College Hazing: Complacency in Murder

Seattle University does not have a Greek system, mostly because we are too small of a student population to maintain one However, hazing is not a practice unique to just fraternity organizations; it is also often seen in athletics and other membership-based groups. This is what puts any college campus at risk of being a hotbed for such dangerous activity. Fraternal organizations are well known for perpetuating homogenized membership and elitism, and like many aspects of our society, it is organized for the benefit of a largely white, male, upper-class membership base. Greek life is also renowned for higher rates of sexism and sexual assault. Studies show that fraternity men are three times more likely to commit rape than other men on college campuses. This is mostly because of the pressure to meet the hyper-masculine standards that fraternities expect of their members. These attitudes towards women learned in fraternity life can perpetuate fraternity men's lifelong attitudes, increasing the potential to commit sexual assault and rape post-college. Furthermore, studies show that women in sororities are almost twice as likely to experience rape than other college women, mostly because they are more likely to interact with fraternity men. Sororities and fraternities are traditionally exclusively single-sex organizations, and it is my opinion that such organizations have absolutely no place in the modern era as they only work to perpetuate binary identities and limit our society.

 

My first and only experience with such organizations was at the University of Washington. In my freshman year my friends and I went to a haunted house being held in one of the fraternities on the UW campus (it was a fundraiser). Although the haunted house was pretty PG, what I saw that night made it the scariest night of my life--and I was once stopped in the middle of the night in rural Kenya by a unsanctioned militia. There were massive parties in every single frat house; one house was packed so tightly that every balcony and porch was filled to the brim, so much so that when people jumped to the music, they shook the whole building. There were groups of people on each street corner handing out hot chocolate that was spiked with liquor. There were unconscious girls being carried back to their sororities by various groups of young men. Near the end of the night, when my friends and I were just leaving the haunted house, we saw a girl walking unsteadily up the street, and then another girl came running up behind her and jumped on her back. Then the first girl fell to the ground and her head hit the corner of the sidewalk with such a loud crack that it didn’t even sound real. We ran over to help the girl, having her lie on her side and checked to see if she was bleeding. She was, and she was unconscious as well. When my friend pulled out her phone to call an ambulance the crowd surged around us. Everyone was yelling at my friend, trying to grab the phone away. This girl could very well have been dead, but people were more concerned about the cops being called than another human’s wellbeing; it was shameful. When the ambulance came, so did two cop cars, and everyone on the street scattered. They took the unconscious girl to the hospital, they asked my friends and I some questions, and then they went door to door shutting down each of the parties. You can call my a nark or a snitch, you can laugh at me for being uncool and a baby, but I rest well at night knowing that I did not abandon a fellow human being who desperately needed help.

 

There has been at least one university hazing-related death each year from 1969 to 2017. According to Franklin College professor Hank Nuwer, over 200 university hazing deaths have occurred since 1838, with 40 deaths between 2007 and 2017 alone. That number does not included the number of suicides due to hazing or involvement in Greek life, nor the assaults, harassments, or other incidents involved in fraternities or sororities. For those of you with a strong stomach, I invite you to read the entire Wikipedia entry of hazing deaths. It is really something else to be faced with the ultimate proof of our failure as a civilization.

 

Considering all of the above, why is Greek life so popular? What it all boils down to is that we want to belong, and some of us are willing to do anything to another human being or to ourselves just to fit in. We are social creatures after all. Although college is supposed to be about finding yourself, it is also about finding your place in the world. For most people their place is as a member of something, a part of the team. To be a part of a group you have to be able to conform, to adapt yourself so that you can fit more cohesively with the overall group. When conformity occurs in adolescents like college students whose frontal lobes are not yet fully developed, bad things can happen. Which is why before you even begin to find your place within a group you have to know who you are and what you want from life. You need to know what exactly you principles are, where you would draw the line then stick to it. Morals maketh man not fraternity affiliations.

 

I would never dare suggest that Seattle University or any university is innocent in this epidemic. Even if they are not complacent in disregarding such incidents, I see no major universities taking strides to keep their students safe. Whether it is in completely overhauling the Greek system or changing how hazing is punished or reported or something else altogether. Greek alumni donate 75% of all money given to universities and the majority of fortune 500 CEOs and Senators and Supreme Court Justices and Presidents in this country have all been members of the Greek system, so why would any university in their right mind put an end to such an organization? I will admit that a higher percentage of Greek students graduate than any other student, that fraternities and sororities are highly involved in fundraising and volunteer work on their campuses, and that these organization provide networking and career opportunities for participants. However, I ask if all of that is really worth the lives of children. By continuing to perpetuating this toxic culture we as a society are complacent in these murders. And we as a society are responsible for changing the culture. If fraternities and sororities are meant to be social and academic organizations that support their members and their communities then that it exactly what they should be not the epicenter of binge drinking, rape, and murder.

 

Apparently the last week of September is National Hazing Prevention Week, but if Red Ribbon week in high school taught me anything, it is that adolescents love nothing more than to purposely flaunt blatant disregard of such programs much to the delight of their peers. So we are left alone, to fend for ourselves. Hazing isn’t even a crime in 6 states, and in most states it is just a class B misdemeanor equivalent to shoplifting. If the justice system isn’t even on our side, how can we expect society to be.

I ask that everyone of you take it upon yourself to be willing to call for help, for a stranger, a friend or even for yourself. You can always call 911, always. Even if you have been engaged in any illegal activity, like underage drinking, you are protected from any prosecution under the good samaritan law. If it isn’t an immediate danger, then you can also call your campus security. I’m sorry to be crude here, but please don’t let one more person lay at the bottom of a staircase bleeding to death for 12 hours while everyone else parties above them (Like Timothy Piazza, pictured above with his parents). Honestly, this is the 21st century. We are sending rovers to Mars and finding cures for cancer; we should not still have to be concerned that when we send our children off to get higher education that they might be tortured and killed by their peers. In the end it is us that is accountable, every single one of us. You cannot be passive during such a horrific epidemic. We can no longer brush off hazing as just a part of growing up because it shouldn’t be. We must hold everyone accountable, punish the perpetrators, and teach future generations to do better.