things like jobs. But there are chapters who only want to haze and those are the chapters that I condemn. I outwardly condemn my own brothers nationwide if they tell me they haze. A fraternity was created for brotherhood and brotherhood only. Certain individuals have taken it out of context and created these terrible hazing rituals. If more chapters were strict on their policies and procedures, and kept it to philanthropy and brotherhood only, the students who want to haze after they crossover will slowly stop joining, and the ones who care about what the letters stand for will stay and create that brotherhood that was created in the past. The people who should be responsible for terrible things happening to their chapter like deaths, alcohol poisoning, sexual assaults, etc., should not only be the fraternity members involved, but also the chapter (Local and nationally) and the college itself. Yes the pledge has his own personal responsibility in ensuring his safety, but when things take a wrong turn they should be able to get justice. Universities around the nation (including my own) are making it harder and harder to not only join a fraternity but also keep a chapter afloat with things like higher GPA standards, stricter policies, fines, Greek Life administration at each rush event to report any acts of "buying" pledges and other things. Getting fraternities kicked off campuses is becoming more and more of the norm and personally, I believe if you have to haze, then you are not truly helping your pledges grow, you are only creating a culture where hazing is okay and as soon as these pledges become brothers, the cycle will restart.

April 30, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMarcos Villarreal

I believe that both the institutions and the individuals are to be blamed. Institutions should take it upon themselves to monitor and restrict hazing. Universities should not be hiding any hazing events just to not have bad press. Students should be put first, not their own image. Also, the individuals that cause the hazing should be responsible for their actions and removed from their chapter.

April 30, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterNelly Reyes

How interesting to know there is historical documentation of hazing-like behaviors going all the way back to Ancient Greece (though I can't say I'm surprised). As some of the other comments on your post suggest, this is challenging practice to completely eradicate, but that doesn't mean that some changes wouldn't help limit it's frequency. I think both legal and cultural responses are necessary to curtail these events. Establishing more consistent (and stringent) laws aimed at both Greek organizations and colleges across the country are a good idea but, as the cases you described highlight, it's also a culture issue. If Greek organizations don't take a stronger stance that hazing is not accepted (including implementing effective preventative policies of their own), many individuals and chapters will continue to follow dangerous hazing behaviors, regardless of the legal consequences.

April 30, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAmelia King-Kostelac

Hazing in Greek life has become something that is so brazen and has such a high fatality rate that it is downright negligent on the behalf of universities to ignore the problem. Anti-hazing laws should absolutely be passed at a federal level, and they should hold the national chapters, local chapters, individuals, and universities themselves accountable for hazing charges and especially for wrongful deaths. There needs to be a real tangible punishment in place for these larger organizations before they will create a hazing-free culture within themselves to avoid these kind of punitive measures. For too long hazing has been allowed and even encouraged for the sake of "brotherhood" and to create an aura of exclusivity around these organizations. If each national chapter enforced an alcohol ban in their houses alone, without any other steps, the mortality rates in Greek organizations would drop dramatically. They can be wonderful places for building lifelong friendships, I'm sure. But at what cost?

May 6, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterSarah Borden

If an organization is allowed to table on a college campus, recruit of any sort on a college campus, hold events on a college campus, or partner with other groups associated with the college campus then they have special relation with the college and therefore the responsibility of the college campus. I think hazing far too often is over looked. This article made me sad because in 2018 you really would think that we would have some sort of law that held these "adults" accountable for their actions. I understand the that conduct is trying to move towards a more communicative punishment for students so that they still have a chance to stuff with their lives but these students are taking lives. People have been locked up for years straight off the street for carrying the littlest amount of weed but they are only getting 30 days max for taking a life? That confuses me.

May 7, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterTarecka Payne

It is interesting to me that not all fifty states have a law regarding hazing. Are states afraid of the massive number of cases that could possibly be presented once a law goes into effect. How many students need to get hurt before all states stop and try to find a solution in a law. How many students needs to loose their life for the entire country to step up to the call. As mentioned in the article, hazing has been around since 387 B.C. It is not a new found concept that is suddenly sweeping the nation. Hazing has been around and its about time WE ALL do something about it. "Brothers" and "Sisters" DO NOT and SHOULD NOT cause physical and mental harm to their "sibling". How is a student supposed to physically and mental recover from being violated and branded to the point of physical reconstructive surgery? It is easy to turn a blind eye to hazing, however enough is enough. We need to find ways to reprimanding each and every student responsible for hazing and ban them from ever joining another fraternity or sorority. So many times across the nation, greek houses are getting disbanded and shut down, however often these students simply create another greek organization and continue their horrible hazing traditions. All fifty states need to come together to find a solution to collegiate hazing.

May 7, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterRobert Moya

Being in a fraternity or sorority is a luxury. It is not required by your institution to be one. That being said institutions should have the right to know what is happening in them since the issue of hazing is becoming more known. Soliciting and different meetings are happening on college campuses, just because you have a house that is not on campus does not mean the institution should not be able to know what is happening. You are using the facilities on the campus, you are caring the campus name, you are the face of the school. If fraternities and sororities want their freedom than the institutions should cut ties with them soon. That being said once the institution is able to know what is happening in the houses they can regulate what is going on and help stop hazing before it leads to death.

May 8, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterApril Vasquez

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
All HTML will be escaped. Textile formatting is allowed.