Since the beginning of Oct. 2019, three college students have died with their deaths having some type of fraternity involvement. The most recent death was on Nov. 8, when Dylan Hernandez, 19, a freshman at San Diego State University (SDSU), died from accidental blunt force trauma. Hernandez fell from his top bunk bed and hit his head after returning from a Phi Gamma Delta fraternity event where he’d consumed what turned out to be a deadly amount of alcohol.
As a result of Hernandez’ death, the SDSU police department opened an investigation, and Adela de la Torre, the university’s president, “suspended the Interfraternity Council and its 14 affiliated fraternity chapters,” according to Mihir Zaveri of the New York Times.
A death related to fraternities, while unfortunate, is inevitable and continues a trend that has been going on for sixty years.
“A comprehensive, verified list of fraternity deaths does not exist. But at least nine fraternity members have died at California universities since 2000, according to news reports and an unofficial database operated by Hank Nuwer,” writes Gary Robbins in his article titled “Death of San Diego State University student part of disturbing trend at nation’s fraternities.” The article also states that there has been at least one hazing-related death every year since 1959.
It is time that the Interfraternity Council practices what they preach and actually hold their members accountable like they say on their website. For a group of people who are supposed to serve as “trailblazers” and men with “true integrity, leadership and service,” they are certainly not doing so.
Hazing can only go so far, and the higher-ups of the fraternity need to put regulations in place so that this trend of deaths does not continue. As an athlete who has played both high school and college athletics, I understand that hazing is something that is, unfortunately, going to happen. Upperclassmen will always prank underclassmen, but there is a fine line between joking and bullying. Instead of making a member drink a deadly amount of alcohol at a party, maybe have them get food for each member of the group. Something that is innocent, but also shows that they have to put the work in and pay their dues.
Fraternities should not have this type of stigma. They should be known for their charitable efforts and their members having high grades, not the number of deaths connected to them. The stereotype for men in fraternities is that they have an attitude like they can do whatever they want and there won’t be any consequences for their actions. If that continues to be their mindset, the trend will continue for another 60 years. We must hold them accountable when students die under a fraternity’s watch. We cannot excuse it with the “that’s what college is all about” phrase anymore.
There needs to be more oversight of fraternities from the institutions. There are rules for everything else on a college campus, so why not create a set of guidelines for the fraternities to follow to make them safer?
As the enrollment numbers are expected to grow annually at CSUB, the school should be proactive in the handling of alcohol-related situations. Requiring incoming freshman to take alcohol abuse classes so they know the danger of drinking too much alcohol would be helpful for when they attend parties. According to the Clery Report, the amount of liquor law referrals increased from 12 in 2017 to 33 in 2018. With this number nearly tripling in one school year, along with more students coming to the school, there needs to be an initiative in place, so this campus doesn’t add to the death trend.