An expert in fraternity hazing deaths says coddling parents are part of the problem

rush week
rush week

Steve Helber/AP

  • Five young men have died in incidents that appear to be connected to fraternities at colleges across the country so far this fall.

  • Hank Nuwer, a journalist who has been compiling a database on fraternity deaths for decades, believes over-indulgent parents are partly to blame for a recent uptick in dangerous behavior.

  • "Parents want to show their love by giving everything — everything but old-fashioned lessons in self-restraint," he told Insider.

  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

Hank Nuwer, a journalism professor at Franklin College, has kept a database on fraternity-related deaths dating back to the 1800s.

It shows a pattern of alcohol becoming a problem at fraternities in the 1960s and 1970s, when states started raising the drinking age to 21.

And lately Nuwer has seen a similar trend emerge, which he thinks may have to do with how today's college students were raised. He said he discussed what's behind the recent uptick with one of his college classes.

"I asked my students in an 18-student first-year sports issues class that question today. One said, 'We have too many people today who have not been taught limits. They think all will be fun and not any bad circumstances.' I concur," Nuwer told Insider.

He continued: "Look at the admissions scandal. Parents want to show their love by giving everything — everything but old-fashioned lessons in self-restraint."

ivan aguirre antonio tsialas dylan hernandez
ivan aguirre antonio tsialas dylan hernandez

Go Fund Me

The five deaths that have been recorded so far this year range from the Ivy League Cornell University in New York to San Diego State University in California.

While a cause of death has not been determined in every case, authorities believe alcohol played a role in the death of a Washington State University student at a fraternity this week.

And all of the victims were found dead either at fraternity houses or after attending events at fraternity houses. The youngest was a 17-year-old high schooler who was visiting Pennsylvania State University in October when he went into cardiac arrest at the off-campus apartment of one of the school's fraternities.

Fraternities say they're trying to make houses safer for students

Insider reached out to the North American Interfraternity Council (which counts most of the major fraternities as members) for comment on the recent deaths, and spokesman Todd Shelton said that since they were "separate situations" it would be "inappropriate to attribute a singular cause."

But he added that fraternities are working on making fraternity houses safer.

"Addressing the campus-wide issue of alcohol misuse, a hard alcohol ban was implemented this year by the majority of fraternities across the nation.

"Fraternities and sororities are working with parents of hazing victims in a coalition to educate about hazing and strengthen hazing laws.

"NIC fraternities support the END ALL Hazing Act introduced in Congress in June 2019 which seeks to increase transparency, education and accountability, and are advocating for stronger state hazing laws throughout the country," Shelton said.

NOW WATCH: The best ice-cream sandwiches in LA