Hazing News

Going back in time: Panel discusses hazing prevention at Union College

Katelyn Billings, Union College student newspaper

At 7:00 p.m. this past Thursday, Union students and faculty filed into Memorial Chapel to attend the “Anti-Hazing Panel and Discussion,” led by expert Hank Nuwer and his colleagues.

Nuwer and his panel members briefly discussed what hazing meant to them and how it was applicable to situations outside of Greek Life, specifically in athletics. They explained that hazing is attractive in many aspects and applications because of the element of having power over someone else.

Whether it involves the pledging process of fraternities and sororities or the initiation of rookie baseball players, Nuwer highlighted the extreme dangers of this influential power.

Nuwer, author of The Hazing Reader and several other books on hazing, recollected his time on a baseball team and his experience in very risky hazing incidents. He spoke of one experience in which a teammate was killed, and others faced prison terms without plea bargains.

In The Hazing Reader, Nuwer uses the term “frat rat” to describe members of Greek organizations who “abuse, degrade and humiliate pledges, then graduate.” According to Nuwer, these members “chew away at the foundations of Greek houses and threaten to bring the system crashing down on the heads of all.”

He explained that while hazing could be considered “fun” or simply joking around and teasing pledges and new members, there is always the potential for serious trouble, criminal charges and even deadly danger.

Nuwer recounted some infamous college hazing scandals from Florida A&M and University of Virginia, in which students died as a result of pledging and initiation activity.  In his book, Wrongs of Passage, Nuwer recounts a specific story of the hazing death of Chad Saucier, a pledge of Auburn University’s Phi Delta Theta chapter. Saucier, who was encouraged to drink by brothers of the chapter, died after consuming excessive amounts of alcohol.

According to Nuwer, 44 states in the U.S. currently have federal laws outlawing any practice of hazing.

When given the opportunity to ask questions, students asked the panel if they thought the attention given to hazing would scare away potential pledges in the future. One student asked if the pressure created from the recent negative attention to Union’s Greek system would eliminate Greek life on campus altogether.

The panel stated that although hazing is effective in fostering friendship and bonds in pledge classes, they felt it was completely inappropriate and Greek Life could definitely survive without it. Panel members identified hazing in sororities and fraternities as “an excuse to justify tradition,” and commented that when outsiders challenge those traditions, members defend them steadfastly.

With the information garnered from the panel’s discussion, Syeda believes that students are taking a step towards phasing out the dangerous practices of hazing. “The student turnout was great, and it showed they took hazing seriously and wanted to take the first step in stopping it. The discussion was informative and I’m happy the school is keeping students informed,” remarked Syeda.

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. 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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