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Franklin College professor: 1 hazing death per year in US, Canada since 1959

Franklin College professor: 1 hazing death per year in US, Canada since 1959
Posted at 12:10 PM, Sep 18, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-19 08:56:53-04

JOHNSON COUNTY, Ind. -- Franklin College journalism professor and author Hank Nuwer has  worked to document hazing incidents and deaths across the country so that we can better understand the issue. 

His new findings include an alarming statistic: At least one person has died each year from a hazing-related incident since 1959 in the U.S. and Canada.

Nuwer has been studying the topic since the 1970's and attended the first Hazing Prevention Week program at Purdue University. 

"The reason I think it's important is it gives undergraduates the chance to show that they are not just about hazing and alcohol. They are putting on very positive programs in order to create awareness," said Nuwer.

New research released by Nuwer at the beginning of National Hazing Prevention Week shows there has been at least one hazing death a year in U.S. schools from 1961 to 2017. Previous research had documented hazing deaths from 1969 to 2017.

The new database at HankNuwer.com now shows one hazing death per year in U.S. colleges, secondary and elementary schools from 1961 to 2017.

If Canada is included, the death figure is one per year from 1959 to 2017. Although there were no U.S. deaths recorded in 1958, there was an annual death from 1954 to 1957.  This new data was discovered while Nuwer was finishing his upcoming book "Hazing: Destroying Young Lives" and doing research on another hazing book now in progress.

Nuwer says it can be tiresome work, as he is often one of the first people a family will call after losing a child to a hazing-related incident. 

"It's not easy to talk to a parent who has just lost a son or daughter and I have grand children and am I worried? A little. Yes I'm worried. But I am hoping that they are being educated to stop them from going through what the parents and children have gone through who have died in these cases," said Nuwer.

The most recent hazing-related death incident is currently being investigated on the campus of Louisiana State University. Also recently, a Penn State fraternity made national headlines after brothers waited hours to call for medics after a pledge fell down a flight of stairs, hitting his head, after a night of drinking related to a pledging event.  That college student later died from his injuries.

But Nuwer tells me from his research, Greek organizations are often the most educated on the hazing topic.

"I think Greeks are very well informed athletes not necessarily, and band(s) not at all."

Nuwer says he has uncovered a number of hazing reports that stem from groups that would surprise many people.  He believes Greek incidents are well-publicized nationally while many others slip through the cracks and are covered up.

"Having been in athletics, the best bonding is winning with your teammates," said Nuwer. "[Hazing] is a cheap fix way of bonding, but the bad part is it creates clicks, it creates enemies within a fraternity or sorority for life over this cheap entertainment that pledges are providing"

Nuwer has discovered incidents related to Boy Scout troops, veteran groups, masons, and Knights of Columbus over the years.

He says that the most frustrating thing sometimes is that these incidents and deaths don't have to happen.  

"They are 100 percent preventable. The simple answer when somebody says to me, how do we stop hazing, don't haze! You don't have to anything, you just have to not do something to save a life," said Nuwer

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