Why Have 84% of Deaths Due To Hazing Occurred At Public Institutions & Should We Ban Them?

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Ohio State University recently placed a moratorium on fraternity activities due to the sheer number of investigations taking place. It joins a list of exclusively public, flagship institutions in 2017 to take such action, though unlike Louisiana State and Florida State, no specific incident of death led to the ban.

Fraternities and sororities, led by their umbrella organizations, are pushing for new hazing legislation to be enacted at the federal level – which would require reporting of hazing incidents from institutions receiving public funds. I’m not inherently opposed to the legislation, only pieces of it which I believe may federalize criminal law (which is constitutionally a state matter, sorry for following the rules!).

The world of Greek Life has been consistently pressured to spend more resources on hazing and substance abuse education, as have colleges and universities. Part of that pressure comes from the idea that forcing other people to do compassionate things makes up for one’s own lack of interest or ability to address an issue, part of it is the “feel good” idea that making rules and educational programs provide, even though the results are less than satisfactory.

Despite what likely amounts to hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars spent on educating fraternity men and women to the dangers and definitions of hazing and substance abuse, the number of deaths due to hazing sharply increased at the turn of the millennium.


Deaths Reportedly Due To Hazing On College Campuses Since The 1970’s (Wikipedia)

1970-1979: 12

1980-1989: 12

1990-1999: 13

2000-2009: 22

2010-2017: 19

We still have a little more than two years to finish up the 2010’s, and the numbers are not looking good.

Many call for an end to the fraternity and sorority system. . . lol.

While we’re acting silly, let’s look at some data and offer a similarly outlandish solution:

  • Since 1980, 78% of hazing incidents resulting in death occurred at public institutions, a majority of which at land grant and research institutions. 82% of incidents resulting in death occurred at public institutions this decade.
  • 84% of deaths due to hazing in this current decade (2010-2017) occurred at those same institutions, a vast majority at flagship or public research institutions. Roughly 69% of students attended a public college or university in 2015 according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

College accessibility has been a key issue among today’s compassionate rule makers, and increases in enrollment parallel increases in incidents of death due to hazing, so this begs the question:

If we are so quick to correlate the existence of fraternities and sororities with dangerous hazing activities, should we also correlate increases of enrollment and public education with dangerous hazing activities?

Furthermore, as fraternities and sororities spend more money to combat and condemn hazing activities, more students die from those very activities. Should we ban these ineffective programs, speakers and academics?

Could it be that our fight against hazing, which has resulted in numerous state laws tying together already criminal activities (assault, battery, defamation, coercion)  as well as a variety of educational programs, be not only completely ineffective but also push dangerous hazing activities further from the surface and, dare I say it, make them more dangerous?

There are many ideas which have not been taken seriously in combatting hazing. We often mention banning Greek Life or spending $XXX,XXX on a “new and improved” hour long lecture for first year students. What about:

  • Demanding that public schools only enroll as many students as their endowments can fully cover? (i.e. demanding less “accessibility” and more “selectivity”)
  • Requiring chapters purchase their own insurance & agree to their own terms of insurance so that they may take the terms of their policies more seriously?
    • This would also take the politics out of whether or not to close a chapter. Who cares how important the alumni are or how big the chapter is?
  • Focusing less on publicity stunts and retooling our standards/foundations/accreditations to focus purely on long-term viability
  • Ending the perception that 100% of students who enter fraternity or sorority “rush” being invited to join is a triumph (Newsflash: that’s not selectivity, that’s sympathy & desperation)
  • Regulating hazing, rather than banning it creating underground practices, to more proactively help steer chapters away from dangerous, belittling activities

Our reactions to these incidents have become entirely predicable and entirely ineffective. At this point, we sound as ridiculous as my suggestion that we ban all public institutions.

Instead of turning to legislators and speakers to solve our problems for us, we should get down into the weeds, accept reality, and commit acts of compassionate leadership ourselves.

Until then: Ban all public education and demands for “accessibility,” they are killing students left and right. The statistics prove it.

This post was updated for accuracy, only fraternity activities were suspended at Ohio State.