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.

Turmoil in Ben & Jerry’s Backyard

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.

Last Fall the corporate board of Ben & Jerry’s voted to keep the name of its flavor “Hazed and Confused,” determining that it saw no harm in celebrating an action called “hazing” that has been condemned by educators and is against the law in 44 states. In addition to myself, strong pleas for a name change were made by Elizabeth Allan of Stophazing.org and Lianne Kowiak, an award-winning hazing activist and mother of Harrison Kowiak who died in a senseless hazing at Lenoir-Rhyne in North Carolina.

Predictably, as the board made its decision, a disturbing high school hazing case on the Milton High School football team occurred less than 10 miles from the Burlington corporate giant’s headquarters. As a result of horrific sexual hazing,  a teen victim killed himself and five former football players were charged with serious crimes. Now, as I write, the community of Milton has been trying to find a way to heal the community with new hazing policies and discussions after an independent ruled this:

“Five Milton School District employees — including Superintendent John Barone and high school Principals Anne Blake and Scott Thompson — failed to follow school policies in the wake of hazing rituals for the varsity football team, a new independent investigation has concluded.

The report was designed to determine if Milton School District administrators and employees complied with all rules, regulations and policies designed to protect children.

A previous criminal investigation revealed five Milton football players held initiations that included sexually hazing younger players with broom sticks or pool cues, court records showed.

The hazing case spread over several years and included criminal convictions for the five former players. One hazing victim died by suicide a year after he was assaulted, and the Vermont Legislature adopted a new law this year designed to provide greater protection for children, including for hazing.” –Burlington (VT) Free Press

Let me add my two cents: There are other adults in the Burlington, VT area who failed the public by continuing to dismiss the seriousness of hazing despite numerous sexually assaulted youngsters, the ruined lives of perpetrators, and most of all, the suicide of a victim. I am referring to the corporate board of Ben & Jerry’s.

Once again, we ask Ben & Jerry’s board to do the right thing.  Take “Hazed and Confused” off the nation’s shelves.

Nebraska-Lincoln Chancellor Harvey Perlman retires and defends a not-so “innocent” tradition many see as hazing

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.

While I wish retiring University of Nebraska Chancellor Harvey Perlman well, and commend him for accomplishments in academics and athletics during his long tenure, I respectfully and strongly must speak out against his defense of a UNL tradition that certainly qualifies as a hazing practice.  See Video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LuOHgTpPs8g&feature=youtu.be

Perlman recently defended the senior UNL society known as the Innocents Society, a group that “welcomes” select newcomers each year with a “voluntary” tackle on an open field.

“Tackling somebody in an open field when they know it’s going to happen, and happen once, is just not the definition of hazing as we define it,” Perlman told media representatives.

Why yes it is. Which is why many sports teams have gotten rid of such barbaric and dated customs as “Freshman Kill Day” for soccer and “Senior Hit Day” in football.  Like all hazing acts, there is real peer pressure on the newcomers and veteran organization members alike to continue the status quo.

I, for one, wonder if school and team insurance would cover a crippling injury should an “Innocent” newcomer or old timer suffer a concussion or a broken leg…or worse. Almost certainly, the university that Perlman has represented would lose millions in a civil lawsuit should a life-threatening injury to spine, head or neck occur. Let us remember that Theta Chi pledge Harrison Kowiak lost his life playing a “mock” football ritual like this after he was tackled and his head hit the groend.

Don’t get me wrong, I heartily applaud such distinguished service organizations such as the Innocents, and their long distinguished history and all the now-distinguished members who now are alums.

But tackling someone to get into an organization is risky, wrong and absolutely an act of hazing.

That ritual needs to retire along with Chancellor Perlman.