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Franklin College launches start of Hazing Prevention Week

Highlight on Hazing
Father, brother of hazing victim visit college to educate against the deadly crime

By Andrew Walker
awalker@franklincollege.edu
The Franklin student newspaper, Franklin College (IN)

William Meredith watches video of his son Chad playing little league baseball. The nearly 30 students in the room see the father beam as Chad drives an inside fastball over the left field fence.
“Chad would never talk the talk,” William said. “He would always walk the walk. Everyone on his teams knew he was a quiet leader.”
Chad’s baseball career at Warren Central High School led him to the University of Miami in Florida, a school nationally known for college baseball.
Things then took an ugly turn for the worse.
Chad Meredith cramped up crossing a small lake in a 2001 fraternity hazing, and, while under the influence of alcohol, he drowned in just over six feet of water.
National Hazing Prevention Week is Sept. 24-28. Franklin College Professor Hank Nuwer, author of four books on hazing, decided to have William Meredith and his oldest son, Jerry, discuss Chad’s situation and the dangers of hazing with two Franklin classes.
“This was the first time that we’ve ever been to a classroom,” William Meredith said. “Our main purpose is to get the word out and let people know about how there is such an undercurrent about hazing in our society that is just not talked about.”
Freshman Kia Arion is a student in Nuwer’s LA 112 Sports Journalism course.
“It was really sad hearing Mr. Meredith talk about his son,” Arion said. “It is just sad that it all had to end when he was so young, and to have such a tragic death like that makes it even worse.”
Freshman Aaron Hommell said that Meredith’s story might have given him a different perspective as he pledges for a fraternity in the upcoming weeks.
“I had not heard of the death of Mr. Meredith’s son prior to that class,” Hommell said. “I will be joining a fraternity this fall, but I will tell you right now, hazing surely will not be a part of my experience.”
Tracy Maxwell, Executive Director of the website HazingPrevention.org, said that hazing does not necessarily have to be deadly to make its mark.
“Student deaths from hazing are tragic, but I would like students to focus on the everyday pain and hurt caused by these practices,” Maxwell said. “[Hazing] injures self- esteem, causes a great deal of anguish and has no place in organizations who espouse leadership as one of its main goals.”
Jerry Meredith said that many of these organizations sweep hazing under the rug.
“Part of the reason that the story is not out there is because nobody is talking about them,” Jerry Meredith said. “Those that are hazing, they are pushing that this is not to be spoken about, and there is some secrecy there.”
Nuwer was a witness to an athletic hazing initiation at the University of Nevada-Reno that later was repeated and ended in a death. He said witnesses to hazing have two options.
“You can call 911 if you can’t handle the situation right there,” Nuwer said. “Or try to get another bystander to come in there with you to say just two words: ‘far enough.’”
Franklin Athletic Director and Head Men’s Basketball Coach Kerry Prather said although there has not been a history of hazing here, last year he thought it was important to initiate a school-wide hazing policy.
“[Hazing] has become an important topic of conversation at all levels of athletics,” Prather said.
“We chose to get ahead of the issue and be proactive.”
Because of the Chad Meredith Act of Florida, the Sunshine State now has one of the toughest hazing laws in the United States.
“The one good thing that can come out of our son’s death is to get the word out — to let people know about [hazing], and risks and dangers,” William Meredith said.
Recently, two men began serving two-year sentences for a hazing beating at Florida A&M.
“Chad loved to hit against the tougher competition,” William Meredith said.
Chad Meredith can touch them all.
With his law, he has hit another home run.

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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