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Expert Says Colleges Must Get Tough on Hazing

Most schools have policies in place to address hazing incidents, but administrators often fail to act unless hazing ends in death or serious injury.

Most schools have policies in place to address hazing incidents, but administrators often fail to act unless hazing ends in death or serious injury, according to Hank Nuwer, an associate professor at the Franklin College Pulliam School of Journalism.

“People need to look at this as a human rights issue,” he says. “Any time you have a violence and safety issue like this, a lot of things go wrong. A lot of things need to go right before the problem is solved.”

Related Article: How to Prevent Hazing.

Nuwer suggests that campus officials start enforcing their policies and “expelling students or closing Greek houses to send a clear message.” He also believes that bystanders to incidents of hazing need to be held accountable if they don’t report the incidents.

To address hazing on your campus, it is important to:

  • Get your administrators on board. “I would say a lot more [general campus administrators] are on board than [college or university] presidents,” Nuwar says. In order for your campus to effectively address hazing, it is vital for your top decision-makers to be dedicated to enforcing your campus’s policies.
  • Uniformly enforce your anti-hazing policies. Waiting until a student is killed or injured and a media firestorm is underway is not the time to think about punishing those responsible for hazing on your campus. Nuwar says campus police should be given the authority to properly address hazing.
  • Allow only “dry” Greek organizations. “The last time I checked, 82 percent of all hazing deaths were alcohol-related,” Nuwar explains. It is generally up to a fraternity’s national organization whether the fraternity will be wet or dry. However, “alcohol and hazing are causing deaths and are a campus health and safety issue,” Nuwar explains.
  • Hold bystanders and participants responsible. Texas recently revised a law so that witnesses to hazing incidents will be held responsible if they don’t notify authorities. “Bystanders have to learn that — No. 1 — they’re in violation of their fraternity or their athletic team’s values [if they participate in hazing] — No. 2 — that they could be culpable and — No. 3 — if they’re an officer [who didn’t properly enforce campus policy], they could suffer in a civil suit,” Nuwar says.

“Hazing occurs all over the world, including the Philippines, England and Japan — this is an international problem, not just a U.S. problem,” Nuwar says. “I think in the future we will see a federal law [to address hazing].”

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