Fraternities are a long-standing tradition at college campuses in America. They offer freshmen opportunities of a ready social life in an unfamiliar and large campus, help to forge lifelong friendships and leadership skills, and can lead to job and career opportunities. However, fraternities also have a dark side that is associated at times with drinking and other excessive activities. Fraternity members have engaged in activities that result in disciplinary actions including expulsion.
Pledges to fraternities also face a dark side: a rite of passage called hazing. While perhaps intended as horseplay to test will power and stamina, pledges have undergone humiliating activities. Movies such as Animal House, released in 1980 and starring the late John Belushi, mocked pledging and other aspects of fraternity life, but the real-life consequences are no laughing matter. According to Hazing.Cornell.edu, documented cases of deaths during hazing go back at least as far as 1873, when a pledge at Kappa Alpha Sigma at Cornell University in New York fell into the Six-Mile Creek gorge in Ithaca and died while trying to find his way home at night from the woods.
Since then, consequences have been tragic for pledges, as well as those who perpetrated the acts. Arizona State University is known for its rambunctious student life. One national fraternity expelled its chapter at Arizona State University in 2013, and has banned pledging after a series of issues at several other universities. At Arizona State University, a 19-year-old pledge at Sigma Alpha Epsilon disappeared in November 2012 from a fraternity event. He had been kicked out of the party for being drunk. Authorities found his body that December in the Salt River. Other stories mention incidents of beating, humiliation, and dares that lead to injury and death.
As parents, we take part in due diligence before allowing our college freshman to join a fraternity, and there are other measures we can take to ensure further safety such as investigating whether the fraternity chapter on campus has faced any disciplinary measures, and notifying authorities immediately if your child is missing after a suspected hazing incident. If you notice any serious physical injuries, psychological damage or worse after a hazing, seek medical attention for your child immediately.
Fraternities will continue to be in existence as long as college campuses carry on. Many memories stem from the enjoyable parts of college life. If your child or someone you know has been injured or died as a result of college activities such as hazing, it may be difficult to contact proper authorities or college agencies to support you in your case. Seeking the advice of a New York attorney who has years of experience with personal injury cases can make sure justice is on your side.