The media is filled with horror stories about hazing.

"At California State University Chico, pledges rushing for the Chi Tau fraternity were confined to the basement of the frat house. Each pledge was forced to drink five gallons of water while ice cold water was thrown at them and fans blowing cold air were pointed in their direction. They were also forced to do push-ups and more physical exercises, while standing on one foot on a bench. The all-night hazing continued and pledges were not allowed to use the washroom, instead they had to ask permission to wet themselves. They drank more and more water until one of the pledges collapsed, hypothermia set in and his brain swelled due to water intoxication, which killed him."

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"Michael Deng and other pledges were blindfolded and ordered to carry a backpack filled with sand across a snow-covered field while fraternity brothers charged and tackled them. One ran at Mr. Deng from 15 feet away and plowed into him with his head lowered, in a move known as the spear. Others pushed him to the ground, the force of each blow amplified by the weight on Mr. Deng’s back. After he lost consciousness, fraternity members delayed seeking medical assistance for two hours. He died two days later."

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“Two Ohio State University freshmen found themselves in the 'dungeon' of their prospective fraternity house after breaking the rule requiring all pledges to crawl into the dining area prior to Hell Week meals. Once locked in the house storage closet, they were given only salty foods to eat for nearly two days. Nothing was provided for drinking purposes except a pair of plastic cups in which they could catch their own urine.”

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Knowing all of this, people continue to both haze, and sign up to be hazed. Even at the specific frats where these incidents have occurred. Why is that?

There are a few possible explanations.

“Those who have been abused often abuse others as a way to seek revenge. Without proper resolution or counseling for their abuse, victims in most cases will become abusers.”

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"In fraternities, for example, where membership and group identity are constructed around ideas of the 'all-male' group, hazing can serve as a validation of masculinity and a suppression of femininity"

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"Once accepted by the group, the victim becomes a bystander, and watches as others get hazed. Eventually, the bystander achieves senior status and power, and becomes a perpetrator. They do onto others what was done to them, and they feel as though they have the right and duty to pass on the tradition."

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Do people enjoy the feeling of power when they get to haze new members? Is it an attempt to show masculinity? Is it an endless cycle of abuse that the older members feel obligated to perpetuate?

One of the more promising explanations is that it’s a tradition that everyone feels compelled to follow. Some of these frats have existed for a while, and tradition is ingrained in everything they do. Maybe they are just mindlessly following the old way and need something to snap them out of it. If this was true then maybe one of these deadly incidents would encourage them to finally change things.

After one initiate died during a hazing ritual at Kappa Sigma in USC, the school made new rules to make things safer. They required that all pledging activities be reviewed before being allowed and that adult advisers be present during initiation ceremonies.

The students strongly opposed these new rules.

“The new ‘code’ set off a riot so violent that city police and fire detachments were afraid to enter campus.”

Why are these students fighting so hard for the right to have dangerous initiation rituals? Are they crazy or do they know something you don’t?

Part 2 soon.


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