Top 10 Worst Greek Hazing Scandals & Stories

Hazing is nothing new, with accounts going back to the time of Plato. Unfortunately the hazing taking place within fraternities and sororities since the beginning of the 20th century has gotten progressively more severe. Each year students die at the hands of other students, often, but not always, involving massive amounts of alcohol. Perhaps highlighting these untimely deaths can serve to alert students to the dangers of hazing and help prevent future tragedies.

  1. Isaac William Rand. One of the first hazing incidents that set off 100 years of horrific Greek hazing happened at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1912. Isaac William Rand fell from a barrel on which he was standing. He landed on a broken bottle that pierced his jugular vein, and Rand bled to death. The four students associated with the hazing incident were expelled from the university. One was acquitted and the other three were found guilty of manslaughter.
  2. Richard Swanson. In 1959, the pledges of Kappa Sigma were taking part in a hazing ritual that involved the young men to stand before a buffet table where a tray with raw liver was presented. The pieces of liver, each about the size of a club sandwich, were soaked in oil. Six pledges before Swanson were made to swallow the liver without chewing it. Swanson attempted to swallow the liver three times without success. On the fourth time, the liver lodged in his throat. An ambulance was called, but the attendant was not told about the liver, so Swanson died at the hospital less than two hours after he began choking. The incident was inspiration for the movie Fraternity Row.
  3. Donna Bedinger. A 1970 incident at Eastern Illinois University proves that Greek hazing doesn’t happen just to men. Donna Bedinger and another woman pledging the Alpha Gamma Delta sorority were taken three miles away from campus on a back road in the countryside and left. As the other women drove away, Bedinger attempted to throw herself on the back of the car. She missed, hit her head on the ground, and died days later from her injuries. Sororities now condemn this this type of activity, known as "pledge sneaks" as dangerous.
  4. Chuck Stevens. Chuck Stevens pledged the prestigious fraternity Klan Alpine at Alfred University in New York. One February night in 1978, with temperatures around zero degrees, Stevens was awakened from his bed, stripped to his underwear, and given a pint of Jack Daniels, a six-pack of beer, and a bottle of wine to drink while locked in the trunk of a moving car. When the trunk was opened, Stevens’ body was ashen and he was dumped in a dorm room. Several hours later he was taken to the emergency room, but Stevens never awoke. The combination of massive amounts of alcohol and the frigid temperatures caused Stevens’ lungs to fill with fluid. Stevens’ mother, Eileen Stevens, became a tireless activist speaking out against hazing for 25 years.
  5. Michael Davis. The beating death of Michael Davis in 1994 at Southeast Missouri State University uncovered a horrendous tradition of hazing at the school. The pledges of Kappa Alpha Psi underwent two weeks of physical battery that culminated on a Valentine’s Day event of multiple beatings where fraternity members set up "stations," each of which issued physical and emotional abuse. Davis was beaten so badly that he was left with broken ribs, a lacerated liver and kidney, multiple bruises all over his body, and the bleeding in his brain that killed him. The state of Missouri made hazing a felony after this incident. The university presents a lecture each year in observance of Davis’ death.
  6. Chad Meredith. Chad Meredith was pledging the Kappa Sigma fraternity at the University of Miami in November of 2001 when he and two of the officers of the fraternity began drinking heavily after a concert they attended. After several hours of drinking and with a blood alcohol level of .13, the officers encouraged Meredith to swim across Lake Osceola, where he drowned 34 feet from shore, unable to swim due to alcohol, fatigue, and the cold. Meredith’s death lead to the passage of the Chad Meredith Act, which expanded the definition of hazing and imposed harsh penalties on hazing at both the high school and college level.
  7. Benjamin Klein. Benjamin Klein was a member of the Zeta Beta Tau at Alfred University in 2002. He had been speaking out about hazing practices within the fraternity when four fellow fraternity members bound him with duct tape and held him in a hotel room. They beat him and kept him, still tied up, in the shower until he promised not to leave the room. The fraternity members were fearful he would get the fraternity into trouble over the hazing practices. Three days later, Klein’s bruised and cut body was found in a creek behind the fraternity house. Klein had killed himself with a drug overdose. One month after Klein’s death, Alfred University’s board of trustees voted to eliminate all fraternities and sororities from the campus.
  8. Walter Dean Jennings III. At the State University of New York in March of 2003, Walter Dean Jennings III was pledging Psi Epsilon Chi. Jennings was involved in a hazing ritual that lasted ten days and included drinking numerous pitchers of water–sometimes through a funnel and often to the point of vomiting. Eventually, Jennings was forced to drink so much water that his brain swelled, and he died from water intoxication. 21 students were punished by the university over Jennings’ death and 13 were charged with, and plead guilty to, crimes that included criminally negligent homicide.
  9. Matthew Carrington. In 2005, Matthew Carrington and a friend were pledging the Chi Tau fraternity at California State University Chico. One February night they were doused with gallons of cold water while powerful fans blew cold air on them. They were forced to do calisthenics while standing on one foot and made to drink several gallons of cold water. Carrington collapsed as a result of hypothermia and brain swelling from water intoxication. He died about two hours later from water intoxication. Carrington’s death was the impetus for stricter penalties for hazing. The Chi Tau fraternity was suspended.
  10. Tyler Cross. Tyler Cross, pledging Sigma Alpha Epsilon at the University of Texas in 2006, fell from a fifth-story apartment. The night Cross died he had been given large amounts of alcohol and was physically hazed. Reportedly, the pledges were beaten with bamboo. Other allegations include sleep deprivation and shocking with cattle prods. Cross’ parents sued the fraternity and won a $16.2 million settlement they filed in the hopes that the legal case would serve to prevent another hazing-related death.

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