When a new pledge enters into a fraternity or sorority house, it is common for upperclassmen to take extreme measures as a way of ‘proving’ the pledge’s loyalty to the organization. When these initiations go too far, it becomes known as hazing, a now illegal practice in Universities all across the country. Hazing has become an epidemic in many Greek systems and although students everywhere have been warned of its dangers, it remains a threat.
Common excuses that people use in order to justify hazing is that it is a tradition of their house, or simply that they were trying to have fun. While this is somewhat understandable, tradition should not take precedence over somebody’s life or well-being. Most hazing-related deaths in universities are linked to alcohol overdose, more specifically drinking too much in a short span of time. There have also been several instances where initiators have left an endangered person due to the fear of being caught. This, however, is the worst possible thing to do, since taking early action when something is wrong can mean the difference between life and death.
In February of 2017, 19-year-old Timothy Piazza was force-fed 18 drinks in under 90 minutes in an initiation ritual known as “The Gauntlet” in order to be accepted into the Beta Theta Pi fraternity house at Pennsylvania State University. His fraternity brothers, instead of calling an ambulance for help, made the decision to leave him unconscious on a couch and insisted to other members that he would be fine and only needed to “sleep it off”. Twelve hours after he fell unconscious, 911 was called and Timothy passed away due to brain injuries and hemorrhagic shock.
Pledge rituals do not have to be lethal to be harmful. In 2013, the Gamma Psi Sorority held a hazing ritual that involved the pledges crawling through mud in order get to a freezing lake. The rest of the sisters reportedly screamed at them and spit on them as they struggled to complete the task. While these kinds of rituals do not end in tragedy like some do, they are humiliating, psychologically damaging, and equally worthy of making an effort to prevent.
Why do people go along with it? This is a popular question that is asked when people hear about hazing situations gone wrong. Most students can admit that their peers’ opinions matter to them, and no matter how secure one may be in their values, friends are one of the most important in things in a young person’s life. Peer pressure from friends can easily change somebody’s mind. The fear that comes with entering into a foreign environment can leave anybody looking to be accepted. This can enhance vulnerability to suggestion or persuasion, which are common tactics people use in order to pull off hazing somebody new.
According to a poll conducted on Instagram, 47 out of 88 people who attend Lebanon High School plan on joining a fraternity or sorority at some point in their college careers. The fact that this is so popular makes it important that students be aware of the dangers of hazing and that they know a fun Greek Life experience is possible without potentially life-threatening consequences.
While students have been made aware of the dangers of hazing and it has been made illegal across the country, deaths still continue to happen. In 2017 alone, four college students’ deaths were reported to be a result of hazing. In most cases, initial incidents are not reported to authorities due to the fear of those involved that they might be caught and charged for underage drinking. However, there is a law put into place that those involved in an incident cannot be charged if they are enlisting help for somebody whose life might be on the line. If there happens to be a dangerous accident around you, don’t hesitate to report it. The actions that you take when nobody else will make all of the difference.
By: Emma Kafka