Prevent College Campus Tragedies

Year after year we see stories about horrific crimes committed on college campuses by members of organizations in the fraternity/sorority system.

And every year, school administrators, fraternity and sorority leadership and alumni feign shock that such behavior continues. This time, Penn State University is coming to grips with the death of a 19-year-old sophomore pledge to the Beta Theta Pi fraternity, which has led to charges against 18 fraternity members that include involuntary manslaughter, simple assault, evidence tampering, alcohol-related violations and hazing.

A grand jury report cites evidence of a history of hazing at Beta Theta Pi that included forced drinking and paddling, and that Penn State’s Greek community “nurtured an environment so permissive of excessive drinking and hazing that it emboldened its members to repeatedly act with reckless disregard to human life.”

Switch out the names of the fraternity and school, and that same statement could apply to a tragic number of other incidents that have occurred — and will likely continue to happen — every school year, throughout the country.

Of course, tragedies happen to young men and women who have nothing to do with the Greek system, as they venture out into the world on their own; but there is no denying the common denominator in so many of these incidents is often heavy drinking, hazing, and a fraternity or sorority.

It is mind-boggling that the alumni and leadership of these organizations do so little to change that culture. Though it is a shame to acknowledge that in this day and age very few 18-year-olds are truly “adults,” and four (or more) years in college does not do much to change that, surely those who have been out in the real world long enough to know better — and who serve as role models for these young men and women — feel some sense of responsibility to help institute change.

Alumni, the Interfraternity Council and other Greek umbrella organizations, college officials, law enforcement and perhaps mostly, parents, must unite in saying enough is enough.