Young college men across the United States are losing their lives thanks to hazing, and "frat culture" may have a lot to do with it.
Hazing has claimed 33 lives in the past decade. However, each time a new death is reported and parents express outrage, universities promise reform but fail to deliver.
Tim Piazza, 19, is the latest victim of frat culture in America.
On Feb. 3, an unconscious Piazza was carried to a couch by members of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity. He did not regain consciousness, despite his colleagues’ attempts to wake him.
Later, Piazza was seen falling and hitting his head, and then lying on the ground alone. By the time his colleagues called for medical aid, it was too late. He had suffered severe brain and spleen injuries that led to his death.
Piazza had been forced to consume a “toxic amount of alcohol,” Time reports.
Last year, 18-year-old Ryan Abele succumbed to his injuries after falling down a flight of stairs. As a Sigma Nu fraternity pledge, Abele had been ordered to clean the basement of the house while “highly intoxicated.”
After Abele's death, a lawsuit was filed and the University of Nevada revoked the chapter’s charter for having violated alcohol and hazing rules.
In 2014, Tucker Hipps also lost his life as a result of these dangerous practices.
The 19-year-old had fallen off a bridge during a predawn run. He was with Clemson University’s Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity brothers and according to the lawsuit filed by Hipps’ parents, he was a victim of hazing.
Time and again, families of victims file lawsuits and urge universities to implement changes. Still, these deaths continue to take place. Furthermore, the federal government does not keep records of these tragedies.
On the other hand, HazingPrevention.org does keep track of hazing deaths, helping students and parents obtain access to tools they can use to implement real change.
To attorney Doug Fierberg — who has represented several families in similar wrongful death cases — these deaths and other cases of abuse involving fraternity members are out of control.
“[Students are] still dying and still getting sexually assaulted and still getting traumatically injured — and for reasons the fraternity industry could control but chooses not to,” he explained.
Despite this criticism, fraternities remain strong institutions with at least 385,000 students serving as members in Greek-letter organizations across the United States and Canada in the 2015-16 academic year.
With a 50 percent increase in membership during the past decade, it’s clear that people involved with these groups aren’t exactly looking into bringing the institution to an end.
But, it becomes increasingly difficult to look the other way as these deaths become more common and students continue to fall prey to their own peers — either out of pressure, fear, or the desire to be accepted by veteran members.
As Piazza’s parents try to get Penn State to implement policy changes that could help prevent similar hazing-related deaths, people wonder if anything will change because fraternities, their members, and alumni pressure schools to give up on significant reforms, even as people continue to die at an alarming rate.
As with previous cases, it's likely that nobody will be held accountable for Piazza’s death. And, perhaps, that’s why hazing incidents continue to occur and those who are to blame remain free.
Banner and thumbnail image credit: Flickr user Jirka Matousek