The following post for StopHazing was written by author and anti-hazing activist Hank Nuwer. For more information on Hank, check out his website at www.hanknuwer.com.
While colleges across the country are finding creative ways to celebrate National Hazing Prevention Week Sept. 18-22, I’ve managed considerable progress on my goal to create a database of every hazing incident reported in the media from colonial days to the present.
The present database has come a long way from the database I published in my 1990 book, “Broken Pledges,” using Lexis-Nexis data. Up to now, most major media outlets have cited my database of hazing deaths that showed the U.S. experienced at least one hazing death per year 1969 to 2017.
As of this column, that figure is out of date thanks to research performed for my Indiana University Press investigative book, “Hazing: Destroying Young Lives,” now at the printer for early 2018 publication, as well as research for yet another hazing book begun with a small seed- money grant generously provided by Franklin College.
The new database at http://www.hanknuwer.com now shows one death per year in U.S. colleges, secondary and elementary schools from 1961 to 2017. Think of 1961. JFK was inaugurated. Cuba’s Castro was cuddling with the Soviet Union. The Beatles were the mop-top rage of Liverpool.
Some years many deaths occurred, not just one. If Canada is included, the death figure is one per year from 1959 to 2017. Although there were no U.S. deaths recorded in 1958, there was an annual death from 1954 to 1957.
In addition, I counted a relatively small, though disturbing, number of hazing deaths over the years in Boy Scouts, Masonic organizations, the Knights of Columbus, and the U.S. Armed Forces. The story of how Benjamin Franklin in 1737 momentarily tarnished his reputation by failing to stop a dangerous hazing prank is the first incident in this database.
Behind every death is a family torn apart by the loss of a loved one who was strangled by alcohol, beaten to death, struck by a car while blindfolded, drowned, and so on. The first fraternity death, that of Mortimer Leggett, son of a famed Civil War general with the same name, occurred at spanking new Cornell University in 1873. Young Leggett felloff a cliff on a required midnight walkabout while wearing a blindfold in gorge country.
Then there is the proctor who got sick and tired of being hazed at Swarthmore College and grabbed a flashlight and rifle to slay one tormentor as he slept. The hazer escaped the electric chair with an insanity plea.
There was the recent death of Clemson pledge Tucker Hipps. Hipps died when he fell from a bridge at Lake Hartwell. His was the second Clemson fraternity death at that lake. No reporter, including me, reported that fact until a new keyword search came up with another tragedy at Clemson in 1961—the first year of what would become 56 consecutive years with a hazing death.
Stashed among thousands of news clippings about hazing are earnest appeals from educators, grieving parents, activists and earnest students to do away with this “weed in the garden of academe” as one pundit called it in an 1860 speech at Harvard.
But the problems of hazing in 1860 are the same now, but the perpetrators are a lot more careful to hide their tracks, to lie or to stonewall investigators, and to intimidate anyone threatening to come forward with the truth.
Dead ahead is a trial of more than a dozen Penn State Beta Theta Pi members. They urged pledge Tim Piazza to swallow enough booze to kill him in a fall, and they left him either unattended or abused him as he lay dying.
Just in the last week we’ve seen Louisiana State University student Max Gruver, a pledge for Phi Delta Theta, a staunch advocate for dry houses, die from an overdose. Local police are scrambling to find out what happened to him, but the members have clammed up tight as oysters and are talking only to defense lawyers.
The database shows three fraternity hazing deaths at LSU before Gruver.
I’ve met dozens of the hazed and hazers alike, the families of the dead, the dedicated Greek professionals, a lot of jaded alums, and activists from HazingPrevention.org, Stophazing,org, the AHA Movement and so on. Many parents who gave years of service to the cause have quit, so disillusioned by the continuing string of deaths that they no longer can even utter the word “hazing.”
Everything possible has been tried. Bystander training. Help Weeks instead of Hell Weeks. Associate memberships instead of pledges. Delayed rush. Yanking charters.
