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How Parents are Striving to Change the Greek Life Hazing Culture

Monmouth in New Jersey has already made strides.

Alex Mauriello

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Fraternity hazing charges and deaths have been on the rise in recent years, leading to heightened parental concern, as they strive to bring about necessary change and justice.

Such was the case of 19-year-old Timothy Piazza, who died in 2017 after taking part in a hazing “ritual” that required him to consume 18 drinks in 82 minutes, making his blood-alcohol level five times the legal limit. Highly disoriented, he had sustained numerous head injuries after falling down a flight of stairs, and died after his fraternity brothers waited over 12 hours to alert authorities.

After suffering through such a heartbreaking and traumatic experience, the Piazza Family, along with other families who had lost their sons in similar instances, formed the Anti-Hazing Coalition in order to strengthen hazing laws and eventually prevent it altogether. With its roots in South Carolina, they have since expanded, with their main goal now being to pass a law in Pennsylvania (with the intention of it being named after Piazza himself) that would “make hazing a felony punishable by up to seven years in prison.”

And they have been making progress. This past March, the group succeeded in encouraging Governor John Bel Edwards of Louisiana to sign the ‘Max Gruver Act,’ which would cause participants in a hazing scheme to receive up to six months in prison and fines of up to $1000. If the act of hazing leads to death, the charges increase to up to five years in prison, and a fine of $10,000, a stark and necessary contrast to its previous 30 days and $1000 fine.

As hazing continues to be a substantial issue on school campuses, colleges are starting to heed parental concerns much more seriously. As of September 6, Monmouth University in New Jersey has effectively suspended all Greek life organizations until further notice.  This is due to a number of serious incidents involving hazing, alcohol, drugs, etc, that have affected not only Monmouth itself, but “Greek communities across the country that…have often resulted in tragic situations.”  Interestingly, President Dimenna insists that any and all proposals to fix and reinstate Greek life at the University must come from the students, not higher-up officials.

This could prove to be a very effective way to control and regulate the Greek system, as students will not only learn to adhere to stricter codes of conduct, but implement them themselves. In doing so, they will be forced to take a hard look at their previous hazing actions, which are often followed mindlessly under the principles of “tradition” or “rite of passage” within an individual organization. 

In April, several university presidents from across the nation, including Penn State’s Eric Barron, Louisiana State’s F. King Alexander, and Florida State’s John Thrasher, all of whom had students die from hazing incidents, met to discuss and educate others on the importance of Greek life control and safety.

But they do not intend to eliminate it entirely. Amid the constant negative stereotypes surrounding the system, they have not forgotten its positive qualities. They hope to “[get] [Greek] chapters back to their foundational values of leadership and service.”

But while the roughly 9 million Greek life members nationally are well aware of the benefits and opportunities afforded by Greek life, for concerned parents, the cons are starting to largely outweigh the pros. The Greek community must therefore fight to battle its negative stereotypes in order to create a safer environment for its members, and thus lift the veil upon which has clouded their initial core values and strengths.

You’ve all managed to convince yourselves that the Greek community is a place to foster friendships, leadership roles, and community service. Now convince us.

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Alex Mauriello is a senior English major with a Biology minor at The College of New Jersey. She loves pizza, her dogs, and using excessive amounts of sarcasm whenever possible.

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