Schools Crack Down on Fraternity Hazing
> 4/16/2007 3:11:39 PM

In response to repeated instances of personal injury and death stemming from fraternity initiation ceremonies, more schools are severely restricting the types of activities in which these houses can indulge, if not banning them altogether. While some members and alumni cry foul, claiming that the schools involved have attempted to deprive them of tradition, others believe this to be a neccessary step in order to avoid the sorts of tragedies visited upon American fraternities over the last several years. Despite the fact that acts of hazing are officially illegal in most states, and most are relatively harmless, officials at many schools view the changes as an absolutely neccessary compromise for the good of their public profiles as well as the safety of their students.

In nationwide surveys, one in five college students report suffering from some form of hazing, but the term's definitions and measures of intensity vary. Public opinion has turned on Greek societies after several high-profile deaths occurred in recent years as a direct result of fraternity rituals. As in the 2005 poisoning death of an 18-year old Texas University freshman, the most common cause of these injuries is the excessive consumption of alcohol that often goes hand-in-hand with frat ceremonies. In what are billed as displays of manhood required to gain membership in selective houses, new students (the vast majority of whom are underaged) are made to drink exorbitant amounts of alcohol. While intoxicated, they are often made to engage in dangerous competitions or tests of willpower. Other such deaths have occurred as a result of the physical extremes to which these students are pushed (such as the hypothermia and water intoxication death of a California State University student).

These tragic incidents, in addition to relatively minor but controversial infractions such as that of a sorority at Indiana's Depauw University which appeared to oust many of its members based on physical appearance alone, have damaged the public perception of the Greek system, which plays a part in campus life at most American universities. But hazing is hardly limited to inappropriate pranks or out-of-control fraternity drinking games. One of the study's most surprising statistics was that one-half of American high-school students reported being hazed at some point during their high school careers. This is clearly a widespread practice to which many responsible adults and administrators respond with a private shrug of the shoulders. It's been going on for generations and will, undoubtedly, continue in some form despite legal regulations and societal disapproval. Single reports of horrific and sometimes deadly traditions cannot serve to discredit the entire Greek system, and it is not fair to punish all members for the wrongs of a small minority, but preventive measures must be taken in some form. Individuals privy to these incidents are very often hesitant to report them for fear of retribution, so disciplinary measures can be the only recourse for school administrators. If the students who represent these groups cannot control their behavior, they should expect no less.

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