The Death of Clemson Pledge Tucker Hipps

By Hank Nuwer

The death of Clemson University Sigma Phi Epsilon pledge Tucker Hipps, 19, understandably has torn apart the hearts of campus members at this close-knit institution of higher learning.


And I should disclose that I once taught at Clemson some 32 years ago and loved the school, its students, and my colleagues.  Hazing was not a big issue at Clemson in 1982-1983, but alcohol abuse and the school’s issues with fraternity parties and nearby downtown bars was a concern of administration and faculty back then. My condolences go out to the family of Tucker but also out to the extended Clemson community.


Unless toxicology results shed light on Hipps’ death, his death will join a small number of other pledging and initiation deaths that remain a mystery. For unless there is a cover-up by fraternity members, and the intense investigation of Oconee County Sheriff Mike Crenshaw has not uncovered one, only Tucker himself knows how he fell from a high bridge span into the rock-bottomed, relatively shallow waters of Lake Hartwell, where he and about 30 Sig Ep pledges and members were jogging around 5:30 a.m.


Here are a couple of the mystery deaths my research has uncovered. Link to


1)        In 1873, Kappa Alpha Society pledge Mortimer Leggett perished in a fall into a steep gorge while accompanied by members of the Cornell University chapter. A blindfold was found after the death, and the father expressed his suspicions, but the members stuck to the story that Mortimer wore no blindfold at the time of the mishap.

2)        Delta Kappa Epsilon pledge Stuart L. Pierson was struck by a train on the tracks near Kenyon College in 1905. No definitive answers about that episode ever emerged, though rumors in newspapers went wild, and the hard questions simply evaporated when the father forgave the brothers.

3)        Northwestern University student Leighton Mount disappeared after a traditional class rush in 1921, and his body was found beneath a pier two years later. Rumors were rampant, but hard facts were absent.


Sheriff Crenshaw has said he and his force

have not located any evidence that hazing or foul play occurred, but his investigation is ongoing and toxicology reports (such as whether alcohol or drugs were in Hipps’ system) typically will take some time to emerge.


Here are some of my thoughts on the tragedy.


– The incident will not be hazing if, as USA Today writes, this is a volunteer run with elected pledges AND members as a group bonding experience.

– The incident could be hazing or possibly negligence if it is ever established that Hipps were sleep-deprived or under the influence of alcohol or both. The strongly anti-hazing national Sigma Phi Epsilon reiterated its anti-hazing values and promised its own investigation into the circumstances of death.


Two things trouble me in the news reports that have emerged.

1) Why did one or more of the young men notice Tucker having (in the words of one Sig p witness) “issues” during the predawn event and run on anyway, leaving him behind?  Were they callous, indifferent, or required to finish their run by someone in charge? Why were they not wearing reflective clothing?


2) It troubles me that the run ended at 6 a.m. and no call to authorities was made until 1:45 p.m., as chapter members tried to hunt for Tucker.  If they had nothing to hide, wouldn’t they have wanted assistance from police or other organized search-and-rescue units? Did any of the members insist no help be requested?
3) I have some problem with the term “voluntary” being used to describe the run in the dark. It is very unlikely a pledge would say no to a run even if he were feeling ill because of group pressure and the quest for camaraderie.


4)        Social groups of men, in particular, need to think twice before sending out members and/or pledges on a jog or fool’s errand in the dark or to remote areas. Over time, we have seen the deaths from those causes of a young sorority member at Eastern Illinois University, as well as young men from Tulane University, Grove City College and Skidmore University (which has been trying like Wesleyan University to mandate coed fraternities).


To be sure, not even having answers can bring back Tucker Hipps to life. In my gut and heart I do not know if this incident qualifies as hazing. But I suspect that every man in the Clemson University chapter of Sigma Phi Epsilon knows this death could have been prevented had they stopped and helped Tucker when he was struggling. And that is one sad and terrible thing to live with the rest of their lives.











