Many college students join Greek organizations like sororities and fraternities looking to develop life-long friendships. While Greek life at college is supposed to be about learning, growing and experiencing life lessons which will carry into adulthood, sometimes, the opposite happens. In some cases, college students may suffer serious injuries, abuse or even death. In addition, lives of others can be drastically affected; some may be expelled from school or worse, face criminal charges.
During the pledging process, potential members go through a ritual or hazing, and every organization develops its own rituals. In and of itself, hazing isn’t always a bad thing. However, the problem is that hazing can get out of control and quickly. In addition, if older members, those who are doing the hazing, have been drinking alcohol, their judgment will be impaired. This often leads to performing hazing acts irresponsibly. Pledges can become seriously injured or die as a result of hazing rituals. Those who perform the hazing rituals are often kicked out of school and may be charged with crimes.
Related: Liability in School Hazing Cases
There have been several high profile cases in the media over the last few months about hazing deaths at colleges; one of them involved a fraternity from a NY college which conducted a hazing ritual near the Poconos, in Pennsylvania. One of the pledges died as a result of a head injury. Local law enforcement has investigated the case and intends to pursue criminal charges against some fraternity members. According to a news report, the victim died as the result of a hazing ritual that required pledges to cross a frozen lake while blind-folded and while being beaten and attacked by fraternity members.
Sexual Abuse or Assault
Sexual abuse or assault is common in college settings, both on campus and off campus. Fraternities and sororities often include sexual conduct in hazing rituals. Several years ago, a sorority was accused of forcing pledges to “hook up” with members of a specific fraternity. Students in Greek organizations may go along with sexual abuse because their peers seem ok with it. This culture of silence is what perpetuates sexual abuse or assault. Students should know that they have a legal and moral right to be free of any type of assault, including physical, sexual and emotional assault.
Alcohol & Drug Use
Last but not least, there is the issue of alcohol and drug use. College students are often known for partying, and Greek organizations are known to throw some of the largest parties, both on campus and off campus. Alcohol and drug use is a serious issue which can lead to severe injuries and death. Students who are considering joining a fraternity or sorority must consider the long-term ramifications of consuming alcohol or drugs. Pledges who are required to consume alcohol or drugs must consider the consequences of doing so; they could suffer serious injury or death.
Both criminal prosecutions and civil lawsuits may result from any of the types of incidents discussed above. For instance, in a hazing case, fraternity/sorority members may be arrested, prosecuted and ultimately convicted of a crime. Having a conviction may result in significant jail time, and at a minimum, a criminal record. In addition, students often face expulsion or suspension from school. These are reasons alone to seriously consider the activities of a given fraternity or sorority.
Joining a Greek organization is an important part of the college experience, and any student who is contemplating joining a fraternity or sorority should, at least, be aware of these kinds of issues.
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