The College Hazing Problem


For students that are planning on attending college, many opportunities arise as a new chapter of their life opens. One popular opportunity awaiting new students is joining a fraternity or sorority. Most students wish to “go Greek” because it means they will be accepted on campus and have an instant group of friends (which is very desirable for young people who arrive at school alone). As great as joining a fraternity or sorority might sound, the hazing ritual often includes a series of strenuous, often humiliating, sometimes dangerous tasks. 

Many fraternities revolve around the ideals of ritual, loyalty, and acceptance. The initiations of individuals in previous years, carried out to display their adherence to the brotherhood, is augmented for future pledges, and as a result, the hazing becomes worse and worse every year. Hazing, traditionally believed to take place during “hell week”, may actually last the entire year when pledges are accepted into the fraternity as subordinates. Generally, hazing can be rather mild and tamed, but in many cases it is downright irresponsible and dangerous. Unfortunately, many bright young men and women surrender to the inhumane treatment in hopes of being inducted into the cult-like organizations. Drinking full bottles of liquor, not sleeping for days straight, streaking, branding themselves, filling up trashcans with alcohol induced vomit, being chained and drug around campus, fighting, not bathing, and humiliating themselves are all examples of a pledge’s hazing process. Because of these dangerous tasks, many pledges are injured each year, and some even die.

Recently,  Timothy Piazza, a 19-year-old student from Lebanon, New Jersey,  had high hopes of joining the Beta Theta Pi fraternity at Penn State University. Piazza, a former graduate of Hunterdon Central Regional High School, was being hazed in early February as he was “rushing” the fraternity. When Piazza’s night of binge drinking took a deadly turn, his family says, his would-be brothers treated him “like roadkill.” The dangerously intoxicated Piazza tumbled down a flight of stairs that night and fell several other times, injuring his head, according to District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller. The next morning, he fell down the stairs again and was unconscious when help was eventually summoned. The timeline of Piazza’s gruesome death is chronicled below:

Timothy Pizza (left) alongside his father.

The Judge presiding over Piazza’s court case concluded that “the Penn State Greek community nurtured an environment so permissive of excessive drinking and hazing that it emboldened its members to repeatedly act with reckless disregard to human life.”  As a result, numerous members of the  Beta Theta Pi fraternity were criminally charged.

A study from Maryland University concluded that since 1970, there has been at least one hazing-related death on a college campus each year.  Lawsuits  filed by families of hazing victims are becoming more and more commonplace. While many of these lawsuits never make it to an actual trial (disappearing into undisclosed agreements or dissolving away in fear when victims realize the powerful and fossilized forces they are up against),  these victims’ stories serve as a warning (and a reminder) of the revolting acts that take place on U.S. college campuses every year.