Universities are facing increasing pressure to bring fraternity hazing under control following a series of recent tragedies. Two fatal cases in particular — a Baruch College student who was forced to run blindfolded across a frozen yard while being tackled by fraternity members, and a Pennsylvania State University student who was urged to drink heavily and fell down a flight of stairs, which both recently resulted in criminal charges — have sparked growing calls for universities to take stronger action.
“There’s more outrage than I’ve seen in the long time,” said Hank Nuwer, a professor of journalism at Franklin College who has researched and written extensively about hazing.
Penn State promised “significant change” after 19-year-old Timothy Piazza died on Feb. 2 after drinking heavily in a Beta Theta Pi hazing ritual and then sustaining injuries from a fall down stairs. Fraternity members waited hours before seeking medical help, authorities said. Eighteen fraternity members face charges, ranging from hazing to involuntary manslaughter.
On June 2, the university unveiled a set of reforms aimed at combating hazing in fraternities, moving toward what it called a “fundamental shift” in the Greek system. The university pledged to take “unprecedented” control of the misconduct adjudication process for the Greek system, ending the self-governance of the school’s inter-fraternity council, but did not set a timeline for when that would happen. The initiatives also include a zero-tolerance policy for hazing involving alcohol or physical abuse and a delayed recruitment and pledging process.