Hazing News

New York Sun edition covers hazing


Hank Nuwer, a writer and journalist, has written about hazing in the US since 1975 when he was studying at the University of Nevada, Reno.

That year, a rising star in the college football team, John Davies, was initiated into the athletic fraternity the Sundowners.

Nuwer said that he had already witnessed some of the group’s initiations first-hand at bars in town.

On one occasion, he said that he saw a new pledge “frothing at the mouth” following a hazing ritual that involved making prospective members drink Everclear before throwing lit matches in their faces.

One night, October 12, 1975, Davies and fellow pledges were driven out to an Indian reservation at Pyramid Lake, some 50 miles northeast of campus, far from anyone who could help.

Davies died and another student was left with brain damage from the hazing.

Nuwer wrote a piece for Human Behavior Magazine that year and was then assigned to create a database on the deaths.

He’s been covering the topic ever since and warns that incidents of deadly hazing have accelerated in the years since Davies’ death.

The first reported death at a fraternity was in 1874, and the first alcohol-related death was Hubert Spake at the University of Missouri in 1949.

The problem worsened following the passing of the 1984 National Minimum Drinking Age Act, which required states to prohibit the selling of alcohol to anyone under the age of 21, effectively excluding most college students from legally buying alcohol.

“When the drinking age was raised from 18 to 21, you can look on a chart and you start seeing the deaths coming,” Hank said.

“One, the alcohol being forbidden makes it more attractive. And two, it really became part of the hazing process.

“The litmus test is how much can you drink, fast, and in quantity? And so the causes of death in hazings are very different from the 19th century.”


Flavia Tomasello knows more than most about the potentially deadly consequences of hazing.

In October 2019, her 19-year-old son Antonio Tsialas died at Cornell University following a drunken hazing ritual.

Born and raised in Venezuela and Italy, Flavia didn’t know too much about hazing at US colleges.

She was wary when her soccer-loving son revealed that he was looking to join the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity, but Antonio persuaded her that it would be a good way to develop contacts and leadership skills that would help him for life.

Antonio would disappear following a night of heavy drinking at the fraternity house, with his body being found at the bottom of a nearby ravine.

As well as having to come to terms with the devastating loss of her son, Flavia also had to deal with a code of silence surrounding the fraternity at Cornell.

“We did not receive any information from the school,” she told The U.S. Sun.

“It was whatever we were able to find out through our private investigators and the help of our attorney.

“They [Cornell] didn’t want to call it a hazing death, it was not recognized as anything at the beginning.”

In December 2020, Cornell paid an undisclosed amount of money to Antonio’s family and created an annual scholarship in his memory under a civil lawsuit.

It also indefinitely revoked recognition of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity.

Hazing News

Editorial on Northwestern University

The hazing scandal at Northwestern University is far away on a U.S. map, but it behooves all high school and UFA administrators and coaches to pay attention to the stark lessons this sad episode reveals.

The grim facts were spelled out Wednesday in our sports pages, and I learned more from reporters who interviewed me today because my scholarly expertise is hazing in national and international education, occupational hazing, and military hazing. I’ve been writing about hazing ever since 1975, plus keeping a database of hazing deaths in U.S. schools. To me, the recent most newsworthy trends have been the involvement against hazing by parents whose children have died in hazing incidents (usually accompanied by crazy amounts of alcohol chugging), and the proliferation of violent and often sexually repulsive hazing incidents involving underage boys on sports teams.

While a few violent and sexually repulsive hazing incidents involving college teams have been reported in the U.S. and Canada over the last quarter-century, those numbers have been dwarfed by the number of similar hazing incidents involving high school athletes on a great many different sports teams. Not surprisingly, the number is far higher among boys than of girls, and also that the majority of brutal episodes — including savage beatings, bullying, racist targeting of victims, and rape by definition — are connected to high profile team sports, most notably high school football squads, and occur most often in team locker rooms, buses, and sports camps. The fear of coaches who actively are aware in hazing awareness and education efforts is that those high school hazing perpetrators who made it to graduation without being caught are going to bring their revolting tactics to college campuses and create or exacerbate a hazing culture.

In the Northwestern case, which was rare or even unprecedented, a coach was punished with a two-week suspension and then, to his shock, was fired. In a letter to the public and Northwestern University community, President Michael Schill said he fired longtime alum and head football Coach Pat Fitzgerald because of “what he should have known” about hazing and bullying going on for many years on his watch. Firing Fitzgerald was the right thing to do, but it was too late, although not too little, to protect Schill from widespread criticism from sports commentators. Also in response, Schill finally did what he should have done all along: hired a neutral observer for the locker room and mandated anti-hazing training for all.

However, in reading over Schill’s letter accompanying Fitzgerald’s firing, I strongly feel the president has glossed over his own failure to address “what he should have known” about hazing. Northwestern University’s hazing incidents go back many years. The 1921 disappearance and subsequent drowning death of Leighton Mount was associated by many critics with freshman hazing, although the university issued denials.

