The Secret Darkness of Fraternity Life


NBC News

Dangerous hazing rituals of fraternities and sororities have resulted in tragedy, such as the death of Penn State student Timothy Piazza.

Caitlyn Truong, Photojournalist

Impressively large, aged buildings bearing Greek letters proudly line the edges of nearly all college campuses. College students seeking friendships, partying, or even upholding tradition often look to join fraternities or sororities. To do so, however, often involves absurd and dangerous rituals little known to the public.

Fraternities and sororities are often made of same gender members sworn to secrecy and accepted through rushing and pledging processes; after joining, members may live in the same house and wear their symbolic Greek letters. While typically associated with colleges and universities, fraternities and sororities are historically traditional institutions with origins in ancient Greece, according to Business Insider. Today, initiation rituals known as hazing often include simple oaths and information tests but can extend to extremities such as excessive drinking, staged kidnappings, and other forms of harassment.

Although hazing rituals may seem harmless and good-natured, some fraternities and sororities, have pushed their initiates to their deaths. According to USA Today, more than 200 hazing mortalities have occurred since 1838, with 40 of those deaths in the recent ten years alone. Alcohol poisoning is the leading cause of death. Despite these gratuitous tragedies, most colleges continue to allow fraternities and sororities due to tradition and pride.

These colleges may be forced to reconsider their leniency in light of recent events. On February 4th of this year, ten students of Penn State were charged for the death of Beta Theta Pi pledge Timothy Piazza, according to New York Times. Investigators found that Piazza had been given at least 18 alcoholic drinks in under an hour and a half. Piazza was extremely intoxicated and repeatedly fell down the stairs at a party which eventually fractured his skull. The most chilling aspect of his death, however, was his fraternity brothers trying to cover up his death and deleting videos of evidence.

Such cruel and horrifying hazing accidents have brought attention to the dangerously dark world of fraternities and sororities. In response, colleges such as Texas State University, Florida State University, Louisiana State University, University of Michigan, Ohio State University, and Penn State University have suspended or banned Greek life completely, according to Washington Post. Amelie Tran (10), a student considering joining a sorority after high school, believes, “Sororities and even fraternities can be a fun way to meet new people and make long lasting friendships during college. But remember that feeling discomfort at any point during the experience is a sign to stop and leave immediately. It’s not worth it.” With the dangers of Greek life becoming more acknowledged, unnecessary hazing deaths have a chance to finally be put to an end.