Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


UW educates students on hazing

After a new fraternity member at another university was hazed to death in March 2002, University of Wisconsin officials are working to combat hazing tactics on campus.

In March 2002, State University of New York freshman Walter Dean Jennings died during a fraternity hazing ritual on the Plattsburg campus.

Jennings’s death was the result of water torture, a tactic in which Psi Epsilon Chi fraternity brothers forced their pledges to drink large amounts of water over a period of 10 days.


Jennings drank so much water that the sodium level in his blood dropped dangerously low, resulting in hyponatremia, also known as “water intoxication” — a condition characterized by abnormally low amounts of sodium in the blood.

As a result of Jennings’ death, nine students now face criminal charges, while 21 SUNY students are facing judicial consequences from the university.

“We definitely regret what has happened, and we’re working with fraternities and sororities … No one wants this to happen again,” SUNY spokesman Keith Tyo said.

The reactions of the SUNY campus and others across the country are prompting colleges nationwide to focus on prevention.

“[Hazing] is utterly pointless and stupid. Why did a young man have to die for no reason?” UW Greek advisor Ed Mirecki said.

Mirecki said UW is now working on “front-end education,” alerting students, especially fraternities and sororities, of the school’s policies on hazing.

“Our focus is on education and giving student leaders the right information. These [incidents] are preventable, and there are positive ways to build camaraderie instead of [resorting] to pointless traditions or activities,” Mirecki said.

While Mirecki said hazing is not a common problem on the Madison campus, incidents and pressures relating to alcohol are a problem.

“Alcohol is our No. 1 concern,” Mirecki said. “Today, hazing is far less physical. We’re more concerned with things such as mind games and alcohol use.”

Some UW students disagreed, however, saying hazing is still evident among several fraternities and sororities on campus.

“Anybody with any common knowledge know that hazing that demoralizes a person goes on,” a UW junior who wished to remain anonymous said. “Sometimes alcohol has a big factor in the hazing.”

Mirecki stressed how alcohol presents a difficult problem. Peer pressure is a common dilemma, where an attitude of “everybody’s doing it” is universal on many college campuses.

While “Animal House” and hazing stereotypes are still prevalent in today’s image of college life, many fraternities are veering away from the hazing traditions and realizing the harsh consequences of the practice.

“The idea of hazing is like the act of breaking someone down, then building them up the way you want them. The way we go about it is the other way around — why would you want to break someone down?” UW senior and president of the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity Paul Hohag said.

“We recruit guys who are better than us; they’ve already proven themselves,” he added.

Hazing has faded in popularity over the years, but incidences such as the one in Plattsburg still surface at times.

As Mirecki noted, the last hazing incident on the UW campus was in 1996, when a student was burned.

Hohag said Sigma Phi Epsilon does not believe in hazing, but he had an idea of why it may still exist.

“It has to do with a sense of belonging, like ‘You have to prove yourself to be one of us’ … [But] hazing is worthless and demeaning and a waste of time.”

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