The Controversy of College Hazing


Kelly Schomber

​College fraternities and sororities have been a long standing tradition of universities across the nation, but have the hazing processes to enter these organizations gone too far?  Fraternities and sororities utilize the hazing process to create a solidarity between members, as well as to test the commitment of the incoming inductees.  Hazing is meant to embarrass the new members so that their humiliation bonds them to the larger traditional significance of the fraternity or sorority experience.  While hazing is not necessarily designed to harm the pledges, it has become a dehumanizing and even deadly event for a multitude of college students.  Pledges are subjected to dangerous and degrading tasks including kidnapping, paddling or whipping, forced alcohol consumption, compelled sexual activity, and even branding or cutting parts of the body.  Intense hazing incidents such as these have become a crisis in multiple universities, as hazing is too often pushed to the point of permanent injury and in severe cases, death.
​ There are countless examples of how toxic fraternity culture and hazing have led to detrimental emotional and physical pain.  To name one would be the passing of Time Piazza at Penn State in 2017 at the age of 19.  Piazza was forced to endure what was referred to as “the gauntlet” as part of his initiation into a campus fraternity.  The gauntlet forces the pledges to consume 18 drinks in 90 minutes or less.  Piazza was so intoxicated after this that he sustained fatal head injuries after falling down a set of stairs.  Another example of a tragic hazing episode is the case of Jon Hamm at the University of Texas.  Hamm was beaten viciously and eventually set on fire as a part of his hazing.  He unfortunate passed away at the age of 18.  In fact, it has been reported that more than forty students have died due to hazing in the past decade, while a multitude of others experience excruciating pain as well as near-death experiences.  However, the hazing crisis does not end with physical torturing.  There are a plethora of hazing processes that are designed to decrease self esteem and leave deep emotional scars.  In fact, sororities have a practice of forcing their pledges to walk on a table, completely exposed, while the senior members circle parts of their body that they deem as “needing work”.  Women who undergo this say they can never quite recover from such a traumatizing experience.
​Moreover, fraternity and sorority hazing contributes to the widespread issue of college campus sexual assaults.   A frequent hazing choice is the raping of other students on campus.  As a matter of fact, men who are members of fraternities are three times as likely to commit sexual assault.  One out of five women are raped on college campuses and fraternities are undoubtedly a contributing factor to this staggering statistic.  Overall, the culture of fraternities and sororities have, in certain cases, expanded beyond harmless pranking to deadly and violating activities.  The actions of select fraternity and sororities members need to be viewed as less of a fun way of inducting new members and more of what it has manifested into: serious crimes against the fellow human, including manslaughter, sexual assault, and endangering the welfare of students.