As a middle-schooler with naturally curly hair during a time when pin-straight tresses were all the rage, I spent hours in the mirror with my 400-degree flat-iron every morning. My grandmother often scoffed at my futile attempts to tame my mane, and annoyingly reminded me, “You don’t need to do all that to do well in your classes.”
I quit obsessing over my hair in high school and still made friends, kept up my grades and had a ton of fun. If middle-school me can change focus, you can too, frat boys of LSU.
There is no need for students to join fraternities to enjoy attending college, receive a well-rounded education and make life-long friends, but if a person chooses to do so, they should not be subject to pledgeship.
While I’m unsure where the appeal lies in gaining “friends” who ritualistically beat, humiliate and taunt you for months before they will call you a brother, there’s no denying the appeal is there. Otherwise, why would hundreds of young men flock to the frat houses for Rush Week each year?
Perhaps it’s the lure of easy friendships, the holy grail of test banks (yeah, we all know that’s a thing), weekly parties with girls or a cheap place to live junior or senior year. Even taking all of these benefits into account, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. LSU fraternity boys, y’all have a lot of weak links breaking lately, and they all break during pledgeship.
We cannot excuse the behavior of some just because it does not apply to all when it results in death, trauma and substance abuse.
Since the tragic death of Max Gruver, a Phi Delta Theta pledge who died of alcohol poisoning following a fraternity ritual, the public has not let his death be in vain. The state passed more rigorous hazing laws, and his case has brought the trauma experienced by fraternity pledges into the public eye. More recently, the arrest of nine Delta Kappa Epsilon (DKE) members and the spotlight on administrators accused of ignoring hazing allegations has rekindled that flame.
Unfortunately, Gruver’s was not the first death via pledge hazing at LSU. It took two lives– Benjamin Wynne in 1997 and Gruver in 2017– being senselessly lost before the notion of “boys just being boys” was questioned at LSU. Allegations against some LSU officials could mean even after both deaths, hazing was not taken seriously. The most recent arrests make it clear that hazing will not be tolerated, but we should take it a step further and prevent hazing from occurring by abolishing pledgeship.
Let’s make Gruver’s life the last to be lost because of these barbaric “brotherhoods.”
If not out of respect for the deaths of two young men, abolish pledgeship so that other young men can avoid the traumatic experiences detailed in arrest reports that their predecessors have endured for the sake of friendship and acceptance.
Fraternity members, specifically those who are white and under 25, comprise the group of college students at the highest risk of developing a substance abuse problem or facing severe consequences for drinking or drug use, according to a report by AddictionCenter.com, which helps those with substance abuse problems find treatment centers. Is it any coincidence that research published by the American Psychological Association shows patients with trauma-related distress such as PTSD often use alcohol and drugs in a problematic manner classifiable as substance use disorder? No, it is not.
Being doused in cayenne pepper and ice, beat with a metal pipe, and forced to consume God-only-knows what are not fun rituals that bring people together, they are traumatic experiences.
Fraternities, when acting as the friendship and philanthropic-based organizations they claim to be are a benefit to its members and society. However, the ritual of pledgeship is so far removed from the principles of friendship and philanthropy it should have been abandoned years, if not decades, ago.
Have we not learned anything from the Stanford Prison Experiment? Power formed in a hierarchy can go to anyone's head.
There’s no need to deal with all of the fluff that comes with fraternities to have a positive college experience, but if someone wants to join, no parent should worry that their child may not make it out of pledgeship alive.