My niece at NC State University has been excited to begin Rush for her sorority. Being a member of a sorority or fraternity can build lifelong friendships and account for many college memories, but the actual pledging can cause apprehension and, unfortunately, sometimes death. One truly has to wonder why they call the end of the pledge period "Hell Week."
Hazing is a terrible tradition, that is supposedly forbidden on college campuses, but the evidence is that it is happening in secret. Seriously, if you are the new pledge joining a fraternity or sorority, you do not want to be the known as the kid who blew the whistle and was denied membership and ostracized by everyone on campus. That’s simply too much pressure to put on a teenager in a new place, away from home for the first time, and trying to come into their own.
But somehow we need to get the message across that hazing is wrong and can have serious consequences. Just ask the family of Harrison Kowiak who died after a brain hemorrhage resulting from a head injury suffered during a hazing ritual. This bright, young man, a student at Lenoir-Rhyne University, had pledged the Theta Chi fraternity. A lawsuit recently filed by his parents alleges that Harrison was repeatedly tackled by members of the fraternity as he was made to cross a field in the dark of night. Many of these fraternity members had 100 pounds on Harrison and were pros at tackling given their football experience. Unfortunately, the blows to the head were too much for Harrison and he died the following day.
This is not an isolated incident. Just ask Jane and George Starks whose son Michael died last of alcohol poisoning at Utah State University during an alleged hazing incident. They filed lawsuit last month alleging that the University had turned a blind eye to "a culture of drug and alcohol abuse" at the Sigma Nu fraternity house.
I hope that college students across America have fun during Rush. It is an exciting time. But I hope that the pledges and, especially, the members of the sororities and fraternities will be careful and responsible. There’s more than enough fun to have in college and hazing simply isn’t the way. It’s too dangerous and you are putting lives at risk. I hope that all fraternities and sororities will pledge to just say no to hazing.