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25th anniversary of Hank Nuwer’s Broken Pledges: The Deadly Rite of Hazing

Moderator:  With pride and gratitude, I look back on a full quarter-century since the publication of my “Broken Pledges: The Deadly Rite of Hazing”.  Unfortunately, publisher Longstreet Press has gone out of business, but used copies usually can be found at a reasonable price at recognized used book sellers such as Amazon. Today, June 15, Chuck Stenzel, son of hazing heroine Eileen Stevens, would have been 58. Her cause is the central story in my investigative book “Broken Pledges.”

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Reviews:

“Anyone concerned about the presence of fraternities and sororities on college campuses today should read BrokenPledges: The Deadly Rite of Hazing. University administrators, advisors,undergraduates, Greek alumni, parents of pledging students, and even fraternity critics will learn something from Hank Nuwer’s story of the 1978 death of Chuck Stenzel at Alfred University. . .Nuwer believes hazing kills, has nothing to do with tradition, and must be stopped before more deaths occur.”

National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA)Journal,
John E. Creeden, Associate Provost for Student Affairs, Rutgers
University (New Jersey).

“The definitive study of college  hazing”
The Weekly Standard, February 17, 1997

” First, a word on what BrokenPledges is not. The book is not an anti-fraternity diatribe. One of the points brought home so clearly in the book is that hazing is a long-standing societal problem, not the sole province of male fraternities. Broken Pledges is not written by a sensationalist unfamiliar with the territory. Nuwer is a first-class objective journalist who was hazedas a [fraternity] pledge [at Buffalo State College] and who hazed pledges as a member. . . Even as someone who has worked with fraternities for nearly 10 years, I gained a great deal of insight and perspective.” 

–From the review by Richard Harris, The Fraternity Newsletter: a publication of the Association of Fraternity Advisors, Inc.

“Broken Pledges is replete with page after page of evidence showing that no one looks good when fraternities and hazing are scrutinized. Not the injured or deceased. Not [fraternity] brothers who have a habit of dissembling or clamming up to protect themselves during the resulting inquiries. Not faculty advisors who look the other way during hazing. And not hapless college officials left with the task of public relations damage control and the curbing of future incidents.. .Eileen Stevens, the mother of Chuck Stenzel [pledge killed in a hazingat Alfred University] and founder of the Committee to Halt Useless College Killings (CHUCK) said [in a telephone interview] reading Nuwer’s book wasvery painful. `But it’s very valuable because he makes clear the devastating effect hazing deaths have on families.’” From the review by George Smith of the Allentown [PA] Morning Call

“A thorough and eye-opening examination of the dangers of initiation and hazing
rituals. . .A powerful investigation into a practice in dire need of curtailment.”
Kirkus Reviews

“Everyone associated with fraternity life should read Broken Pledges: The Deadly Rite of Hazing. . .Perhaps it should be compulsory reading for all actives prior to rush. Put this one on the bookshelf in your chapter house.” Book review, Fraternal Law

“Required reading for all prospective college students and others who belong to groups where hazing is an accepted ritual.” Sue Ellen Beauregard, Booklist

“Grade A: Though sometimes graphic, this book is important because it offers proof that hazing is everywhere, not just in college fraternal organizations. The book belongs on the shelves of groups where hazing may occur.” Library Journal (Danna C. Bell, Marymount University Library, Arlington, VA.)

“Greek leaders say [Broken Pledges] illustrates a problem fraternities and sororities are working together to eliminate—organizational hazing. Jonathan Brant, spokesman for the National Interfraternity Conference in Indianapolis, an organization that represents about 5,200 fraternity chapters nationwide, says Nuwer’s book should `raise awareness’ about hazing and its consequences. But even more importantly, he says, the book might also put the spotlight on the work individual Greek chapters are doing to eliminate the problem.” LesleyAnn Mitchell, Article/Review,Gannett News Service

“Hank Nuwer uses the Stenzel case—one that ultimately resulted in a tough New York State law on fraternity hazing—to investigate the persistence of such harassment not only at the university level, but in the world of professional societies and the military. The details are sufficiently horrifying to make good agitprop—just what Nuwer intends.”
Alanna Nash, Entertainment Weekly

“Mr. Nuwer was an associate professor of journalism at Ball State University when, in 1988, he received a Gannett Foundation fellowship to write his book. The book examines hazing abuses that Mr. Nuwer says are prevalent not only among Greek organizations but also in the military, athletic teams, and high school and college bands.In the course of his investigation, [the author] found that fraternity and sorority members who haze pledges don’t mean to harm them. . . “What strikes you is the very ordinariness of the death that makes it so chilling. I want to show that these men didn’t start out to kill anyone. To view them as villains is not to get an accurate picture.”  Michele N-K Collison, The Chronicle of Higher Education

“It is indeed a rare event when a new book of any kind about college fraternities appears. . .And most of the few which do pop up have little serious interest or value. However, Hank Nuwer’s Broken Pledges: The Deadly Rite of Hazing is a welcome exception to this rule. All Greeks who love their fraternities, and value the positive force they can exert on members and campuses, need to read this book. . . Nuwer takes off to discuss aspects of hazing ­ I know of nothing else in print which tells so much about this extraordinarily complicated student behavorial phenomenon. Moreover, Broken Pledges is very good reading.Its affect upon my wife illustrates this. She was at first interested only because it dealt exclusively with Eileen Stevens, whom she knows. But once engaged in readingthe book, she became so fascinated she could hardly put it down.A loyal sorority alumna, she said that for the first time n her life it left her wondering if the Greek letter sorority and fraternity systems as described here were worth saving, and if our own granddaughters would be safe in them.. . So thank you, Hank Nuwer, for writing a book so useful for those concerned with student life—and
especially  the Greeks—the likes of which we have not seen for many years.” Frederick D. Kershner, The Delta Tau Delta Magazine

 

By Hank Nuwer

Hank Nuwer is the Indiana-based author of Broken Pledges: The Deadly Rite of Hazing, High School Hazing, Wrongs of Passage and The Hazing Reader. He has written articles or columns on hazing for the Sunday Times of India, Toronto Globe & Mail, Harper's Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, The Chronicle of Higher Education and the New York Times Sunday Magazine. His new book is Hazing: Destroying Young Lives from Indiana University Press.

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