Can You Help Pass the REACH Act Targeting Hazing on College Campuses?

Last week, Congressman Patrick Meehan (R-PA) and Congresswoman Marcia Fudge (D-OH) hosted a press conference to build support for the Report and Educate About Campus Hazing (REACH) Act. Video from the event-which featured lawmakers, victims of hazing, and other stakeholders-can be viewed below:

Catalyzed, in part, by the tragic death of Timothy Piazza, who died in a hazing incident at Penn State University in February, the REACH Act seeks to ensure accountability, transparency, and education to transform how hazing incidents are tracked and prevented at postsecondary institutions in the United States. The act would require colleges and universities participating in federal financial aid programs to 1) include incidents of hazing in their annual security report, as mandated by the Clery Act; and 2) implement hazing education programs.

Such measures are needed because hazing occurs across a range of student organizations and 55% of college students participating in groups, organizations, and teams experience hazing with documented outcomes such as physical harm, emotional trauma, and, at times, death. Julie and Gary DeVercelly, who lost their son Gary DeVercelly, Jr. to hazing in 2007, spoke at the REACH Act press conference citing 40 hazing deaths since 2007. As Gary stated at the event, “the circumstances of their deaths are disturbingly similar. Gary’s death, like Timothy’s, was the focus of national attention and it prompted calls to stop hazing. But eventually the national attention moved on and nothing was changed.”

The REACH Act is endorsed by the Clery Center, Lugar Center, Penn State University, StopHazing, HazingPrevention.Org, Association of Fraternity/Sorority Advisors, and all national fraternity and sorority umbrella organizations, which together represent over 140 fraternities and sororities across the United States. Further support for the bill, however, is needed to ensure it is passed and meaningful progress to track and prevent hazing on college campuses is made. If you are involved with a national organization connected to higher education or a college or university, we encourage you to send this information along to your organizational leadership and ask if they would consider supporting and endorsing the REACH Act.

If you have any questions or would like to be added as a cosponsor please contact quin.roberts@mail.house.gov with Rep. Patrick Meehan at 202.225.2511 or clifton.williams@mail.house.gov with Rep. Marcia Fudge at 202.225.7032.

Even after death of Kappa Sigma pledge, Nolan Burch, WVU’s Fiji chapter hazes, according to a university press release

mn7njw6ir0u0rtfjz1laThe following post for StopHazing was written by author and anti-hazing activist Hank Nuwer. For more information on Hank, check out his website at www.hanknuwer.com.

It has been my honor and privilege over the years to have worked with many, many great Directors of Greek Life and also individual chapter advisers.  One of the leaders I have known the longest is Roy Baker who has served with distinction all his career at Bucknell, Syracuse and Penn State–all three where I have lectured on hazing prevention. In my estimation, he is all an administrator would want in a leader: tough, fair, consistent and concerned for the growth, safety and well being of his students.

He sent me once a letter after one of my talks in which he said a sorority saved the life of a member by calling 911 a couple days after my talk. A member told him my talk had inspired the women to face trouble and call for help rather than delay and possibly lose one of their own.  It is one of the letters I most treasure in my own career that began in the 1970s.

On November 1, Dr. Baker began his duties and West Virginia University. I had dropped him a note to congratulate him. Now, according to a news story, it looks as if the Fiji chapter at WVU cavalierly has decided to test boundaries with the new director. According to local TV reports, “Christopher Grace, 21, of Arlington, Virginia was found Wednesday at about 11:30 a.m. bound with duct tape. Investigators say the victim and fraternity members showed minor injuries from an altercation. And, according to police, Grace was being shoved in the trunk of a car.”

Big mistake. West Virginia is already reeling from the death of Kappa Sigma pledge Nolan Burch, a young man who grew up in a Buffalo, NY suburb not far from where I was born and reared. And the subject of my 1990 book “Broken Pledges: The Deadly Rite of Hazing” was Klan Alpine pledge Chuck Stenzel, son of well-known hazing activist Eileen Stevens, who died at the Alfred University following an incident in which members kidnaped him, stuffed him in a car trunk, and coerced him into drinking a lethal amount of alcohol. (Klan Alpine was abolished at Alfred University, and now AU is known for its published research on hazing conducted by another old friend and colleague of mine, Dr. Norm Pollard).

A similar kidnaping and car stuffing years ago nearly claimed the life of a University of Michigan hockey rookie who fortunately was hospitalized just in time. So, this “prank” is more than a prank. It is a bonafide hazing incident, and I have no doubt PhI Gamma Delta’s national will also lower the boom on its WVU chapter for this stupid stunt.

If the news article is correct, the offending chapter soon will learn that its old ways now are its past ways.

The article says this:

 “One of our plans will be to make sure that students at the university, parents at this university, know before they join a fraternity or sorority, if that chapter had been involved in issues whether it be hazing, alcohol education, sexual assault, any of those types of things,” he said.

“Baker says the university has a lot of work to do, and they will use Wednesday’s incident as a learning tool to prevent future problems.”

You can take Dr. Baker’s word that this is so.

Baruch College Hazing

ColinThe following post was written by Colin Schlank, StopHazing Social Media Intern. Colin is a recent graduate from the University of Connecticut. 