We’ve heard about the latest scoop from Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.

And we flatout don’t like the way the ice cream giant has come up with a new

flavor to be called “Hazed and Confused,” the same name a Boulder (Co.)-based

beer company chose for its new brand just about the time Colorado University was dealing with the hazing death of Gordie Bailey, Jr.

Ben and Jerry’s is located in Burlington, Vermont, once home to Jonathan McNamara who perished in a long fall from a cliff during a hazing incident.

This isn’t the first company to make a mockery of hazing with an unfortunate ad campaign. Pizza Hut briefly did so, then pulled its commercial when public opinion was deadest against it. Snapple was worst, stubbornly keeping its web ads showing Afro-haired brothers in a compromised hazing situation with a broken paddle on the floor.

Activists Lianne and Brian Kowiak lost their son Harrison in an inane and deadly physical hazing episode in North Carolina that ended his life with a serious head injury.

They protested to a front office staffer at Ben & Jerry’s who tried to convince the couple the ice cream name was all in jest.

Oh really, what other playful taboo subjects are next on the Board of Directors’ drawing board?

There is a glimmer of hope in the air, however. After all, Ben & Jerry’s swears up

and down on its web site that it is a values-based company. Consumer Affairs

Director Wendy Steager today announced to the Kowiaks a new position:

Ben & Jerry’s Statement on Hazed & Confused

–The naming of Ben & Jerry’s newest Core Concoction flavor “Hazed

& Confused” is a wordplay on the term “dazed and confused.” The

concoction is a hazelnut-based flavor, and Ben & Jerry’s often connects

popular culture to its flavors, hence the pun. The flavor Hazed & Confused

and Ben & Jerry’s as a company in no way condone – nor support in any

manner – the act of hazing or bullying.

Ben & Jerry’s has taken a position to support equality throughout its 36

year history. Aligning with the Occupy Wall Street movement, standing up

for children with the Call for Kids program, and B&Js perennial and global

support of same sex marriage in the United States, United Kingdom and

Australia all demonstrate the company’s ongoing vibrant belief and efforts

to support diversity, equality and peace.

Ben & Jerry’s believes that hazing and bullying have no place in our

society. No individual, group, or entity should benefit by marginalizing


–Empathizing with those individuals and families who have unfortunately

endured the hardship of hazing, the company’s Global Leadership Team is

reviewing this issue at its next meeting.<b>

Here’s hoping that many of you for Hazing Prevention Week will send a stern

single sentence to Ms. Steager and the Ben and Jerry Board of Directors Jeff

Furman, Pierre Ferrari, Jennifer Henderson, Jostein Solheim and Terry Mollner.

I’ll let Lianne Kowiak have the last word. “As parents who have lost their 19

year old son from something so senseless as hazing, we would like to

see Ben & Jerry’s change the name of an ice cream flavor “Hazed and

Confused”. For all the families that have lost a son or daughter or loved

one to hazing and for all the individuals who have been harmed physically

and emotionally , and out of respect to them, this action would support the

core values and attention to social issues Ben & Jerry’s represents.”

The board meets in mid-October. Make your voice known.

Hazed and Confused?  Here’s my new motto. “We’re not buying it…nor any other Ben & Jerry’s product. Not so long as they put out that offensive flavor.”

Send a letter of protest to Ben & Jerry at

Then send a CC to Lianne and Brian at

Do the right thing. Pull “Hazed and Confused” out of production.



The University of New Mexico punished coach and players alike after off-campus, alcohol-related hazing went wild. Police say they could file felony charges.

Worse, the UNM soccer handbook seems to condone so-called “putting rookies in their place.” Liability issue?

Two players (twin sisters) have left the squad.

Link to editorial


Court documents detail players being assaulted with broom sticks and pool cues… a locker room culture that simply can’t be tolerated.

Hazing is often a cultural problem; in many cases a passive acceptance as leaders in positions of authority look the other way or don’t look close enough.

Read more:

Column by Will Weber