According to CNN, “There have been more than 77 fraternity-related deaths across the country since 2005.” That’s almost seven deaths a year for the past 12 years due to hazing.
Many male students join fraternities when they go away to college to be apart of a larger group, to meet new people, and of course to party. Potential new members or pledges are put to the test mentally and physically. They usually have tasks assigned to them and if they refuse then they are dropped from the process. Only the most loyal pledges will make it to the coveted member status at the end of the road.
Unfortunately, some of the rituals are taken too far leading to emotional damage, physical damage, or even death. Most recently three former fraternity brothers from Penn State University were sentenced in connection to the death of 19-year-old Timothy Piazza. In February 2017 Piazza was killed pledging Beta Theta Pi during a ritual where he drank an immense amount of alcohol in under an hour and a half making his blood alcohol level four and a half times over the legal limit.
He ended up falling down a flight of stairs into the basement and it took the fraternity 12 hours to call for help. USA Today said, “doctors concluded Piazza suffered multiple traumatic brain injuries, including a fractured skull and a lacerated spleen.” Piazza ended up passing away from a traumatic brain injury two days after the event.
On April 2nd Luke Visser, Joshua Kurczewski, and Michael Bonatucci were sentenced in connection to the hazing related death of Piazza.
“Visser was sentenced to two to six months in jail and two years of probation. Kurczewski, who also pleaded guilty to one count of furnishing alcohol to minors, received three to nine months in jail and one year of probation. Bonatucci was sentenced to 30 to 60 days in jail and a year of probation,” CNN says. The men were also ordered to pay fines and to do community service as part of their sentencing.
According to Time.com, “Twenty-eight members of the now-shuttered fraternity have faced charges, although the most serious allegations of involuntary manslaughter and aggravated assault were dismissed or withdrawn.”
There is debate on whether or not these types of deaths should result in harsher sentencing than previously done but it is hard to decide that indefinitely. When it comes to a tragic death such as Piazza’s there is not one person to put the blame on there is a whole group of young men and it does not seem plausible to sentence every single member of the fraternity. Not every member gave him alcohol or told him to drink but since they are in the same frat they are guilty by association.
Schools are beginning to crack down on hazing and inflicting stricter punishments if fraternities or sororities are found guilty of hazing. The fraternity at Penn state involved in the hazing death was dissolved completely. This does not solve the problem but hopefully it is a step in the right direction. Even on our own campus Tau Kappa Epsilon was banned until Jan. 31, 2024 for paddling their pledges showing how seriously hazing is being taken especially at Sonoma State.
There is never going to be a full proof method to make sure that hazing does not happen. People want to hold onto their traditions no matter how barbaric but it is important to know that not every fraternity hazes. Fraternities cannot be lumped into one big hazing group and that they all have bad intentions because many don’t. No frats want hazing to end tragically so it is up to all fraternities to think about the possible consequences of their actions.