Confronting the modern fraternity

Hazing is the act of giving often ridiculous tasks to those wishing to become a part of Greek social life on college campuses and often involves large amounts of alcohol. When death becomes a reoccurring pattern in the supposedly harmless initiation process, the true purpose and overall worth of fraternities comes into question.

Ten students at Louisiana State University are facing charges for the death of Maxwell Gruver. It started with a game called “Bible Study.” The rules are simple: respond to a series of questions about the Phi Delta Theta fraternity and drink for each incorrect answer.

The hazing consisted of a terrible variety of “activities,” one involving harsh physical activity combined with strobe lights and loud music. These, in addition to the drinking game, resulted in Gruver’s death. The autopsy found a high blood alcohol level as well as the chemical found in marijuana.

The students continued the game for the sake of tradition, even after Gruver made his condition known and members expressed concern. The pressure of the senior fraternity members and other initiates present would drive any young college student to continue the game. No one should have to suffer through something like this.

The recent case has already initiated needed change, as Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards has requested policies regarding hazing, alcohol and drugs to be made more effective. However, rule changes and restrictions are simply not enough to keep these traditions from happening behind closed doors. The same pressure that drives members to go through with the hazing in the first place would most likely keep them quiet. The problem is with the fraternities themselves; schools need to take action toward completely removing them.

This tragedy could have been avoided if it were not for the following of backwards traditions of fraternities. There has been at least one reported hazing death each year from 1969 to 2017 according to Franklin College journalism professor Hank Nuwer. Even during the decade after the first fraternities were established, two known hazing deaths occurred. This should have been a foreshadowing to the future of fraternity initiations, but instead they became more popular.

The idea of a fraternity is dated, with gender exclusion and secrecy being the key attributes of these student bodies. Although some  partner with organizations to perform charitable acts, most merely host parties. In addition, alcohol and sexual abuse run rampant among fraternities. Sociology professors Elizabeth Armstrong and Laura Hamilton found in their five year study on college students that those in these organizations are much more likely to be victims of sexual assault. In fact, two women living on their floor were sexually assaulted at parties within the first few weeks of the study.

It is alarming when universities continue to support fraternities even though they are based on 19th century ideals. Organizations that harbor sexual assault, exclude a certain gender and engage in hazing rituals should not exist in 2017. Schools should start seriously considering dissolving fraternities to create safer and more inclusive college environments.