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Letter writer recalls dark days in California fraternity system

Prior to the deaths of Adrian Heideman and Matt Carrington at Chico State, there was the death of Jeffrey Long in a pledge-related hazing “accident.” This letter writer recalls the dark time following Jeffrey’s death. Thanks for writing. “Hi! I was at Chico State the semester following the death of Jeffrey Long. I made the mistake of pledging Sigma Phi Epsilon in spring 1984. The house was right

next to the Tau Gamma Theta house. I was able to piece together a bit of information in regards to that incident and hazing in general at that point. The TGs (Tau Gamma Theta), had no problem getting pledges the following semesters, until they were allowed campus recognition in fall 1985. The general feeling of most in the greek system was “it could have happened to any fraternity’. While true it could have, there was a lack of compassion or awareness to the death of someone. To put it another way, a complete indifference. The Inter Fraternity Council was made up often of junior actives, who were members of hazing fraternities, that viewed meetings as a waste of time, and did it as a way to earn their stripes so to speak. In other words a rather impotent entity. One fraternity, Phi Kappa Tau, had a big brother little brother drink off, that always resulted in the pledges being sick for days after. They even made t-shirts for it. I quit the fraternity I was in, in disgust at the beginning of the next semester, as did a number of other guys in it. I have not come across a college where hazing is policed by the campus administration or any student government entity. I went back to Chico State in 1998 to pursue another degree. Hazing was still rampant, and the administration had nothing but cop out excuses when an incident took place. If you have read this far, thank you. I hope you can heighten the public awareness that hazing still goes on.”

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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