College Hazing May No Longer Be Rite of Passage

Article excerpt

Bill Dankanis was pelted with eggs, waded through a mud pit, and ate spaghetti spiced with hot peppers when he pledged Sigma Phi Epsilon two years ago at Temple University.

Now, he's president of the fraternity and says the hazing has been stopped.

"It doesn't make you a better brother to go through a mud pit," Dankanis said. "I wouldn't want to be a part of something just there to throw flour and milk at someone. That time would be spent better learning something."

This fall, Sigma Phi Epsilon pledges will spend more time studying the history of the fraternity and exerting their energy in athletic events, Dankanis said.

"We won't take them anywhere and make them jump into anything. We like to talk to them more than anything," he said.

Across the nation, the leaders of fraternities and sororities are talking more, too.

They are discussing putting an end to what has become, for some chapters, a traditional rite of passage.

Since 1983, 23 deaths on U.S. campuses have been attributed to hazing and other fraternity activities, said Hank Nuwer, the author of "Broken Pledges," a book on hazing-related deaths.

According to the book, Jonathan Brant, president of the National Interfraternity Conference, estimated that 5 percent of the approximately 400,000 student members of fraternities practiced hazing in 1990.

Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc. has suspended taking in new members, citing the hazing-related death of a prospective member this year at Southeast Missouri State University in Cape Girardeau. The fraternity has been barred from the campus.

Officials at the fraternity, which has its international headquarters in Philadelphia, said the moratorium would continue indefinitely. The board of directors is scheduled to meet in February with a task force that is examining how members are brought into the fraternity.

On the night of Feb. 15, Michael Davis, 25, died of blunt trauma to the head. Police say he was beaten to death. Sixteen men with ties to the fraternity have been charged with hazing and up to four other pledges. Seven of the 16 have been charged with involuntary manslaughter.

Last month, two defendants pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter, a felony, and two to hazing. …