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Greeks packed into Cook Auditorium Thursday night for a talk on the societal problems of hazing. Hank Nuwer, an author of four books on hazing and a nationally recognized expert in the field gave the hour-long talk as part of his three-day visit to the College.
Nuwer who also teaches journalism at Franklin College began writing about hazing following a death at the University of Nevada, Reno where he was a graduate student in 1975.
During the talk he encouraged students to intercede when they witness incidents of hazing.
“If you could have saved a human being’s life and you didn’t… its hard to get out of your mind,” Nuwer said.
Nuwer recounted hazing incidents going as far back as the 1800s and discussed several tragedies resulting from hazing, including sexual assault and deaths from alcohol intoxication.
In the years since 1975 there has been a death every year in the national Greek system and Nuwer was pessimistic about the chances of averting further tragedies unless students worked harder to avoid it.
“I don’t believe in my lifetime that we will be able to end the deaths,” he said
Although the talk was targeted toward members of fraternities and sororities, Nuwer emphasized that hazing was not unique to the Greek system and discussed athletic hazing as well as incidents in high schools.
“I argue with administrations [about] the idea of hazing being a Greek problem. [It’s] not, it’s a school problem,” Nuwer said.
He also commended Greek houses for working to improve knowledge of hazing and thus working to prevent it.
“Fraternities are not covering up [anymore]. They are shredding the cloak of silence,” he said.
As a member of a fraternity while he was in college, Nuwer highlighted the positives of the Greek system and called for the administration to play a more central role in solving the issue of hazing rather than “just calling for an end to the Greek system.”
He also said alumni had a part to play in preventing hazing and could be detrimental to attempts to stop hazing.
“[Some] alumni are coming in to discourage reform and come in with exaggerated tales so people feel they are missing out on something if they aren’t being hazed,” he said.
In an interview with The Dartmouth, Nuwer expressed the need for students at Dartmouth to take hazing seriously. Despite the fact that the College has not had any high-profile tragedies, he explained that just one incident could have severe consequences.
“Once you have a hazing stigma like Cornell did in the 90’s, its hard to shake that image” Nuwer said.
Taylor Cornwall ’06, the president of the Greek Leadership council agreed.
“Dartmouth has been lucky, [but] one night of poor judgment and decision making can lead to tragedy,” he said.
Members of Tri-Delt and Theta Delt were in attendance as part of College sanctions following the hazing incident in the fall. Cornwall explained that the presidents of both houses had been “highly supportive” of Nuwer‘s visit which included a luncheon with presidents of the various Greek houses.
One member of Theta Delt who attended the talk said it had been a valuable experience.
“I thought it was very informative… It’s nice to know that they don’t see it as a hopeless situation” Drew Fletcher ’07 said.