In December 2013, Chun ‘Michael’ Deng passed away, the result of a fraternity hazing ritual. During a weekend retreat to the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania, brothers from
the chapter blindfolded Deng and ordered him to wear a heavy backpack filled with sand. They instructed him and his pledge class to carry it across a snowy field at a fraternity house, while brutally tackling him. The brothers delayed seeking medical assistance, and he died soon after.

Just a few weeks ago, a grand jury indicted over three-dozen of the fraternity members with crimes relating to Deng’s death. Many of these individuals face charges of third-degree murder, aggravated assault, and hazing. In addition, various brothers, as well as the
president of the national fraternity at the time, are accused of trying to cover-up the crime. This decision to prosecute represents a landmark case in holding fraternities accountable 15-michael-deng.w529.h529for their actions. It is no secret that many Greek organizations, as well as various other groups, face major issues relating to hazing. However, as the media continues to release new stories, solutions to these problems seem even more uncertain.

From my perspective, holding individuals and organizations accountable is the first step towards invoking meaningful change. It is essential that students, professionals, and other stakeholders in educational institutions take immediate action to eliminate hazing and other harmful behaviors.

Hank Nuwer-On Not Judging By Appearances

mn7njw6ir0u0rtfjz1laThe following post for StopHazing was written by author and anti-hazing activist Hank Nuwer. For more information on Hank, check out his website at www.hanknuwer.com.

Can I be the only reader of the Statehouse File taken aback and disappointed upon reading the lead to the October 1 commentary “Trump: the coyote ugly candidate” by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz?

Here it is in case you missed it.

“Back in my college days, it was not uncommon for a guy to have a “coyote ugly” moment. A “coyote ugly” moment is when the guy spent the early part of the evening over-indulging in alcoholic beverages and then spent the night with someone who, shall we say, had questionable physical attributes, or, to put it plainly, she had a face that could make a train take a dirt road. But when your options are limited and it’s the last call, you take what you can get. The problem with that was eventually daylight came and sobriety kicked in and the guy would literally try gnaw his own arm off in order to escape back to the apartment than look his bad decision in the face.”

There is so much wrong here it is hard to know where to start. Having read other pieces by Abdul I know he revels in gigging readers with politically incorrect columns, but perhaps, writing with all due respect, I might convince him to reconsider his views on alcohol and women.

First, my Indiana University Press book titled “Wrongs of Passage: Fraternities, Sororities, Hazing and Binge Drinking” is all about the young men who spent a night “over-indulging in alcoholic beverages” and spent their remaining minutes and hours in horrific pain and confusion before emergency-room personnel pronounced them dead. Therefore, I take exception to Abdul’s apparent contention that all college guys at some time and another will find themselves so drunk that all inhibitions and responsibilities will cavalierly fly out the window. Instead, my colleagues and I at Franklin College and on the Hazing Battlefront urge young men under 21 not to drink, and we caution older males that “real men” who do drink need to know it is ok to stop after one or two.

Second, the column does a disservice to young women who don’t have to look much past the latest “Cosmo” magazine to develop insecurities about their appearance. Even the most attractive young women in broadcast journalism and multimedia classes blurt out all the time about how they hate their appearances on camera. My colleagues and I try hard to convince young women and men alike that what is important is what’s inside their heads and not how they look. How is a young woman to feel when she knows a distinguished lawyer like Abdul thinks there are women whose “questionable physical attributes…could make a train take a dirt road”?

Next does Abdul really want to influence and to convince his younger male readers that it is ok to have sex with a young woman starving for a little affection or attention and then dismissing and mocking her after he’s demonstrated his stud status with other hard-drinking young men? To cavalierly joke about gnawing off your arm rather than look a new lover in the face upon sobering up is reprehensible and cruel.

Abdul is trying hard to make a political analogy with his “coyote ugly” references to Donald Trump. They don’t work for me. Like other men reaching their sixth or seventh decade, I had to be educated and convinced that to be a woman was to be equal to a man in every way, and Donald Trump himself has written that many of his female staffers proved to be not only equal but superior to men in the business world.

My life-changing career moment came when co-writing a book on the topic of large-sized women from 1980 to 1982. Part of my job was interviewing plus-size models, singers such as Della Reese, and ordinary housewives and professional women. The interviews were lengthy and, for the interviewees, deeply emotional. They told how issues with weight made them lose job promotions, lose husbands and lovers, and most of all, lose confidence in themselves as people of worth and value.

The book was reviewed favorably by Ms. Magazine, which termed our book a way of looking at “fat as a feminist issue.”

The last thing I want or would do is to make a personal attack on Abdul. So as much as I disagree with his words, it is only his manner of expression that I hope to convince him to change.

But I also hope I’ve convinced any women who were offended by Abdul’s commentary that not all men see women in that way, and/or we have grown up since college and cherish the women who have entered our lives romantically and/our intellectually.

Returning to that book I co-wrote, the most common and crushing thing a large-sized woman could be told is that “she has such a pretty face.” Implicit in that expression is the speaker’s assumption that the rest of her body is unattractive, and if only she would “dump the plump” all of the world would see her as attractive.

Abdul’s comments remind me that people can be so cruel to those they judge alone by appearances.

Hank Nuwer is a professor in the Pulliam School of Journalism.