The Daily Beast and any number of outlets are reporting that Delta Tau Delta at Miami University has been suspended for 15 years due to hazing. I’ve mentioned before, by way of explaining that Paul Ryan never really had a chance to get my vote, that my fraternity did not hold the Delts in high esteem back when I was in college. So, I’m experiencing a fair bit of schadenfreude at the news. The fraternity had apparently had disciplinary problems in the early 2000s and were put on probation in 2016. Then along comes this incident where, among other things:
“Call 911. I feel like I’m going to die,” said John*, laying in his dorm room at Miami University in Ohio.
In the early morning hours of March 17, 2019, John had just escaped an alcohol-drenched violent hazing at the school’s Delta Tau Delta chapter, which featured a spiked paddle, according to a report released by the university last spring.
This month, the university informed the fraternity that it would be suspended for 15 years—until March 2034—because of that night, which resulted in John’s hospitalization with a blood-alcohol level of .231, according to the report. (For reference, the law considers an individual legally impaired at 0.08.)
. . .
That night, John said he was thrown on the ground, had liquid poured on him, was slapped in the face and then forced to do pushups while being kicked on both sides by multiple people.
In the police report, John noted that at some point after he began crying over the pain from being slapped with the spiked paddle, he said, “I am not going to be a part of this. I’m leaving,” but that the whole room went silent and it scared him.
“I was then told by an unfamiliar voice, ‘You will be okay. The first one hurts the most but now you are numb,’” John told the officer.
Why does this kind of thing continue to happen? My own fraternity had abandoned hazing when I was there in the early 90s. The worst I got was being told to Xerox the bottoms of my feet and have ten girls sign the copy. I had to find an out of the way copier, figure out how to get the bottoms of my feet copied, and then embarrass myself walking up to strangers at the library. But it was also kind of fun and nobody got hurt. The girls mostly laughed and none of them seemed put out by the request. I think there were maybe a couple of other things that I don’t remember, but they would have been mild and didn’t involve drinking or pain. Even so, they seemed to serve their purpose as a rite of passage.
But, almost 30 years later, we have the Delts using a spiked paddle, getting their pledges dangerously drunk, and beating them. One of the texts in the Daily Beast report has one of the fraternity brothers saying that it “turns boys into men.” That’s toxic nonsense. There’s nothing manly about letting people abuse you, particularly for no useful purpose.
My Dad told me a story about his fraternity in the early 60s. He and some of the other brothers were talking about getting rid of hazing. There was a fair amount of resistance to this idea based primarily on the notion that they had to go through it. New pledges should have to suffer the same way. Beyond the “I had to do it, you should to,” I think there are also parallels to corporal punishment. People resist evidence that spanking and other corporal punishment doesn’t lead to better behaved kids and more responsible adults because their own parents spanked them. The idea that the beatings they suffered at the hands of their parents was useless and avoidable is emotionally painful. So, they want to imbue their suffering with meaning. If hazing doesn’t “turn boys into men” or tighten the bonds of brotherhood or whatever, then it’s just your older friends being needlessly cruel to you. And that’s emotionally painful.
Maybe in 2034, the Delts can kick the habit.