How long has fraternity hazing been going on? I remember reading about it for years. Every time a young man dies, because it is usually a young man, the news media reports the death and the surrounding circumstances. Everyone is shocked and saddened that a young and promising life is lost to the over consumption of alcohol during a hazing ritual. And yet, it is still going on.
Today I came across an article about a young man who died in such a related event. He was 19 years old and attending an Ivy League school, Cornell. His name was George Desdunes. He was a good looking, intelligent young man who was there for a quality education. He wanted to join Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity which was founded in Alabama in the 1850’s and has 241 chapters around the country. They currently report that 11,000 undergraduates are members. Now they are missing one member, George Desdunes. What happened to George?
George grew up in Brooklyn and was an active member of his church and earned scholarships. He attended Cornell hoping to become a doctor one day. He was described by friends as being very giving and loving, an unusual teenage boy.
George’s life was cut short when, back in February, he was involved in a hazing ritual that began with a mock kidnapping. Fraternity members bound his wrists and ankles with duct tape and made him drink alcohol until he was unconscious. Then he was dumped on a couch at the frat house and left to die. The autopsy showed his blood alcohol was 5 times the legal limit in New York. The three frat brothers involved in the incident were charged with misdemeanors and pleaded “not guilty.”
I don’t know anyone who can read this and not get angry over the senseless tragedy that occurred here and many other times before. So many lives lost for no reason at all. George joined the fraternity as a way of making possible contacts for future employment. He was 19. The law in New York State makes it illegal for anyone under 21 to drink, but these other members forced him to consume a lethal amount of alcohol and are just facing misdemeanor hazing charges?
What the hell is wrong with this picture? They are responsible for a young man’s death and yet are facing minor charges. They are still in school; right now they are on summer vacation. But, George’s body lies in a grave and his mother cries. Where are the consequences and why aren’t they made to take responsibility? Why should students change their hazing practices? Why should they not binge on alcohol and force others to do so, when the consequences are so minor? We all know how kids think. Whatever the danger or scenario, it cannot happen to them, they are invincible. That is why adults have to impose their judgment on kids and young adults. They lack the ability to fully understand the repercussions of their actions and behaviors.
Universities across this country need to all take a look at “hazing” and figure out how to prevent these kinds of tragic events from ever taking place again. I don’t care how they have to do it. Maybe, they should have to pay millions in wrongful death suits if any student attending their school dies in a hazing incident. Maybe that will make them sit up and pay attention. It’s not enough to have rules in place. Rules need to be enforced and punishments need to be swift, severe and serve as an example to others.