For little kids, back-to-school time means new pencils and fresh notebooks, but for the "big kids" heading off to college in the fall, the outlook ain't so bright. Fraternity and sorority hazing rituals are nothing new — they've been going on for decades and even date back to 1495 in a college in Germany — but lately, things seem to have gotten worse. Nick Jonas is even making a thriller about this disturbing subculture, Goat, coming out later this month.
As Jonas explained in his recent Billboard interview about the movie, today's hazing is pretty damn dark. Jonas describes some of the hazing pranks in the movie as "sadistic and twisted," like the scene in which they force a fellow bro to literally eat shit. Sadly, the past 10 years have produced some of the most shocking hazing-gone-wrong stories on record. While there isn't a hard-and-fast reason as to why, one can assume it's sororities and fraternities trying to up the ante on what their brothers and sisters pulled off before them.
As a result of "upping the ante," the United States alone has seen 125 hazing deaths since 1838. Of those deaths, 25 percent occurred in the 2000s and 2010s alone, which should give you a sense of just how bad hazing rituals have gotten in recent years.
Dartmouth College, which boasts some of the most notorious hazing fraternities and sororities, was actually just in the news because an Alpha Delta pledge was allegedly branded on the butt by his brothers. According to Gawker, the student's injury got infected, and pictures of the brand — which was the frat's insignia — got leaked back to the powers that be at Dartmouth. Not your smartest moment, Alpha Delta.
But it's a far cry from the most awful cases of hazing to date. Here's a look at some of the worst instances of hazing, listed from least to most horrifying. Read on only if you have a strong stomach.
Britteny Starling, former pledge of the Zeta Phi Beta sorority at University of California, Berkeley, said she was forced to act as a human mop and garbage can, cleaning up juice from the floor and collecting garbage from the other girls using just her hands and pockets. Then she and the other pledges were made to stay awake all night without being allowed to use the bathroom. They were also forced to stay standing, and when Starling's leg gave out, a sister hit her in the ankle, injuring her severely. She later sued the sorority, which was later shut down. At least that's sort of a win, right?
This case of branding, in my opinion, outdoes the recent Dartmouth one. A drunk Kappa Sigma pledge was branded with the frat's Greek letters by his brothers using a hot iron hanger. He apparently passed out in the process, which gave his brothers incentive to brand him further. He woke up with both Kappa Sigma letters on his butt as well as the sorority Tri Delta's letters. While it sounds funny, he ended up with third-degree burns, which took six surgeries to heal.
In 2008 at Penn State Altoona, sorority pledge Joanne told ABC news she was forced to stand facing a concrete wall with the other pledges, and if any of them moved an inch, their face would be slammed into it. They were also apparently forced to scrub the floors using only their fingernails and to drink water that she described as "pitch black." While the college website has strict rules against hazing, the offending sorority was left unpunished, and Joanne continued to receive harassing emails, phone calls and messages throughout her time at Penn State. Such emotional scars take much longer to heal than physical ones.
New Orleans is not just known for its steamy weather. In 2008, 10 Pi Kappa Alpha members from Tulane University poured boiling water, pepper spray and cayenne pepper down the backs of their pledges. Apparently the water got hotter and hotter as the night went on, and the pledges who managed to not scream got the worst burns. Fortunately these hazers were brought to justice and faced charges of aggravated second-degree battery. The fraternity is no longer recognized by the university.
Jo Hannah Burch, who was pledging Gamma Psi at Young Harris College in 2013, said she and other pledges were forced to crawl through the mud into a freezing creek in the woods while other sisters screamed and spit on them. Then they were made to sit on washing machines, and any body part that jiggled was circled with a Sharpie. After the school's Greek life was called out, YHC claimed the student's accounts were "false and outrageous."
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