OBERLIN, OH – Just last month, Maxwell Gruver died at the age of 18.
A freshman at Louisiana State University, Gruver was pledging the Phi Delta Theta fraternity when a hazing incident led him to the hospital where he died with a blood alcohol level of .495, which is over six times the legal limit in most states.
Gruver’s death, while tragic, was not the only of its kind. A shocking amount of fraternity-hazing related deaths have been occurring, with an estimated 33 hazing deaths in the past decade alone. Tim Piazza, 19, died in February of this year, highly intoxicated and severely bruised and battered, after falling from a flight of stairs and waiting 12 hours before his “brothers” called an ambulance during a hazing event.
The list of eerily similar events goes on and on. Despite a period immediately following every incident in which anger is evident and change is promised, they routinely lead to no real changes. Sometimes the fraternity chapter will close, other times they will simply add new rules that are easily forgotten and abandoned with time.
his pattern of ritualistic hazing and institutional support present in so many Greek systems is becoming dangerous. Supporters of the Greek system argue that these events are isolated and do not discredit the many benefits of fraternities and sororities.
Greek systems have been said to instill a sense of community and brotherhood in its members, as well as support philanthropy and community service.
At Oberlin College, no such system exists, and I argue there are still ample opportunities for the formation of communities that do good. We have clubs and organizations dedicated to social justice, environmental protection and sustainability, and plenty of other important causes. We have varsity athletics and club sports whose members often live together and that foster that same sense of community and brotherhood.
Fraternities are not needed to make the campus fun or productive and students find other ways to make connections and friends that do not cost hundreds of dollars per semester, foster feelings of exclusion and inferiority, or cost students their lives in dangerous and obscene hazing rituals. This is an important issue that has not gone away with time or attention and it is time to really examine the Greek system and decide if it is worth the apparent risk.