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Time Magazine: 4 Solutions to the Hazing Issue

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Excerpt to the 4 ideas:

4 Ways to Crack Down on Hazing at Fraternities

Jun 07, 2017

Universities are facing increasing pressure to bring fraternity hazing under control following a series of recent tragedies. Two fatal cases in particular — a Baruch College student who was forced to run blindfolded across a frozen yard while being tackled by fraternity members, and a Pennsylvania State University student who was urged to drink heavily and fell down a flight of stairs, which both recently resulted in criminal charges — have sparked growing calls for universities to take stronger action.

“There’s more outrage than I’ve seen in the long time,” said Hank Nuwer, a professor of journalism at Franklin College who has researched and written extensively about hazing.

Penn State promised “significant change” after 19-year-old Timothy Piazza died on Feb. 2 after drinking heavily in a Beta Theta Pi hazing ritual and then sustaining injuries from a fall down stairs. Fraternity members waited hours before seeking medical help, authorities said. Eighteen fraternity members face charges, ranging from hazing to involuntary manslaughter.

On June 2, the university unveiled a set of reforms aimed at combating hazing in fraternities, moving toward what it called a “fundamental shift” in the Greek system. The university pledged to take “unprecedented” control of the misconduct adjudication process for the Greek system, ending the self-governance of the school’s inter-fraternity council, but did not set a timeline for when that would happen. The initiatives also include a zero-tolerance policy for hazing involving alcohol or physical abuse and a delayed recruitment and pledging process.

But a lawyer representing the Piazza family criticized the lack of precision and detail in the resolution, which was passed by the Board of Trustees.

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“It is an aspirational proposal on paper, not a declaration of policy which will go into force at Penn State now or at any time in the foreseeable future because there isn’t even a date attached to it, let alone any concrete directives,” Tom Kline said last Friday. “As of today, fraternity life is the same as Feb. 2, 2017. There has been no change.”

What could lead to change? As universities consider the longstanding problem of hazing, here are a few measures that experts think could help solve the issue for good:

Focus on investigating less severe hazing incidents

Universities need to do a better job of investigating more minor hazing incidents and enforcing consequences before there’s an incident in which a student is injured or killed, said Gentry McCreary, a consultant for the National Center for Higher Education Risk Management, an education law firm and consulting group, who has investigated and researched hazing during his career in higher education.

“It’s easy to crack down and really come in and do things like this when you’ve got an injury or a death,” McCreary said. “Campuses are not good at investigating lower-level cases of hazing that do not result in injury or death but might boil to the surface.”

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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