Hazing News

Timeline of hazing problems by the moderator

Hazing: A Chronology of Events by Hank Nuwer (an excerpt from The Hazing Reader, by Hank Nuwer, Indiana University Press

387 B.C. E. Plato commented on the savagery of young boys he observed. Fraternity historian Frederick Kershner considered Plato’s observations perhaps the earliest account of hazing-like behaviors.

371 St. Augustine at Carthage described hazing-like taunting and bullying of newcomers by the eversores or “Overturners.”

530 circa Justinian, the Byzantine emperor who codified Roman law, decreed that the hazing of first-year law students must be ended.

1340 The University of Paris forbade hazing under penalty of expulsion.

1441 Students at Avignon created the anti-hazing Fraternity of St. Sebastian.  Hazing was rampant during the age of the rise of universities.

1481 The Manuale Scholarium described hazing customs at Heidelberg, including the wearing of ridiculous yellow-billed caps by new students.

1501 Martin Luther endured hazing at Erfurt as a student. Later, in 1539, at Wittenberg, he advocated hazing as a means of strengthening a boy to face and to endure life’s challenges.

1657 In the American colonies, two Harvard College students paid small fines for hazing John Cotton and John Whiting. Later, a member of the class of 1684 was expelled for hazing but was readmitted after repenting.

1838 A family history describes the death of John Butler Groves (born October 31, 1819) in a hazing at Franklin Seminary in Kentucky.

1846 The University of Heidelberg forbade the pelting of new students with garbage.

1873 Cornell first-year student Mortimer N. Leggett died in a fall into a gorge while wandering with Kappa Alpha Society members.

1874 The president of the University of Michigan sent a letter home to the parents of behavior to express his displeasure with the practice.

1900-1901 A U.S. House of Representatives committee investigated hazing at the United States Military Academy. Douglas MacArthur, then a plebe, testified. MacArthur failed to provide full disclosure of the savage hazing he endured.

1912 The death of first-year student Isaac Rand in a University of North Carolina frosh hazing led to the arrest of his hazers and a stern warning to the university president issued by the then-governor of the state.

1928 National Interfraternity Conference leaders issued a condemnation of hazing.

1940 A subrosa fraternity at the University of Missouri required a drinking session that led to the death of Hubert L. Spake, Jr.

1959 After Kappa Sigma pledge Richard Swanson choked to death on a slab of liver, a filmmaker used the event as the inspiration for the fictional movie Fraternity Row.

1969 Anthropologist Lionel Tiger in “Men in Groups” depicted hazing-like initiations as a form of men courting men.

1970 A female member of a national sorority died in an accident at Eastern Illinois University as pledges were dropping her off in the country far from campus. Her death marked the beginning of more than three decades of pledging-related and hazing deaths in fraternal organizations/athletic teams that were to occur every year through 2003.

1978 Virginia State College student Lynn Delk, 20, likely was the first sorority pledge to die in a “going-over” ceremony for a local African-American sorority. A fraternity male who tried to save her from drowning instead also perished. In an article for Human Behavior magazine, author Hank Nuwer interviewed Irving L. Janis who commented on fraternal hazing rituals as a form of “groupthink”  in which members out aside their moral qualms in the interest of what is perceived as tradition and unanimity. The same year, Eileen Stevens became a nationally recognized anti-hazing activist following her son’s death in a hazing at Alfred University. National Lampoon’s Animal House was released, portraying hazing as just one more comic misadventure in the Delta fraternity house.

1990 Although athletes had perished in fraternity initiations several times going back to 1928 at the University of Texas, the death of a rookie lacrosse club player Nick Haben at Western Illinois University was likely the first conducted by a non-fraternity athletic team. That year, the National Pan-Hellenic Council, a national umbrella group of prestigious African-American fraternities and sororities, outlawed and condemned all acts of hazing.

1991 A U.S.Marine Corps hazing ceremony called “blood pinning” would eventually end up being shown internationally on CNN and raise public sentiment against hazing in the military.

1993 Dazed and Confused was released as a movie, depicting high school hazing as humorous.

1994 The death of Southeast Missouri State Kappa Alpha Psi pledge Michael Davis following a cruel pummeling in a hazing attracted widespread media coverage.

1998 An Ann Landers letter on hazing written by Rita Saucier about the death of her son Chad at Auburn University in a fraternity bottle exchange led to increasing awareness of how alcohol and hazing too often are inextricably linked.

1999 Alfred University researchers published a national “Initiation Rites and Athletics: A National Survey of NCAA Sports Teams” that estimated one in every five athletes was subjected to grossly unacceptable and potentially illegal hazing.

2001 Arizona became the forty-third state to pass anti-hazing legislation.

2003 Following a longstanding pledge tradition, members of Yale University’s Delta Kappa Epsilon staged a night of reveling and bonding in New York. Four participants were killed and five were injured in an automobile accident on an unlit Connecticut highway.

2005 A pledge receives one year in prison related to the water torture hazing death of Matthew Carrington at Chico State College. Florida passes a felony hazing law.

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. In April of 2024, the Alaska Press Club awarded him first place in the Best Columnist division and Best Humorist, second place.

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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