Stop College Hazing Culture
In his new book, “Hazing: Destroying Young Lives,” Hank Nuwer of Indiana’s Franklin College documents that there has been at least one hazing death on an American college campus every year since 1961. Most often, they involve alcohol and most of those cases involve fraternities. Four students died in such incidents in 2017: • Maxwell Gruver, 18, died a year ago after a drinking ritual at a Louisiana State University fraternity. His blood alcohol content was .495. • Andrew Coffey, 20, died in November after a fraternity ritual at a Florida State University fraternity party at which he drank a bottle of bourbon. His BAC was .477. • Matthew Ellis, 20, died in November after a fraternity drinking ritual at Texas State University. • Timothy Piazza, 19, died in February 2017 after a drinking ritual at a Penn State University fraternity house, at which he consumed 18 drinks in 90 minutes, and suffered a traumatic head injury when he fell down steps. Piazza’s parents reached a legal settlement this week with the national Beta Theta Pi organization. As part of the settlement, the fraternity vowed to hold its chapters to a 17-point plan that penalizes hazing and emphasizes safety. Meanwhile, the North-American Interfraternity Conference has instructed 6,100 member chapters on 800 U.S. and Canadian campuses to ban the use of hard liquor at all fraternity events. It set a 15 percent alcohol limit for all beverages, in effect limiting alcoholic drinks to beer and wine. Members younger than 21, of course, are barred by law from drinking any alcoholic beverages. But that is impossible to enforce in all cases. Ideally, internal controls such as banning hard liquor gradually change the hard-drinking fraternity culture and break the dismal streak of hazing-related campus deaths.