Hazing News

Could Police Chief Jerry Dyer Educate Himself a Tad More about Hazing in Fresno State Theta Chi Death?

Opinion by Hank Nuwer, Moderator


The Sacramento Bee article on how Fresno police are investigating the death of Philip Dhanens, 18, has me alternately applauding and critical.  On the one hand, Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer has assigned a large number of investigators to the case. He’s also trying to figure how man under 21-year-olds were served, including the possibility of teens under 18 being given alcohol. That’s great.

But he’s waited an awful long time to start investigating. Deaths like this as shown by the badly botched Joe Bisanz death at Indiana University need to be addressed before fraternity members get crafted stories get straight, Theta Chi officials and lawyers advise, and evidence gets tossed.

Dyer said it is too early to determine if hazing occurred at the party. “We’ll be looking at whether or not there was any type of forced consumption of alcohol or whether it was strictly voluntary,” he said.

Nyet. While it may be “voluntary” drinking that pledges did, that does not alter the fact that hazing could have occurred. One of the reasons hazing cases so frequently slip through the cracks is that police chiefs and prosecutors are inadequately informed about hazing education.  In other words, like many coaches and fraternity members, it isn’t hazing if it doesn’t meet Chief Dyer’s personal definition of hazing.

The chief seems a dedicated personal servant in his actions so far. I’m confident he’ll go the extra mile to educate himself on conducting a hazing investigation based on the facts of the case, not his opinion. Here’s a starting point, Chief:


Myth #5: If someone agrees to participate in an activity, it can’t be considered hazing.

Fact: In states that have laws against hazing consent of the victim can’t be used as a defense in a civil suit. This is because even if someone agrees to participate in a potentially hazardous action it may not be true consent when considering the peer pressure and desire to belong to the group.


Read more here:


By Hank Nuwer

Journalist Hank Nuwer is the Alaska author of Hazing: Destroying Young Lives; Broken Pledges: The Deadly Rite of Hazing, High School Hazing, Wrongs of Passage and The Hazing Reader. In April of 2024, the Alaska Press Club awarded him first place in the Best Columnist division and Best Humorist, second place.

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 current book is Hazing: Destroying Young Lives from Indiana University Press. He is married to Malgorzata Wroblewska Nuwer of Warsaw, Poland and Fairbanks, Alaska. Nuwer is a former columnist for the Greenville (Ohio)Early Bird and former managing editor of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner in Alaska.
Nuwer was named the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists columnist of the year in 2021 for his “After Darke” column in the Early Bird. He also won third place for the column in 2022 from the Indiana chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. He and his wife Gosia, recently of Union City, Ind., have owned 20 acres in Alaska for many years. “The move is a sort-of coming home for us,” said Nuwer. As a journalist, he’s written about the Alaskan Iditarod sled-dog race and other Alaska topics. Read his musings in his blog at Real Alaska Daily-- and in his weekly column "Far from Randolph" in the Winchester Star-Gazette of Randolph County, Indiana.

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