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Fraternity Hazing: A Brief History

Published on Jun 22, 2021 by Thomas Law Offices.

fraternity hazing lawyer

While there are advantages to joining a fraternity, initiation games and other hazing trials can put students at risk of serious injury or worse. Throughout the United States and beyond, there is an extensive history of hazing that comes into play when current students are injured or killed.

In order to understand why things like force-feeding, overconsumption of alcohol, reckless dares, and other dangerous stunts take place when university students across the country pledge to these historical Greek organizations, let’s start by taking a look at the origins of hazing.

The Origins of Hazing

Hazing has a deep history dating back to 387 B.C. with the founding of Plato’s Academy. At the time, hazing was called “pennalism,” which meant “a system of mild oppression and torment practiced upon first-year students.” While Plato criticized the practice, it continued throughout the middle ages.

As the years went on, the concept solidified as something to put new students through to ensure they recognized their inferiority to upperclassmen. The term hazing regularly became used in 1684 after a student at Harvard was the first to be expelled for hitting students and having them perform acts of servitude.

In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, social fraternities started hazing. The practice continued until 1912, when hazing-related deaths started increasing. Educators and schools started cracking down on fraternities, and the issue quieted until After Word War I and II.

After World War II, a fraternity at the University of Virginia, Kappa Sigma, made headlines after a student, Richard Swanson, choked to death while being force-fed a quarter-pound of raw liver. While the Vietnam War quieted hazing incidents again, it was after that war that alcohol became a common hazing ingredient.

Alcohol changed what hazing was originally about. The practice became less harassing and more life-threatening. The most horrifying hazing stories are from the recent past. From 2007 to 2017, there were 40 hazing-related deaths just in the United States.

Hazing is less tolerated today than ever before. Most national fraternal organizations in the United States have outlaws all hazing practices, and universities are quick to speak on hazing not being tolerated on their campuses. Unfortunately, hazing is still an issue, and students’ deaths and injuries are still happening.

While Greek organizations and colleges try to claim hazing is not a problem, the prevalence of smartphones makes it hard to cover up incidents. Video recordings of hazings are published online for anyone to see. While teachers, staff, and many students are fed up with the dangerous practice, there are those that are still letting rituals happen behind closed doors.

Legal Options for Hazing Victims

The consequences of hazing vary greatly depending on what a student is put through. Some of the most common problems and injuries include post-traumatic stress, mental instability, sleep disturbances, physical injuries like broken bones, and fatal injuries. The most common types of hazing are fraternity hazing for initiation rites, sexual hazing, alcohol abuse, violent hazing, and harassment hazing.

If your son or daughter has suffered from hazing incidents at their university, legal options are available. In addition to many universities and fraternal organizations have bans against hazing, some states also have laws in place to protect students.

Depending on the damages your loved one has suffered, we may pursue a personal injury case against the fraternal organization or the university—especially if they were aware of the situation and did not take actions to stop it. We will not only fight to hold the harassers accountable for their actions, but we will also make sure your son or daughter receives the compensation they need to get their life back in order and continue pursuing their education and degree—even if that means transferring to a different university.

In the tragic event you’ve lost a loved one to a hazing incident, we can help your family pursue a wrongful death claim to ensure that no one else ever has to go through such a terrible event and to ensure your family has the financial means to hold the proper funeral services.

Contact Thomas Law Offices

If you or someone you loved has been injured in a hazing incident, legal action may be available. At Thomas Law Offices, our attorneys can help you determine how best to proceed based on your unique circumstances. Proving hazing can be challenging, so the sooner you get in touch with our law firm, the better your chances will be of pursuing a successful legal claim. Contact us today for more information.

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Tad Thomas - Trial Lawyer

Tad Thomas

Managing Partner

Tad Thomas has dedicated his practice to representing plaintiffs in various types of civil litigation, including personal injury, business litigation, class actions, and multi-district litigation.

After graduating with his law degree in 2000 from Salmon P. Chase College of Law at Northern Kentucky University, Mr. Thomas immediately opened his own private practice and began representing injury victims.

In 2011, Thomas Law Offices was established in Louisville, Kentucky. Over the past decade, Mr. Thomas has expanded his firm and now has offices in three additional locations: Cincinnati, Ohio, Columbia, Missouri, and Chicago, Illinois. He is also a frequent lecturer on topics like trial skills and ethics and technology.

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