How Common Is Fraternity Hazing?

While the exact numbers are vague, experts agree that fraternity hazing is a widespread problem that results in a significant number of injuries every year. Unfortunately, it is a problem that is often ignored and underreported by those who are affected by it. On December 12, 2013, this danger was thrust into the nation’s consciousness when a Baruch College student was killed during a violent club ritual. The student, Chun Hsien Deng, suffered fatal brain damage when he was tackled by club members after being blindfolded and forced to carry heavy weights. Unfortunately, not nearly all victims of collegiate ritual abuse will receive the assistance they need, especially if they suffer major injuries.

What kind of injuries can fraternity hazing cause?

The vast majority of fatal injuries are caused by excessive alcohol use, which can result in brain damage or heart failure.  However, traumatic brain injuries can also be the result of rituals that involve physical violence, another common form of ritual abuse. Nonfatal injuries are usually superficial, but occasionally club members get out of hand and get too violent with each other.

Brain damage caused by violence or alcohol can be permanent if it is severe enough, which can result in a lessened quality of life for the student. If medical attention is not immediately sought by club members, any brain damage that is present will likely worsen. Traumatic brain injuries caused by physical force can result in lesions, lacerations, or bruising throughout the brain, all of which can have profound effects. Traumatic brain injuries can also cause secondary complications like blood pooling, or swelling, both of which can cause permanent damage.

What are some complications of traumatic brain injuries?

Also known as TBIs, traumatic brain injuries can cause enduring headaches, pain, vomiting, nausea, speech or motor disorders, cognitive or learning disorders, paralysis, limb numbing or weakening, loss of balance, or changes in behavior or mood.  It’s difficult to predict how a TBI will affect a person, as it depends on what part of the brain is affected.  Unfortunately, even sophisticated imaging like CT or MRI scanning often has trouble tracking the full extent of a TBI.  This is because TBIs often cause micro-injuries, like burst capillaries, which are difficult to spot in diagnostics.

Most people will recover from a mild TBI, like a simple concussion, but even moderate TBIs typically result in permanent damage. Only limited recovery is expected in most cases, and usually only when the victim has access to regular therapy and rehabilitation.

Is fraternity hazing illegal, or is it still permitted on college campuses?

Although ritual abuse in colleges is illegal in 44 states, it is still hard to prevent. College campuses have made attempts to stop it, but there are few agencies that provide oversight for college clubs, and they rarely have the ability to enforce college regulations. It is often up to club members to prevent violence, and they are encouraged to report it when it does happen.

Any college student injured during collegiate club violence should think about speaking to an experienced personal injury lawyer.  Severe injuries can derail a college career and have a negative impact on the student’s quality of life.  Perhaps if enough students speak up, hazing will eventually be non-existent.