Commentary: Time for universities to crack down on hazing

A lawsuit claiming that a 19-year-old sophomore at Lenoir-Rhyne University in Hickory died as a result of a violent hazing will again bring to the forefront the old and occasionally deadly initiation "custom" most often associated with college fraternities.

As some sort of test of loyalty or toughness or just for strange, misguided fun, some fraternity pledges have long had to endure rituals involving drinking, or beatings, or other forced traumas to earn membership.

In response to deaths or injuries from hazings, most states, including North Carolina, have passed laws making hazing illegal. But on some campuses, and it remains to be seen whether Lenoir-Rhyne is one of them, hazings seem to have been sort of tolerated with a collective shrug of the shoulders.

In this case, a 19-year-old student from Tampa, Fla., was, the suit alleges, repeatedly knocked to the ground by his brothers-to-be in the Theta Chi fraternity. According to the lawsuit, Harrison Kowiak was standing in a pitch-black field and ordered to run to the end of it to find a rock with his name on it. It was the last event of the fraternity's "Hell Week" last fall The suit says Kowiak died of head injuries inflicted during the ordeal.

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