- ANTI-HAZING STATUTES
- NUWER'S WRONGS OF PASSAGE REVIEWED
- "GUARDIAN ANGEL" FALLS DOWN ON THE JOB
- SPLIT IN CIRCUITS CAUSES UNCERTAINLY IN LOUISIANA
Newsletter > November 1999 > "NUWER’S WRONGS OF PASSAGE REVIEWED"
NUWER’S WRONGS OF PASSAGE REVIEWED
Wrongs of Passage (Indiana University Press), is the second book by Hank Nuwer to examine the tragedies of hazing. Nuwer, whose first book, Broken Pledges, examined in detail the alcohol-related death of Chuck Stenzel at Alfred University, in his latest effort, produces an almost encyclopedic overview of the hazing and alcohol tragedies that continue to haunt the Greek system.
Opening with the detailed story of the death of Chad Saucier, an Auburn University Phi Delta Theta, Nuwer examines the history of hazing, its causes, effects and possible solutions. Repeatedly making his points with historical anecdotes such as future U.S. President Benjamin Harrison kicking out several of his brothers who would embarrass the Phi Delta Theta chapter at Miami University of Ohio – to discussions with family members of recent victims, Nuwer builds a powerful case against the consequences of hazing and alcohol abuse.
Beginning with Plato’s complaints at the Academy as early as 387 B.C., Nuwer traces the history of hazing through medieval schools to the tradition of fagging at Yale in the early 1800s. (Fagging was the practice of requiring freshman students to wait on and service upperclassmen.) Nuwer does not limit his criticism to hazing in the context of fraternity groups. Rather, he makes it clear that the practice of “initiating” new members of organizations through psychological and physical challenges and, in its worst form, beatings, exists not only in the Greek world, but with athletic teams, the military, and in other social organizations. Nuwer does, however, save his closest examination and criticism for Greek organizations. One chapter is devoted to problems existing in the sorority world while another chapter concentrates exclusively on historically African-American Greek organizations.
Nuwer offers numerous recommendations for steps that can and should be taken by universities, fraternities, parents and police to help eliminate hazing, alcohol abuse and the tragedies which are too frequently associated with them. His dozens of specific recommendations include: an increase in the severity of hazing penalties; closer supervision of houses by “responsible” adults; a ban on rooftop beaches; punishment of faculty and staff who fail to report hazing; and continuing to stress that hazing is wrong “semester after semester.” He urges that fraternities must “join the rest of the world in developing a positive attitude toward women,” “should stop feeding alcohol to women,” and put an end to “racist, homophobic and barbaric practices.” Many of his strategies are already being implemented by national fraternities and sororities. Others are worth consideration. Some of Nuwer’s proposed solutions are common sense thoughtful approaches to the problem while others are controversial and subject to fair debate within the Greek world.
Perhaps the most striking section of the book is the 38- page “Chronology of Death” which details deaths related to hazing, alcohol abuse and other misconduct among college students. The chronology runs from the 1838 death of John Butler Groves at the Franklin Seminary in Kentucky to three separate deaths occurring this year. Even the short snippets which describe each of the entries in the Chronology of Death make clear the too frequent connection between alcohol abuse and hazing.
The ultimate point is that in spite of past and continuing efforts, the tragedies associated with hazing, alcohol and other drug use continue to occur. Nuwer’ s book simply and eloquently argues the case for a rededication to those efforts lest the “Chronology of Death” continue.