Death by Greek Life

Christina Zhang

College is supposed to be a time where students make new friends, discover themselves, enjoy their new found independence, work to excel academically, and on occasion let loose and have fun. So what is your ideal night of fun? Is it being forced to eat an omelet made of vomit and then chugging a cup of vinegar? Or maybe you’re more into psychological torture, such as being stripped naked and ridiculed for insecurities others see in you? For some, this is a daily occurrence that lasts roughly eight weeks, sometimes even more. One would ask why someone would voluntarily participate in these barbaric acts. Many students join fraternities and sororities to make friends, attend social events, meet members of the opposite sex, and expand their network. Sadly, in Greek life on certain campuses, some are treated so horribly that these rites of passage can ultimately lead to death. On record, there have been hundreds upon hundreds of documented hazing incidents that date back to the 1800’s. According to studies, three out of ten students report that they’d be willing to do something illegal to join a particular group of students.

The most reported cases of hazing that ended up with either severe injuries or death included alcohol. Forced binge drinking leads to fatal consequences such as alcohol poisoning, choking on one’s vomit, seizures, and falls that cause hematoma. Another horrific example of a case where hazing was involved includes the elephant walk. The hazelephant walk is where a group of guys form a straight line and grab the genitals of the guy in back of them with one hand and put their thumb in the rectum of the guy in front of them. Sounds pretty demeaning and absurd, right? If you have a weak stomach then you will not survive pledging. A Dartmouth student claimed that in 2012, he and other pledges were forced to swim in a kiddie pool filled with human excrement, semen, and rotten food. Yum!

You’re probably wondering why the school and government don’t take action to discipline those accused of college hazing. Surely there should be some form of law to punish these cases of abuse, especially when some lead to death. Though many fraternities and sororities keep their actions low-key and hidden from the police, there are laws that illegalize hazing. According to the New York Hazing Law, “a person is guilty of hazing when in the course of another person’s initiation into or affiliation with any organization, he intentionally or recklessly engages in conduct which creates a substantial risk of physical injury to such other person or a third person and thereby causes such injury.” The most serious charge of manslaughter was given to eight Beta Theta Phi brothers at Penn State. Along with manslaughter, they were also charged with hazing, reckless endangerment of another person, and supplying alcohol to minors. The brothers were responsible for the death of sophomore Timothy Piazza, who died from multiple falls after having too many drinks. None of them called 911 after Piazza’s fall and it seemed as if the video surveillance from the Beta Theta Phi’s house was tampered with. This proves that dire injuries can happen to those who pledge fraternities and sororities. Thankfully, numerous cases of hazing have caused many colleges to either shut down the fraternity/sorority, establish strict rules, or ban greek life. Throughout history there have been countless hazing incidents, but now repercussions are finally being taken seriously and offenders are punished.