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Hazing Talks Ignited By Recent Incidents

Perhaps it’s just by mere coincidence, but discussions about hazing have recently been ignited within the local media. At the time that my editorial on the subject was published a few weeks ago, there had not been any recently publicized occurrences of hazing for me to cite in order to back up my assertion that the problem had not been addressed. Several commenters pointed that out, including current Intrafraternity Council president and Sigma Alpha Epsilon brother Vinnie Lizza, who said that “no one knows hazing is occurring if people … do not report it.”

Here we are just a few weeks later, and there are now three publicized incidents of hazing that have taken place since March. While it is extremely atypical for the State College Police Department to be investigating that many hazing cases at the same time, Police Chief Tyrone Parham was correct when he said to the Centre Daily Times that “[hazing] may be going on more than it’s reported.” These recent incidents need to start a trend in which torturous hazing is reported more often — and we as a community need to act on these transgressions.

The first incident dates back to March 11 in which police were called to a residence life coordinator’s room in Pennypacker Hall after a tipster spotted unauthorized individuals being allowed into his room by building graduate assistant Claude Mayo. When officers arrived on scene, they heard slapping sounds coming from the room, and later found a bag of paddles that had been stashed away. It is not  yet clear what group or organization the victims were from.

About a month later, on April 4, a female student informed local police that she was subjected to verbal and physical hazing between January and February while pledging an unknown sorority. Five days after that on April 9, Asya Trowell reported that she was violently beaten for three hours during a hazing ritual for Omega Essence, a little sister group of the Omega Psi Phi fraternity, which isn’t officially recognized by the IFC. Trowell didn’t finish her first year at Penn State as a result of that night, in addition to previous rituals in which she was forced to eat an entire jar of mayonnaise, had hot sauce splashed in her eyes, and was hit so hard in the face with a wet towel that it eventually ripped.

In response to those incidents, the Centre Daily Times gave the same plea that I did in my editorial last month. They asked victims of hazing to step forward and report it to the police and “[urged] bright young people to recognize that hazing is a demeaning and potentially dangerous activity that should be eradicated from the practices of their organizations.”

The CDT shouldn’t stand alone — this should be a ubiquitous stance that the Penn State community can all get behind. More victims need to come forward. They need to know that the vast majority of people outside of a certain segment in Greek Life and other infringing organizations are anti-hazing before they’ll feel comfortable sharing their stories.

After my editorial was published, a friend lectured me saying that the point I was trying to make in my article was “so obvious.” To us — and to so many others — it certainly was. But when you read something like two-time Emmy Award winning reporter Chris Pabst’s editorial — innauspicuously titled “Hazing isn’t all bad – it can bring teammates together” — you realize that our position isn’t actually as obvious as most people would think. To an outside observer, there’s no question that something immoral and reprehensible is happening here. But to an insider, it’s tough to come to that conclusion.

All I ask is that we keep the conversation going.

About the Author

Zach Berger

Zach Berger is a StateCollege.com 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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