Kirkwood High School student newspaper

Call Ed: A pledge for protection

Greek letter organizations (GLOs), commonly referred as the Greek life system, are social organizations, sororities and fraternities that students can join when attending a university. However, along with the companionship the Greek life system offers, it brings a negative platform for hazing. Whether it be subtle or extreme, 75 percent of TKC staff (69/92) believes college administrations should increase regulation on hazing within the Greek life system.

December 7, 2018

Art by Grace Mennerick.

Grace Mennerick

Art by Grace Mennerick.

Their deaths were never supposed to happen.

Tim Piazza, Pennsylvania State University, sophomore, died February 2017 after being forced to consume 18 drinks within 90 minutes to complete a fraternity hazing ritual. While intoxicated, he fell down a of flight of stairs head first, knocking him unconscious with a ruptured spleen. Piazza was then carried to a nearby couch where his fraternity brothers ignored the extremity of his medical condition. It was not until 12 hours later when Piazza’s fraternity brothers finally sought medical help, but by then, he was dead.

The same year, Andrew Coffey, Florida State University, junior, died from alcohol poisoning after drinking a bottle of Wild Turkey Bourbon during a Pi Kappa Phi hazing ritual. His body was found the following morning unresponsive and with no pulse.

Although hazing rituals can be intended as harmless fun, they can also lead to reckless behavior with deadly consequences. With the danger that it brings, universities should increase the regulation of hazing within the Greek life system to prevent tragic deaths such as Piazza’s and Coffey’s from ever occurring again. After all, nobody should die at the age of 19, especially in the hands of their “brothers.”

According to NBC News, in 2008 the highest rates of hazing among college campuses occurred within fraternities and sororities, with 73 percent of members claiming they were hazed. In the United States, 44 states, including Missouri, banned hazing rituals at colleges and universities, yet only 50 percent of hazing victims claimed they knew of any anti-hazing policy at their school. With students unaware of any existing anti-hazing policies on their campuses, colleges are failing to protect their students from potential reckless and dangerous behavior.

Sure, not all Greek life rituals are considered “bad.” Some practices are even harmless, such as simply demeriting and depriving pledges of privileges within the house. However, some rituals can potentially plant a foundation where hazing can grow. By failing to stop and recognize subtle forms of hazing within fraternity rituals, colleges are only allowing for more extreme cases of hazing, such as alcohol and drug misconduct, to develop. Although it is nearly impossible for colleges to control individual behavior within the Greek life system, administrators do have the ability to increase and execute safety policies, rather than letting minor acts of hazing slide.

Nobody should die at the age of 19, especially in the hands of their ‘brothers.’”

Along with all Missouri colleges, the University of Missouri Columbia (Mizzou) requires students who are interested in Greek life to sign the “Guidelines for Conducting Recruitment University of Missouri Office of Greek Life” contract, promising to abide by the Missouri’s anti-hazing law. Despite these university anti-hazing policies, hazing practices continue to occur in fraternity houses.

According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Brandon Zingale, Mizzou freshman, sued his fraternity, Kappa Alpha, after he was forced by members in his fraternity to drink extreme amounts of vodka in order to complete a hazing ritual in 2017. The next morning Zingale was found unconscious and foaming at the mouth with an blood-alcohol content level of 0.41 percent, almost five times the legal limit for driving in Missouri (0.08 percent). Even if a university has a pre-existing hazing policy, like Mizzou, they not only need to state the consequences, they need to enforce them. Universities should be motivated to increase regulation within their Greek life system not only to protect the livelihood of their campus and reputation, but to protect the lives their students.

Even at KHS,  hazing exists. “Toga Night,” the most famous form of student hazing, takes place in the spring when some rising seniors choose to vandalize the property of rising juniors. Although some forms of vandalism can be as harmless as poorly teepeed trees, other forms can be as extreme as damaging cars and houses or leaving provocative and offensive messages for the student to see the next morning. Failing to protect students from harassing each other for the purpose of proving seniority at a high school level only sets a precedent for the same behavior to continue in college.   

Whether on a high school or university level, administrations should still do more to prevent hazing occurrences on or off campus. In addition to their existing anti-hazing policy, schools need to enforce regular inspections and consequences to protect the physical and mental health of their students. Schools and administration do not have the power to monitor the individual actions of each student, but they do have the power to regulate hazing in its earliest forms. They have the power to reform the behavior of their students to create a healthier and safer atmosphere. They have the power to protect their students, even if they are protecting their students from each other.

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