And in 2017, the parents of Northwestern University female basketball player Jordan Hawkins at 19 blamed her depression from hazing in Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority as the trigger that drove her to suicide. Hazing incidents involving fraternities and sororities at Northwestern go back many decades. Given all the evidence that Northwestern at times had a hazing problem, Schill upon his hiring in 2022 needed to mandate campus-wide hazing education programs in sports, Greek social groups, and clubs. As he now has learned, hazing is not a problem unless it happens on your campus and on your watch. As of yet, Schill has not acted with the transparency he needs to demonstrate, and now the ball is in the court of Northwestern University’s Board of Trustees to discuss Schill’s handling of the football team debacle and, in particular, did he do enough to uphold the university’s obligation to provide a safe educational experience for athletes and the general student population. Anchorage’s Dimond High School had its entire season suspended in 2018 after sexual abuse and hazing allegations surfaced. The lesson is clear that the unthinkable can happen anywhere. With the fall semester rapidly approaching, it would be prudent for Fairbanks local high schools to see if their own locker rooms are properly monitored and that male and female coaches make it clear that no hazing, particularly any involving alcohol or sexualized attacks, will be tolerated.

Hazing News

Boston 25 News tackles alcohol issue

Here is the story link and an excerpt.


BOSTON — For some, it is as intrinsic to the college experience as living in a dorm, drinking alcohol. In some cases, lots of alcohol — even so much as to require medical attention.

That kind of drinking went on at UMass-Amherst this past March when an all-day alcohol ingestion event called the Blarney Blowout ended with more than two dozen students needing medical attention. The emergency department at Cooley-Dickinson Hospital in Northampton was reportedly overwhelmed that day with potential alcohol-poisoning cases.

All of the UMass students survived the Blarney Blowout. But, sadly, that has not always been the case on college campuses. In 2013, Anthony Barksdale, an 18-year-old freshman at Boston University, died after heavy drinking during a fraternity event.

“There’s just simply this belief that it happens to somebody else,” said Hank Nuwer, who authored several books on college binge drinking — especially as it relates to hazing.

Nuwer said that while alcohol has a long history on college campuses, drinking seemed to accelerate when the legal age went from 18 to 21 in the United States.

“Right around that time, you can start seeing the hazing increase, the alcohol-related deaths increase,” Nuwer said. “And maybe the simple reason for it is when you prohibit something it either becomes more attractive or it becomes necessary to break that rule, especially when you’re in a group or a fraternity.”

But there have been serious consequences to breaking that rule. The government reports about 22,000 college-age Americans wind up hospitalized each year because of alcohol use — as many as 1,500 die.

Nuwer maintains an online list of fatal hazing incidents in the U.S., going all the way back to 1838. Most of the more recent ones involve heavy ingestion of alcohol.

“(With pledging) the litmus test of manhood is to be able to drink a handle of alcohol — you’re talking about 40 ounces — plus shots of alcohol,” Nuwer said. “So you could have anywhere from 40 to 50 ounces or more that you’re consuming in 20 minutes, maybe an hour.”

Nuwer said that amount of alcohol would prove fatal to some students.

“The problem is that many do survive, and then the expectation is that the next group will survive,” said Nuwer. “This kind of invincible spirit is pervasive on all campuses.”

But invincibility is not guaranteed when it comes to alcohol and, in any case, isn’t apportioned equally — sometimes for the simple reason that young college students may lack drinking experience. Such was the case with Barksdale, according to his family at the time.

“If you’re not used to drinking alcohol, you are very susceptible to alcohol poisoning,” said Antje Barreveld, MD, co-founder of Newton-Wellesley Hospital’s Substance Use Service. “So it doesn’t take as much as it does for someone who already has an inherent tolerance.”

Hazing News

Chico State again cleans problematic houses

Note: The list of consecutive years of deaths is 1959-2021. None in 1958 or 2022 or 2023.

Two Greek organizations at a California state university are under investigation due to hazing allegations after a third was suspended following a hazing probe, school officials said.

The Phi Delta Theta fraternity and the Lambda Sigma Gamma sorority at Chico State are both under investigation for alleged hazing violations, a school spokesperson confirmed to ABC News on Friday.

“Because these investigations are open and active, the University is not able to release further details at this time,” the spokesperson, Andrew Staples, said.

MORE: New Mexico State men’s basketball coach fired after alleged hazing incident on team

The news comes after the university announced earlier this week that its Delta Chi fraternity was ceasing operations following a hazing investigation.

The national office of the Delta Chi Fraternity said it became aware of “hazing and alcohol violations” on March 27. It revoked the charter of the school’s chapter days later following an investigation by Chico State’s Office of Student Conduct, Rights, and Responsibilities that “corroborated allegations of hazing,” the school said.