My family and I are forever on the journey of losing Nicky, my brother and best friend — a devastating experience which only a few can truly comprehend.
This tragedy gave me reason to reflect on my life goals, and I feel a deep need to leave this world a better place, to honor the memory of my brother and give a voice to so many who are afraid to speak up for themselves. The experience has turned me into an activist.
So, I’ve spent much of the past year researching the psychological impacts of hazing, as well as learning how the culture of silence promotes, and possibly stimulates, the behavior.
I joined the advisory board of Parents and Alumni for Student Safety (PASS) — a nonprofit dedicated to bringing an end to hazing through advocacy, education and oversight. Our team lobbied hard for passage of new legislation to increase sanctions on criminal hazing conduct; for the first time, coerced consumption of an illegal substance or enough alcohol to cause intoxication is now a crime in the state of Texas. Also, district attorneys in the home county of the host institution can prosecute hazing crimes no matter where in the state they occur.
Goals should be aimed toward becoming better and encouraging others to be better. Our goal isn’t to dismantle or unduly criticize student organizations; instead, we want all aspects of campus life to improve. The term “tradition” used in the context of hazing is dangerous. Maintaining hazing in any form will not lead to better campus life.
I sincerely admire those kids and adults who admit they have been hazed or have hazed others but have learned from their experience and now disagree with the action and support ending it. Individuals who are brave enough to take action against hazing or speak out against it should be respected.
Instead, they are often shunned for simply speaking the truth. Silencing them only perpetuates the problem. My family, working with PASS, stands with them.
Now is the time for organizations of influence to step up, claim responsibility and lead the positive change.
It’s encouraging that several organizations have acknowledged publicly that there’s a problem with this culture and are determined to work with the families impacted to do something about it. We will work with them towards eliminating hazing.
Sometimes you must come to terms with what life hands you and make the most of what you get, coming out stronger than you were before.
If my family can do this, I believe student organizations can, too. My challenge to them is to #ENDHAZINGNOW.