OUR VIEW: UA should institute amnesty policy for hazing emergencies

CW Editorial Board

On February 4th, 2017, Tim Piazza, a student at Pennsylvania State University died during fraternity hazing. Recently, an in-depth article about the incident published in the Atlantic has taken the internet by storm. He fell down the stairs after a night of heavy drinking, and none of his fraternity brothers called an ambulance to help him. 

Many questions about hazing rules and potential university sanctions have arisen, and while most rightly-outraged observers have advocated for the continuation of strict no-tolerance politics, it may have been precisely these stringent restrictions that cost Tim Piazza his life.

Hazing is strictly prohibited at universities across the nation, most with zero-tolerance policies that result in the students responsible being severely punished and the fraternities they belong to being sanctioned heavily, even sometime being kicked off campus. In addition to this, the national fraternity organizations that campus chapters belong to have strict zero-tolerance policies as well, making sure to express to their members frequently and clearly that hazing has no place within their brotherhood and that chapters will be disbanded if they participate in it.

However, according to a 2008 study done at the University of Maine, eighty percent of fraternity members report having been hazed. Despite the fact that it is illegal in most states and  prohibited at all universities, it is a seemingly integral part of fraternity culture. The draw of continuing the practice is almost tribal — creating a bond of brotherhood through pain and humiliation. You’ve gone through so much with your fraternity brothers, how could you not be bonded for life?

Hazing is obviously a deeply problematic and amoral practice. Organizations that claim to love and support their members consistently degrade and threaten the physical safety of the same member through hazing practices. Steps must be taken to combat the practice, and it should continue to be condemned by both universities and national fraternal organizations.

However, it is going to continue to take place, at least for the foreseeable future. Immature college boys are going to continue to assert their superiority and masculinity over younger members through forcing them to drink unhealthy amounts and threatening their physical safety. These young members will continue to listen to them, desperate to find a place of belonging and acceptance in the new and confusing world of college.

Hazing is going to continue, and young men will continue to die if steps aren’t taken to protect their lives. In the case of Tim Piazza, the young men in the room with him who didn’t seek medical attention for him were fearing for their futures and for the future of their fraternity. They knew what would happen if it was suspected that Piazza had been injured during hazing; members of their executive board would be punished, their fraternity could be kicked off campus, or even disbanded by the Beta Theta Pi national organization. They shouldn’t have been thinking of any of this. They should have only been thinking of what they could do to make sure Piazza survived.

When students under twenty-one are in potentially dangerous situations due to drinking, UA and many other universities have amnesty policies that prevents them and anyone who calls in the medical emergency from getting in trouble for underage drinking. This editorial board proposes that UA takes a similar approach to hazing medical emergencies — making it clear to fraternity members that they will not be punished for seeking help for members in dire situations.

Though there is an anonymous hazing tip line, members know that if a brother ends up in the hospital, their organization will come under incredible scrutiny. Though reducing a student to a state where they need medical attention should be addressed by the University, we should place more value on students’ lives than we do on punishment.

There are many steps the University can take to combat hazing. Better education surrounding the dangers of hazing, changing campus culture around binge drinking and monitoring fraternity houses and their events more stringently are only a few. Severe punishments clearly are doing nothing to reduce the prevalence of hazing and only ensure that fraternities will take the wrong steps in dangerous situations. An amnesty policy for fraternity hazing could save lives.