But still the deaths continue. I want to assure you there will be no more dangerous hazing when my friend John’s son goes to college in a year or, closer to home, my grandson in a couple more years.
But I can’t.
My list of deaths gets longer, longer and still longer.
Stopping hazing is easy, I tell students. “Just don’t do it.”
But too many don’t listen.
Hank Nuwer is a Franklin College journalism professor and the author of “Hazing: Destroying Young Lives,” “The Hazing Reader,” “Wrongs of Passage” and many other books.
Hazing Prevention Week (HPW) is part of a national initiative held at numerous universities across the country. The national focus for the past few years has been bystander responsibility and giving students the skills to stand up when they see hazing around them. The Greek Community Affairs Board (GCAB) works with multiple partners to plan various events taking place on the University of Connecticut campus during the week to raise awareness of the issue, educate students, faculty, and staff about hazing alternatives, empower students to stand up against hazing, and show a united University community against hazing.
UConn will be hosting its tenth annual Hazing Prevention Week from September 18-22, 2017
|All Week||Hashtag Against Hazing|
Join the conversation about hazing all week long on social media. Use #HuskiesDontHaze on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to follow the conversation or contribute to the discussion of hazing and its impact on our campus and college communities across the country. A new discussion question will be posted each day. The top tweets/posts of the week will be selected to receive a prize.
|We’re Blue, Wear Red|
Wear red to show support of hazing prevention. Take photos during your meeting in support of anti-hazing membership.
|6:00PM||Jorgensen Center for Performing Arts|
|Lorin Phillips Lecture||6:00PM||Student Union Theatre|
Each year students are faced with pain, humiliation and even death that occurs because of hazing that takes place in organizations and groups. Your donation will help HazingPrevention.Org develop strong prevention programs and work with local communities to end hazing. With your help we can create a culture where hazing is no longer accepted.
|Blaze Pizza, Storrs Center|
|“A Tale of Boys Gone Wild”|
|6:30PM||Laurel Hall 102|
|Hazing Prevention Week Poster Contest Reception||3:30PM||Student Union 203|
Take the National Hazing Prevention Pledge
Sponsored by HazingPrevention.org
It’s easy to say you’re “against hazing,” but are you willing to tell the world that you won’t tolerate it? If so, take the Hazing Prevention Pledge. Sign it now. nationalhazingpreventionweek.com/take-the-pledge.
Hazing Prevention Week Photo Contest
Sponsored by HazingPrevention.org and Digital Pix
Participate in Hazing Prevention Week and take photos of yourself with friends and students supporting the cause. Submit your best photo along with a description of 200 words or less. Get creative and show visually how you prevent or stand up against hazing! Cash prizes will be awarded for the top three photos/essays in the following amounts: 1st place – $100, 2nd place – $75, 3rd place – $50.
For full contest details and to submit your photo online, visit the HPO website.
Hank Nuwer Anti-Hazing Hero Award
Sponsored by HazingPrevention.org and Phi Delta Theta Fraternity
Do you know someone who has been heroic enough to expose hazing, speak out against this problem, or in some way work to combat this dangerous practice? Then nominate them for the Anti-Hazing Hero Award. Awards will be given in both student and non-student categories, and recipients will receive a cash prize. Sponsored by Phi Delta Theta Fraternity, this award is named for Associate Professor Hank Nuwer, a long-time anti-hazing journalist and author of four books on the subject.
For more information and to submit a nomination, visit the HPO website.
National Hazing Prevention Week Resource Guide
Learn about ways to support and promote National Hazing Prevention Week on your campus or with your organization. This year’s guide includes an article from a UConn student. View the Resource Guide.
Hazing Prevention Week Poster Contest
Sponsored by Hazingprevention.org and CAMPUSPEAK
This competition is open to college and university undergraduates who design a poster meeting the contest criteria. The top posters will be available for download for next year’s NHPW from the CAMPUSPEAK website, and the poster selected as the best will be designated as the official NHPW poster. Cash and other prizes are awarded to the top contenders.
Rules, guidelines and submission information will be available after October 1.