But when they return to campus in the fall, one ritual will be drastically different: They will face much more severe consequences for dangerous hazing incidents.
In May, eight months after the death of Maxwell Gruver, a freshman pledge at the university’s now banished Phi Delta Theta fraternity chapter, Gov. John Bel Edwards of Louisiana signed into law an anti-hazing bill that would make it a felony for those involved in hazing that resulted in death, serious bodily harm, or life-threatening levels of alcohol. And students found guilty could land in a Louisiana jail for up to five years.
The new law represents an important departure for Louisiana, which once had some of the most lenient anti-hazing laws in the nation. But it also reflects renewed efforts around the country — in state legislatures, inside courthouses and on campuses — to prevent the hazing injuries and deaths that have plagued college campuses for decades.
“Realistically, the answer is regulation and reform,” John Hechinger, the author of “True Gentlemen: The Broken Pledge of America’s Fraternities,” said during a panel on Greek life last week at The New York Times Higher Ed Leaders Forum. “That is really the only possibility.”
There has been at least one school-related hazing death each year in the United States since 1961, according to Hank Nuwer, a Franklin College journalism professor and the author of multiple books on hazing. Most, but not all, have occurred during fraternity initiation events.
But in 2017, four students, including Mr. Gruver at L.S.U., Tim Piazza, a 19-year-old at Pennsylvania State University and Andrew Coffey, a 20-year-old at Florida State University, lost their lives in hazing-relating incidents. Mr. Coffey died on a fraternity house couch after drinking an entire bottle of bourbon during Big Brother Night. In each case, multiple students were charged.