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Chico editorial

Editorial: Mother’s story should be heard
Chico Enterprise-Record
Posted: 02/04/2009 12:00:00 AM PST

Our view: Only when adults like Debbie Smith speak out will college students know the dangers of hazing.

Matthew Carrington’s legacy can’t be measured by the number of people who show up to a candlelight vigil.

Carrington’s mother, Debbie Smith, seemed disappointed that only about a dozen friends and family members — and nobody from the university or community — attended the remembrance. It came on the fourth anniversary of his death.

There were two big reasons for the sparse turnout. First, it was at 10:30 p.m. on a Sunday night. Second, the vigil was barely publicized.

“If they forget about him, they’ll forget what happened to him and it will happen again,” she said. “I don’t want someone else to get that phone call.”

While we certainly understand a parent’s grief, Smith needs to realize that her actions alone have helped spread a powerful message. She pushed for prosecution of the fraternity members who presided over the hazing ceremony that killed Carrington. Her son died not from drinking alcohol, but from drinking too much water. She later encouraged the state Legislature to pass a law — “Matt’s Law” — that bans hazing, which strangely enough was not in the criminal code.

All the laws and candlelight vigils in the world won’t stop college students from irresponsible behavior, however. Drunk students were rioting in the streets just a few blocks away, three days before the anniversary. An 18-year-old college student died in an

alleged hazing incident just two months ago in San Luis Obispo. Two years after Carrington’s death, Chico State University stripped a fraternity of recognition after a hazing incident. It happens.

But it happens much less because of people like Debbie Smith speaking out and a university adopting a zero-tolerance policy toward hazing.

There’s no room for hazing at a university. Most college students understand that — and every parent does. We want Smith to know her efforts are not in vain.

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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