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Hazing: An Unspoken Problem Not Gone

Hazing is wrong. There, I said it. It’s one of the most polarizing issues on college campuses yet nobody wants to talk about it. We know that it’s an issue, yet we want to pretend it isn’t. Well, hazing is still an issue, and the vicious cycle of being hazed and then believing that one has earned the right to haze is not going to stop unless we talk about it.

Why is it that all universities care only about a superficial appearance? Case in point: Roy Baker. The famed fraternity fixer has traveled from one school to another revamping their Greek systems but doing little to curb hazing. He makes the occasional example out of a troublesome fraternity and the outside appearance of the Greek system remains intact, but all his initiatives do is encourage hazing to be done more discreetly.

But the question is, what happens within those fraternity walls? There are always ugly rumors about one house or another–the  elephant walk, knee-drops onto pavement or cement, or shoving a metal bottlecap onto your elbow until it’s filled to the top with blood. What’s true and what’s just talk can’t be determined, as most Greeks stick with a lips-sealed policy, but the fact of the matter is that some of it is true.

A couple brothers in one Penn State fraternity described to me in some detail what their “bid accept night” is like, explaining that they are forced to chug Natty Lights and wake up with little to no memory of the night. The same brothers described to me their “Big Brother night”, where they’re provided with a standard 750 mL bottle of 80-proof hard liquor to drink by themselves as some sort of ritual or tradition. If I went through this “ritual”, I’d wind up in the hospital with alcohol poisoning–or worse.

Then there’s Tyler Furman, a Penn State sophomore who disaffiliated with a fraternity due to hazing. “Most hazing is done because of power and control,” Furman said. “I have felt the emotional pain of being scared so much that I would clean the same table over and over for 20 minutes. I have been physically hurt to the point where I couldn’t even push a door open because my back was in so much pain.”

No reasonable person would agree that there are benefits to inflicting that type of physical and emotional pain on another person. That sadistic behavior needs to be put to a stop before it gets even more out of control. “I realized [they] cared more about their tradition than family or school work,” Furman said. “They want you to go through what they went through. I remember during my hazing I turned to my pledge brothers and said, ‘I can’t see myself doing this to other people, can you?'”

Unfortunately, there are far too many that aren’t like Tyler Furman and want to break pledges mentally in the same way that they were once broken. He added that there are benefits of hazing if done the right way as it can build unification, but I think that he’s missing the line between pledging and hazing. Making pledges clean a house or work the bar at parties is one thing. Making pledges do pushups on broken glass or drink/eat various horrifying concoctions is another.

Of course, the argument for hazing is that it establishes respect for older brothers and forms bonds amongst the pledge class. In my opinion, this is nothing more than a rationalization or justification for enacting what could be considered a form of torture on their pledges, in most cases simply because they previously went through it. This cycle can not be stopped unless we start treating hazing for what it is – a major problem that hasn’t yet resulted in something as serious as a death at Penn State, but very well could.

There have been 104 hazing-related deaths since 1970. That comes out to around two and a half students every year dying as a result of hazing. With a Greek life population as large as Penn State’s, it is simply statistically probable that we will eventually see those severe negative repercussions up close and personal. But it shouldn’t have to get to that point for there to be a wakeup call on this campus and in this town, as examples of those repercussions are all around us.

Look at Robert Champion, the Florida A&M drum major who died during a hazing ritual last year. Or look at the Rolling Stone article that inspired this editorial, the story of Andrew Lohse, a Dartmouth student that pledged Sigma Alpha Epsilon and was forced to eat vomelets (yes, that’s what you think it is) and jump into a kiddie pool filled with vomit, pee, fecal matter, and semen, on top of an obscene amount of forced drinking.

Brotherhood can be formed without the use of hazing. I’m a proud brother and founding father of Alpha Epsilon Pi here at Penn State along with Tyler Furman. AEPi was expelled from campus for two years following a hazing incident in 2010. A reformation of AEPi combined 70+ students who for the most part didn’t know each other. In seven months, every one of those students has formed some of their best friendships at Penn State, all without the use of hazing. I don’t mean to sound arrogant, but other fraternities at this school should follow the example that AEPi is setting.

Hazing may have a few benefits, but they are few and far between the vast amount of drawbacks and consequences. Those benefits could be accomplished in a much more humane manner without essentially enacting torture based on unsound and unreasonable justifications. So I’ll ask you one more time, let’s stop ignoring this gargantuan issue and start discussing how to bring a stop to hazing for once and for all, before something truly tragic happens. Please.

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About the Author

Zach Berger

Zach Berger is a reporter and Onward State's Managing Editor Emeritus. You can find him at the Phyrst more nights than not. If he had to pick a last meal, Zach would go for a medium-rare New York strip steak with a side of garlic mashed potatoes and a cold BrewDog Punk IPA. You can reach him via e-mail at [email protected] or on Twitter at @theZachBerger.

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