In 2019, unless college students wake up and police their own kind, the United States will experience a nonstop half-century of hazing deaths. That’s right. One death a year for 50 years, and in some years multiple deaths, just so teams and Greeks can have a little cheap entertainment at the expense of pledges and rookies.
If this reality doesn’t stink, I don’t know what does. Hazing deaths in our USA go back to 1969. I graduated from Buffalo State College in 1968, the last death-free year.
On May 25, 2017, I began a no-alcohol protest to highlight the deaths of Tim Piazza, Vann Watts, Sherri Ann Clark, Chuck Stenzel, Harrison Kowiak, Chad Saucier, John Davies, Matt Carrington, Chad Meredith, Nick Haben, Gary Deverelly, Jr., George Desdunes, Michael Starks, Carson Starkey, Samuel Mason, Scott Krueger, Nolan Burch, Philip Dhanens, Gabe Higgins, Walter Dean Jennings, Ben Wynn, Jay Lenaghan, Mike Deng — and all the other deceased-from-hazing Greeks and athletes.
Make no mistake. An alcohol overdose is a painful, demeaning way to die. All these victims suffered before their bodies gave up. My role as a journalist is to speak and crusade for the voiceless … and for the living boys and girls whose parents one day will bury them, too, after hazing.
My fast is 100 percent — no wine, no beer, no hard liquor — and yes, I will miss beers with my friends and colleagues, and glasses of wine with my wife and family.
But so be it. When the string of deaths every year from 1969 through 2017 from hazing finally ends, I will celebrate with a nice vino. But not until then. If hazing deaths cannot stop now, they will never stop. Nolan Burch had a BAC of 0.49. Think of it!
I am a bit encouraged that a new bipartisan federal bill aimed at curtailing hazing has been proposed.
U.S. Rep. Pat Meehan, R-Pennsylvania, and Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, have joined forces to propose the Report and Educate About Campus Hazing Act (Reach Act). Succinctly stated, the bill would force colleges to report all instances of criminal hazing as an amendment to the Clery Act, and it also would make mandatory regular campus programming on hazing education.
I challenge every fraternity, sorority, band and sports team (and their parents, Greek advisers, coaches, college presidents) to go alcohol-free during Hazing Prevention Week (Sept. 18-22, 2017) as a way of saying these deaths must end. I quote columnist/Greek Jared Lenz: “Forcing someone to consume egregious amounts of alcohol is pathetic and dangerous.” Amen. Jared’s quote is my slogan for Hazing Prevention Week. Make it yours?
At my advanced age, there is a chance I’ll die before today’s Greeks and athletes experience a paradigm shift and truly reform the culture. Yes, I may not live to see it. But at least I will die sober. Sadly, that’s something the parents of so many hazing victims cannot say about their lost precious children.
— Hank Nuwer is a Franklin College journalism professor and the author of “Hazing: Destroying Young Lives,” “The Hazing Reader,” “Wrongs of Passage” and many other books.