Moderator: After all of these discouraging years of writing as a journalist about hazing, it still shocks and horrifies me that a death has occurred at the University of Buffalo that was 100 percent preventable. I cannot understand how the members with 18-year-old Sebasian Serafin-Bazan could, as neighbors said, mostly leave him and hightail it away without assisting him as he lay dying. I grieve for his parents, true friends, and the University of Buffalo (good memories of playing against UB in baseball for Buffalo State in 1965). –Hank Nuwer
PS Here is a good commentary by Laura Hollis.
Last month, in the wake of the Felicity Huffman/Lori Loughlin/et al. college admissions scandal, I wrote a column about Americans’ outdated obsession with so-called “elite” colleges and universities. Space restrictions prevented me from discussing another troublesome issue: the fraternity culture at many American universities. Several years ago, I read an article in Rolling Stone magazine, “Confessions of an Ivy League Frat Boy.” The author, Andrew Lohse, is a former Dartmouth student. Lohse blew the whistle on truly repulsive hazing practices at Dartmouth — and found himself expelled for his trouble, while his fraternity brothers escaped unscathed. His Rolling Stone interview (and the book he later wrote with the same title) describes his experience and his disillusionment with the Greek culture at the Ivy Leagues.
The story was another example of the serious problems facing higher education today. Hazing is by no means unique to the Ivy Leagues; there are more than 6,000 fraternity chapters at nearly 1,000 colleges and universities across the U.S., and every year brings at least one major news story about a hazing incident resulting in serious injury or death. Nor is this a modern phenomenon; according to author and researcher Hank Nuwer, the first recorded death attributable to hazing dates back to 1838. No list is comprehensive, because the vast majority of hazing incidents go unreported. But the number of deaths in the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries is sobering (or should be). There have been over 200 hazing-related deaths — 40 between 2007 and 2017 alone — and there has been at least one death every year since 1969. The single most frequent cause of death is alcohol poisoning (with violence not far behind).
Despite the official policies of most colleges, universities and the national fraternity leadership that prohibit hazing, and despite annual anti-hazing and hazing awareness efforts, conversations with college students reveal that hazing continues. And the statistics referenced above make clear that hazing practices are just as potentially lethal as ever.