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Greek Life: More hazing deaths and suspensions, let's see what students think.


Updated November 28, 2017 06:09 PM EST

Indiana University-Bloomington is the latest in the growing list of 6 other schools this year that have suspended the activities of Greek life. Lori Reesor, the university's Vice Provost for Student Affairs, announced this suspension late Monday night.

Updated November 16, 2017 05:59 PM EST

Circa Campus sounds off on what's behind all of the recent hazing related deaths at universities.

What needs to change? Who's at fault... Schools or Frats and Sororities?

We went around to campuses to find out.


Texas State University joins three other schools this year that have indefinitely suspended Greek life. This announcement comes after the tragic death of <u>sophomore fraternity pledge, Matthew Ellis,</u> on Monday, November 13.

Twenty-year old Ellis, attended an off-campus event the night before that was held by members of the university’s fraternity, Phi Kappa Psi, and died from what preliminary investigations suggest are alcohol-induced causes. Toxicology results will confirm the exact cause, according to police reports.

In a statement Tuesday afternoon, Texas State University President Dr. Denise Trauth said, "As a result of this tragedy, I have suspended activities of all Greek fraternity and sorority chapters at Texas State.” The<u> 31 Greek organizations </u>at the university, Trauth continued, "Are prohibited from holding new-member events, chapter meetings, social functions and philanthropic activities until a thorough review of the Greek Affairs system is completed."

Earlier this year in February, sophomore student, Timothy Piazza, drank an excessive amount of alcohol during an activity known as the "gauntlet,” a ritual to induct pledges into the Beta Theta Pi chapter at Penn State. Piazza died, however, not from alcohol poisoning, but rather from multiple head injuries, along with Class IV hemorrhagic shock and a lacerated spleen, after violently tumbling down a flight of stairs.

His death was captured on a surveillance video camera back in February, and recovered for a court trial hearing in November. Other pieces of what went down that night in question before Piazza’s death have since emerged in the finding of the video footage: Piazza was given at least <u>18 drinks in the span of 82 minutes</u>. At least 27 defendants have been incriminated as the outcome of this extended period of investigations. Five members of the fraternity, currently face involuntary manslaughter and aggravated assault charges filed by the Centre County DA,<u> reports ABC News</u>.

The recent charges against the young men allegedly responsible for Piazza’s death were made in the shadows of two other high-profile fatalities, one at <u>Florida State University,</u> with Pi Kappa Phi, and the other at <u>Louisiana State University,</u> with Phi Delta Theta.

In mid-September, at Louisiana State University, Maxwell Gruver died after becoming severely intoxicated.

And after FSU student, 20-year-old <u>Andrew Coffey</u> died at an off-campus house party, <u>Florida State University President John Thrasher</u> announced that fraternities and sororities will be “indefinitely suspended” effective immediately.

In a statement, President Thrasher stipulated that for the suspension to end, “there will need to be a new normal for Greek life at the university. There must be a new culture, and our students must be full participants in creating it.” Of the FSU undergraduates, 22% belonged to one of the <u>28 fraternities and 26 sororities</u>. That’s about 7,588 students for the 2017-2018 school year.

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While Greek life has become an institution on campuses, with a large corpus of alum and the ability to annually generate about $7 million in funding, it comes with a grave caveat, explains a leading expert on hazing in collegiate groups, Professor Hank Nuwer. Nuwer writes, “Hazing has claimed the life of at least one initiate (and often more than one) <u>every year since 1969</u> -- the vast majority in fraternities.” Since circa 1838 to 2017, the numbers of total deaths have far exceeded 200. In the past decade alone, he finds that there have been <u>33 hazing-related fatalities</u>, about 3 a year.

Pulling the most recent 2017 raw data from Prof. Nuwer’s tracking of death incidents, The Economist generated a map:

Map of hazing deaths

The numbers shown here require a human element, however, to put the deaths in perspective at a time when, according to the <u>Fraternity Advisor</u>, Greek membership is estimated at “750,000 undergraduate members in 12,000 chapters on more than 800 campuses in the USA and Canada.”

Before Coffey and Gruver, much like Piazza, there was also eighteen-year-old Ryan Abele, a pledge to Sigma Nu at the University of Nevada, Reno, who died in 2016, and Tucker Hipps, a pledge to Sigma Phi Epsilon, who died in 2014. And even as far back as 2013 and October of that year, when Peter Tran at San Francisco State University and Michael Deng at Baruch College died from their respective fraternity’s hazing rituals. Earlier in May of this year, four frat brothers pleaded guilty to Deng’s hazing-related death, and their sentencing is set for later this year on December 4th.

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The inception of Greek life goes back to the 1800s, when fraternities were popularly perceived as a corrective to the conservative culture of academia. While the popularity of the organization may have ebbed over time, the <u>Times</u> reports that an increase in membership didn’t begin until the 1980’s, right when the legal drinking age was set at 21. Underage students resorted to other means to quench their thirst, looking to the Greek scene for their supply of alcohol -- where, according to researchers at the University of Rhode Island, other Greek members are likely to engage in similar drinking habits.

Earlier on November 9, 2017, University of Michigan’s Inter-fraternity council suspended all Greek Life, though not officially. But this could very well pose some needed changes to the culture of Greek life on campuses, in addition to the efforts of other regulatory entities that watch over Greek fraternities and sororities -- such as the Association of Fraternity/Sorority Advisors, the National Panhellenic Council and the North-American Inter-fraternity Conference. Prof. Nuwer discovered that 1968 was the last year in the modern era during which no college student died from a hazing-related death.

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