Feature

Why frats are so dangerous

If fraternities want to become less dangerous, they’ll need to do more than ban pledging.

Caitlin FlanaganThe Washington Post

If fraternities want to become less dangerous, said Caitlin Flanagan, they’ll need to do more than ban pledging. Last week, Sigma Alpha Epsilon, one of the country’s largest fraternities—and deadliest, with nine deaths since 2006—announced that new recruits would no longer endure grueling hazing rituals. That’s progress, but hazing “represents only a small fraction of the deaths and injuries associated with fraternities.” My extensive research has revealed that frats are responsible for an astonishing number of injuries, deaths, and crimes, including battery, sexual assault, and catastrophic falls. Every incident I found in insurance files—“every single one”—has one common culprit: “titanic quantities of booze.” Removing alcohol from fraternity life seems impossible—“who would possibly want to join a frat without beer?” But in 2000, another national fraternity, Phi Delta Theta, made housing at its 165 chapters completely alcohol-free. The frat’s membership increased by 25 percent, while insurance claims against the fraternity dropped 64 percent. If fraternities want to reduce crimes, injuries, and deaths on their premises, they must take “alcohol out of the equation.”

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