2017 on record as deadliest year for hazing at universities, expert says

2017 on record as deadliest year for hazing at universities, expert says
Updated: Dec. 11, 2017 at 4:38 PM CST
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Dr. Walter Kimbrough (Source: WAFB)
Dr. Walter Kimbrough (Source: WAFB)

(WAFB) - This has been the worst year for hazing at universities across the country, according to a national expert who is challenging college leaders to do something to help change the culture of student organizations.

On October 11, ten people were arrested in connection to the death of LSU student, Maxwell Gruver. LSU Police confirmed the 18-year-old died after an alleged hazing incident at the now-closed Phi Delta Theta fraternity house. The coroner says Gruver's blood alcohol level was .495, six times the legal limit. He is one of five people across the country this year to die in an alleged hazing incidents.

President of Dillard University Walter Kimbrough, PhD, who has been studying hazing for some 20 years, says it has gotten out of control. "We are at a point where people really don't have any idea what to do. Even with deaths, this becomes one of the greater problems in higher education," Kimbrough said.

Dr. Kimbrough says part of the problem is hazing oftentimes begins in high school, in band, athletics, and social clubs, but no one talks about it until those students go off to college. Those conversations need to happen sooner and he says a greater understanding of the culture of Greek life needs to be part of those discussions.

"All of these organizations have these lofty models and ideas and aims, and the question we have to ask is, 'Are the students joining for that or are they joining for the Animal House image?'" Kimbrough said.

Following Gruver's death, LSU President F. King Alexander formed the President's Task Force on Greek Life to review the overall oversight of Greek organizations. It's a start, but Dr. Kimbrough says until so-called hazers face more serious charges, it's highly unlikely the culture will change.

"I don't think there should be hazing charges. Charge everybody with manslaughter if murder, assault, battery. Use charges like that and don't call it hazing anymore," Kimbrough said.

Of the ten arrested in Gruver's death, only one is charged with negligent homicide. The others were charged with hazing. East Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar More says he plans to bring the LSU case to a grand jury.

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