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Some FAQ thoughts on my hazing deaths database, 1978-2019

Guidelines for Collecting Original Data and Publishing Conclusions: FAQ Sheet

Harrison Kowiak
  • I attempted to clearly state my purpose in publishing the first much shorter database back in 1978. I had started to put together a list, having no guidelines or existing database, following a death in a University of Nevada social club, I wanted to know how far back these initiation and hazing deaths occurred. And I wanted to know often they occurred from the first death to the present day. What were the causes of these deaths (e.g., beatings, alcohol overdoses, so called kidnappings and drop-offs, multiple factors (e.g. sleep deprivation and alcohol and auto crashes on a pledging mission), and so-called mystery hazing deaths (that occur occasionally because many acts of hazing are performed in secrecy and members are intimidated into staying silent).
  • What does the data indicate or seem to indicate? First, that many deaths were off the radar because at first they were reported or miscast as accidents. Each year, trying new keywords and checking books (such as university histories), media accounts and family histories, I uncover deaths and add them to the database. Therefore, when a death or deaths is uncovered, the percentages drawn from the data will change. For example, a newspaper reporter who uses my data over a particular ten-year period may write that 80 percent of the deaths involved alcohol. However, that is always a best estimate based on current data. In some cases, it has never been recorded or reported if alcohol was present and a factor. In some cases, an additional death is found by me and added. That makes the original percentage go up or down, depending upon whether alcohol was a factor.
  • I only report what was known. If conflicting information about the hazing death is available, I report the conflict and let the reader decide (as a journalist must do).  –Hank Nuwer, February 13, 2019.

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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