Written by Joanna Hughes

University campuses suffered an epidemic of hazing deaths last year. The result? Increased attention to issues pertaining to fraternity culture and student safety. Now comes news that many college administrators -- and some states, too -- are stepping up to stop the problem. Here’s a closer look at the development, according to a recent New York Times report.


Changing the Conversation

University president and Greek life expert Walter Kimbrough told Time magazine in December, “When people talk about hazing, it’s still sort of viewed as a boys-being-boys activity.” In suggesting that a more “radical” response to these behaviors is in order Kimbrough proposes, “So let’s not talk about hazing. Call it what it is -- murder, manslaughter, assault and battery.”


The state of Louisiana made a big move with the introduction of an anti-hazing bill which will increase the penalties for students involved in hazing incidents. Specifically, participating in hazing acts which lead to life threatening alcohol intake, serious bodily harm, and death will now be a felony with jail sentences of up to five years.


In Tennessee, meanwhile, a bill to completely ban fraternities is under consideration, although there is concern that doing so would lead to “underground behavior.”


Universities Step Up

In addition to increased attention from the government, hazing is also a priority for university administrators. From education initiatives to increased staff monitoring of Greek life, universities are not only taking action toward change, but they’re also doing so collectively. Last spring, delegates from 31 universities convened to discuss how to enjoy more cooperation with national Greek organizations.


Additionally, there have also been discussions about the establishment of an online safety database for recording incidents around the country while recognizing which schools are succeeding and failing on the hazing front.


Insists True Gentlemen: The Broken Pledge of America’s Fraternities author John Hechinger, “Realistically, the answer is regulation and reform...That is really the only possibility.”


Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.
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