The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
Content warning: The following story contains references to hazing.
You hear the stories: A kid is left intoxicated on the couch of a fraternity, only to be found unresponsive the next day, or falls and hits his head, or is sent to the hospital to have his stomach pumped. These sad realities have become unavoidably apparent this week as a freshman at the Mizzou Phi Gamma Delta (FIJI) fraternity house was found unresponsive and hospitalized for suspected alcohol poisoning on Wednesday, Oct. 20.
The FIJI house was met with a sea of enraged protesters Wednesday night as news of the freshman’s condition spread across campus through a mass email from the MU Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs. Signs were hoisted high and chants ensued as many gathered on a small stretch of grass in front of the FIJI house. Anger permeated the crowd of protesters as on-lookers from across the street watched in silence. Vicious chants broke out, such as “Straight to jail,” and “We’re not safe ’til FIJI is erased.”
Every fall, hundreds if not thousands of young college freshmen sign up for fraternity recruitment. Days are spent meeting active members and finding a place where the young men can truly see themselves thriving. But the ideas of thriving and finding a brotherhood are shattered by the one sadistic ritual that stands within the United States Greek life culture: hazing.
Ask most fraternity members, and they can supposedly neither confirm nor deny the assumptions of experiencing hazing within their fraternity’s walls. And yet hazing remains a widely known associate of frat culture, especially on larger campuses. Most who wish to join, almost always reap the “rites of passage.” But for others, it can unfold into every parent’s worst nightmare.
But this nightmare is regrettably nothing new to this campus. This is not the MU Interfraternity Council’s first rodeo. The hospitalization of a freshman on Wednesday is only a continuous echo of the sinister practices that have infected Mizzou’s Greek life for years before.
In 2017, Brandon Zingale was pledging Kappa Alpha at Mizzou when the practices of hazing nearly took his life. Zingale stated in a lawsuit against the fraternity that he was “coerced by active members of [the fraternity] to drink so much vodka that he nearly died” at the Kappa Alpha house in 2016, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Like many despairing stories alongside his, Zingale was left alone to “sleep it off” with a backpack attached to him so he wouldn’t suffocate on his own vomit. He was found unresponsive and foaming at the mouth the next morning. Zingale’s blood-alcohol content was five times the legal limit (0.08 percent in Missouri) while also experiencing acute respiratory failure, nerve compression and metabolic dysfunction, according to the lawsuit.
But it doesn’t stop there. In 2002, the men of the Sigma Chi fraternity at Mizzou were suspended for four years for severe hazing. In 2015, a report was filed against the men of Delta Upsilon for a hazing incident. There were no consequences. In 2020, the Mizzou Delta Sigma Phi chapter was removed from campus on accounts of “violation of campus policies” and “endangering behavior.” Just two years before, they were put on probation for hazing.
By now, you get the pitiful picture. But what question remains is when will it be enough? This is a question I could see lingering on protesters’ minds as the demonstration stormed on. One protestor yelled, “Think about what you did to his family,” as the FIJI house remained silent and the blinds on their windows remained closed. “This is embarrassing for Mizzou,” one protester said that wishes to remain anonymous. “Imagine confidently sending your kid to college and thinking they would be safe with Mizzou’s campus and fraternity life.” Other protesters called for FIJI members to stop hiding and come outside, as slight peeks in the blinds could be seen being made from inside the house. Police cars circled the block and more civilian cars slowly passed the scene to get a good look. Photographers and reporters stood by as the tempered group of students positioned themselves, slowly growing in number.
National news coverage surrounding hazing has always persisted but is slowly forgotten about until another kid’s life is taken. One of the biggest news stories concerning hazing broke in April regarding several student indictments on charges of manslaughter and hazing at Ohio’s Bowling Green State University. Stone Foltz, 20, died from an accident due to fatal blood-alcohol content levels three days after a gathering at the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity off-campus house in March. “Nobody should be dying, it makes me sick to my stomach,” a Mizzou sorority member said at the Phi Gamma Delta protest. “Is hazing that important that you are okay with killing someone?”
And so I ask again, when will it be enough? As demonstrated by the negligence of the Mizzou FIJI fraternity, hazing isn’t going anywhere. It runs within the walls of most fraternities across the country, taking on the challenge of secrecy until someone’s son dies. The promise of lifelong brotherhood is made within fraternity vows when new members open their worlds to the houses that want them. But how can brotherhood exist when you put your brothers in danger? How can brotherhood exist when a brother is pronounced dead the morning after a hazing event? It has been made evident that Mizzou’s Greek life has been nothing but a thread that is being unraveled by the sickening repetition of hazing history amongst the fraternities that reside. And so I continue wondering, how many more will it take for it to end?
If you are aware of hazing on MU’s campus, do not be a bystander. Fill out an Incident of Misconduct Reporting Form for the MU Office of Student Accountability & Support, call 9-1-1 or tell a trusted adult. You can also call (888)-668-4293 to reach HazingPrevention.org’s Anti-Hazing Hotline.