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Hazing on the upswing

English: , University of Tennessee at Knoxville

University of Tennessee at Knoxville (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I was in college, I often heard stories about fraternities hazing their pledges. Most of it involved excessive drinking or completely ridiculous acts, like streaking or doing other embarrassing things in public. And while much of it seemed innocent to me at the time, I was aware that students were being harmed or even killed at other institutions. Fortunately, hazing was soon outlawed and students who engaged in it faced serious consequences. Sure, some of it still happened, but at least all the morbid news stories eased off a bit.

I wish the same were true today. After just a few minutes of surfing the internet, I came across two recent hazing stories that make me wonder if this is going to become a problem again.

The first story comes from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. Their chapter of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity was just suspended because of an incident this past weekend that ended with one student being hospitalized. Apparently, they used hoses to give alcohol enemas to students. This produces a stronger and much more dangerous “buzz” since it allows alcohol to enter the bloodstream faster. The hospitalized student was subjected to this and ended up with a blood alcohol level more than five times higher than the legal limit for driving!

A spokesperson for the university denied this was hazing and instead qualified it as an “alcohol incident,” but I have my doubts. If it were this simple, then why suspend the fraternity? In my experience, alcohol and fraternities go hand-in-hand. Am I now supposed to believe that a single incident of alcohol abuse is enough to warrant suspension of the entire chapter? Better yet, would any fraternities exist if this were standard procedure? Aside from honors or academic fraternities, that is.

The second hazing story occurred at La Puente High School in California. And I must warn you that what happened is a little graphic, so please stop reading if you are easily offended.

Several young soccer players ranging in age from 14-15 were the victims of hazing and sexual assault by as many as ten of their teammates. Basically, the gang cornered each of them in a back room, held them down and inserted poles into their rectums. Although this is horrifying enough, I was even more appalled to learn that their coach was aware this abuse and did nothing to stop it. And his office was almost next door to the room where the abuse took place! It’s also worth mentioning that when the coach saw his players luring one of their victims into the room, he winked at the kid. Is there any doubt he knew what was about to happen?

While I find both of these stories disturbing for different reasons, it is obvious that hazing still occurs far more than it should. I can understand why the fraternity incident happened because as I mentioned, I know how some of these organizations operate. And the fraternity guys I knew were always looking for ways to enhance or intensify their “buzz.” They used beer bongs, did keg stands and consumed more Jello shooters than I care to count. I don’t agree with their methods, but I’m also not shocked by them, either.

Soccer Field

Soccer Field (Photo credit: Peter Ankerstål)

However, the incident at La Puente High School has to be one of the most offensive and frightening things I have heard in some time. Now that I’m a father, I find myself inserting my son into stories like these, at least as precautionary tales. He just started kindergarten and I must admit that relinquishing control of him to teachers and school administrators was not easy to do. I trust they will take care of him and make sure he remains safe, but there is always some level of doubt since no one will care for him like I do. The soccer coach in this story should have protected his players and intervened as soon as he learned of this abuse. Instead, he let it happen and even seemed to relish the fact it occurred. I certainly wouldn’t be surprised if one of the victim’s parents beat the ever-loving shit out of this guy because personally, I would do it in an instant. Hell, I would probably kick some of the players’ asses, too. And you better believe that a lawsuit against the school, the coach and everyone else involved would be filed immediately. Someone would pay the price.

Hazing may be illegal, but since when has that stopped anyone? Smoking marijuana is illegal and more people are doing it than ever before, so laws aren’t enough to protect us. We must protect each other so incidents like the ones mentioned here will no longer plague our society. Part of our responsibility is to educate everyone, including our children, about the potential dangers in the world, including hazing. The other part is to take action when things like this do occur so others won’t fall victim to them in the future.

So to all you coaches, teachers or other school officials out there who let hazing and even sexual assault happen to your students,  I have one piece of advice for you: watch your back. Because if you allow something like this to happen to my son, I will be visiting you very soon.

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