Fraternity and Sorority Deaths Continue to Plague Colleges in America

As a college student, I was a member of the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity at Northeast Missouri State University. Our chapter, at the time I joined was new, small and struggling. We did had an idea: What if we did the fraternity-thing differently? We changed how a fraternity worked. We never hazed our new members, we focused on academics, and pushed our members to be active on campus, campus government, campus media, athletics, etc. We got rid of fraternity provided alcohol. What happened to our chapter? It grew three-fold. We had the highest organization GPA for three years. Our members were the president of the student activities bureau, the editor of the school newspaper, the dj’s on the school radio — and the football team place-kicker. Why did I choose this topic to write about this week? Because I read another tragic story about a life lost at a fraternity house attributed to alcohol abuse and hazing. This under-21 student, at his social fraternity house, drank entirely too much alcohol and died. I wish there was a more heroic element to this story, but there isn’t. This wasn’t an accident. The “game” is to get the pledges as drunk as possible as fast as possible. Hazing deaths, to me, are very tragic. Pledges want to fit in, upperclassmen want to entertain themselves, alcohol and drugs are being experimented with, and someone dies. The “someone” is always someone’s child, someone’s best friend, someone’s brother or sister. The “someone” is always a bright, ambitious college student — one of America’s future leaders. In college, I tried to change the hazing/fraternity system from the inside. Working with the administration of my college, I worked to get “keg parties” banned so that fraternities were not providing alcohol to underage kids. I worked to abolish fraternity “little sister” organizations, which history and experience has shown leads to more alcohol problems and sexual abuse. Now, I am a trial lawyer. Now I try to change the system another way. Those responsible for these tragic deaths will be held to account for their wrong doing. What hazing deaths are now treated as manslaughter. Good. It should. Forcing a kid to drink until he passes out and then “sleeps it off” in the trunk of a car causing his death is murder. The corporate organizations that employ hundreds of people have an interest in keeping the “alumni” donating money. These organization profess to limit alcohol in their chapters, but are shocked to learn that drinking occurrs at fraternity parties. I will continue to pursue those responsible for hazing deaths and serious injuries to account for their actions. It is possible to live up to fraternal ideals. These organizations simply need to be encouraged to do so.

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