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Hazing News

CBS Sunday Morning with Tracy Smith highlights work of the Carson Starkey family

Moderator: disclosure. I also was interviewed. I thought the CBS producer and interviewer Tracy Smith did a professional job. Attorney Doug Fierberg as always made compelling advocacy arguments. The work of the Starkey Family and retired activist Eileen Stevens (Mother of Alfred University’s late pledge Chuck Stenzel) is indeed admirable. Here is the link in case video gets added.

short excerpt from a much longer story

It was a half-time show worthy of the Super Bowl, when Florida A&M’s legendary band, the Marching 100, took the field for a college football game last November.

Just hours later, 26-year-old drum major Robert Champion lay dying in the band’s bus . . . brutally beaten in an alleged hazing ritual.

Champion’s senseless death sparked a national outcry over hazing . . . the same outcry as earlier last year after the hazing death of George Desdunes at Cornell . . . and in 2010 after the hazing death of Samuel Mason at Radford University . . . and in 2009 after the hazing death of Arman Partamian at Geneseo State . . .

The same outcry that has come with chilling regularity every year, for decades.

Hank Nuwer, a professor at Franklin College in Indiana, has spent the past 40 years documenting every hazing death in the United States. Since 1975, he says, “there’s been a death every particular year. Would I be very surprised if 2012 goes by without a death? Yes.”

Nuwer says hazing is anything that is required of a newcomer by veterans in a group that you have to go through – it may be silly, demeaning or dangerous.

And the record of dangerous, even deadly hazing, stretches back more than a century.

“The first verifiable incident, clearly, is 1873 at Cornell University,” said Nuwer. “It’s the death of Mortimer Leggett, who was the son of a Civil War general and hero. Leggett fell over the cliff. What got controversial is that there was a blindfold found there.”

For the next hundred years, more deaths followed sporadically. But about 30 years ago, Nuwer noticed a disturbing trend.

The one constant in 82 percent of hazing deaths, Nuwer found, was massive quantities of alcohol – part of a growing culture of binge drinking that is all too common at college campuses across America.

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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