Anything for a laugh.
Problem is, the real world doesn’t work that way.
We’ve seen that recently at Jacksonville State University, where more than 10 students have been arrested for allegedly taking part in a fraternity hazing incident that hospitalized a male student. This month in DeKalb, Ill., arrest warrants have been issued for 22 students at Northern Illinois University after a fraternity pledge there died following a night of binge drinking and hazing.
The NIU student, 19-year-old freshman David Bogenberger, took part in a Pi Kappa Alpha initiation event that, sadly, followed the stereotypical norms often used by those who think there’s no harm with boozing it up till you pass out.
According to the New York Times, Bogenberger and other pledges went from room to room in the Pi Kappa Alpha house answering questions from fraternity members. After each question, the pledges were forced to drink liquor — including vodka — from nearly full plastic cups.
Police say the pledges, including Bogenberger, each drank as many as 20 cups of liquor by 10 p.m.
When he died that night, Bogenberger had a blood-alcohol content of 0.35 percent, toxicology reports showed.
The legal aftermath has been deservedly harsh. The university has removed the fraternity’s student organization status. Five fraternity leaders have been arrested on felony hazing charges. Thirty-one students could face disciplinary action from the university that may include expulsion.
Granted, this hedonistic, uber-macho behavior is not new. Drinking games and hazing rituals have long been found on college campuses, so this discussion is not a condemnation of JSU or Bogenberger’s Illinois university. But it is a condemnation of the national attitudes that lead — if not allow — college students to indulge their independence with dangerous, even illegal, behaviors.
We’re not naïve enough to ask college students of legal age not to drink. That culture, spurred on by bar owners who legally cater to ravenous college-aged patrons, is engrained in college towns all across America. That’s not even up for discussion.
Nevertheless, college students are an odd mix: Some of drinking age, some not, many away from home for the first time in their lives and with little, if any, supervision. Their immaturity and impulsiveness are their worst enemies. Keeping all that youthful exuberance from being their downfall is an age-old conundrum.
What we’d like to see is an increased national conversation about these serious issues. Extreme drinking can kill. So, too, can hazing. Both can lead to arrests. And both are preventable. The missteps of youth don’t have to be so deadly.