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Illinois-based Sigma Alpha Epsilon joins pledge to stop pledging

Bullying or hazing is the subject of a large national debate. Bullying is the phrase that is more commonly used in a minor context, with advocates focusing on reducing and preventing the act online and in schools. Hazing is a word that is often used in the adult context. Many of our premises liability law blog readers may be familiar with the recent NFL incident involving rookie hazing.

If there is one context where hazing is a well-known term and a major issue, it is in the college and university Greek system. In order to join a fraternity or sorority, a student must go through a period of time known as pledging. Pledging often includes hazing rituals, some of which have even been linked to the death of a student.

About 75 national fraternities have already taken the step to eliminate pledging after at least 60 fraternity-related deaths were reported, and a large portion of the victims were freshman pledges. Now, one of the largest national fraternities has joined in to keep its members and prospective members safer.

Illinois-based Sigma Alpha Epsilon announced on March 9, 2014 that it would be eliminating the pledging process. A record number of deaths have already occurred at SAE events, and a few have been linked to hazing. "We have endured a painful number of chapter closings as a result of hazing," wrote SAE in an online statement.

The statement also acknowledged that part of the problem with hazing is that it "hides in the dark, causes members to lie." This is a culture that SAE wants to change, but eliminating pledging is only one step. The fraternity is also taking other measures, like forcing students to go through a 96-hour safety program once they have accepted an offer to join the fraternity.

Advocates hope that this move will help prompt other fraternities to do the same, and hopefully reducing the instances in which a parent has to seek the assistance of a Chicago attorney after the loss of a child due to hazing.

Source: Insurance Journal, "Campus Culture Change: 'Deadliest' College Fraternity Nixes Pledging," John Hechinger and David Glovin, March 10, 2014

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