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And your “deadliest” fraternity, according to Bloomberg, who sourced “lawsuits and college officials” is — *drum roll please* — Sigma Alpha Epsilon. Congratulations, boys. Recruitment just got harder.
According to Bloomberg’s data, there have been 60 “fraternity-related” deaths in this country since 2005, nine of which were “related” to SAE, one of the nation’s oldest and largest fraternities, yielding over 240 chapters and 14,000 active members. (It’s notable that the data does not account for the percentage of deaths related to particular fraternities, which one would believe is relevant when calculating a fraternity’s “deadliness.”) This is horrible news for everyone, particularly SAE, but it seems outlandish to me to label a fraternity as “deadly,” as if they are a group of ruthless murderers.
Three of the nine deaths were results of hazing. This, of course, is inexcusable. One woman was hit by a drunk SAE who’d driven home from one of his fraternity’s parties — also inexcusable. One member died of alcohol poisoning at an SAE event.
Of the remainder, it’s hard to directly put the fraternity at fault. One non-member died of hypothermia after having left an SAE event. One pledge died after being kicked out of a bar for excessive drunkenness at an event hosted by SAE and other organizations. One member was hit by a drunk driver after leaving an SAE event. And one member who lived in the SAE house died of a drug overdose in his room on a night that SAE was not hosting an event. Are these four tragic deaths related to SAE? In the sense that the fraternity was a detail in how they got where they were — yes. Did SAE kill these people? Does this make the fraternity deadly? I’d argue it doesn’t.
I know that when an organization or venue provides alcohol, they are technically held responsible, but in cases such as all of these, the lines seem to blur. It’s hard enough to keep track of a crowded house full of people — a crowded house full of adults — at an event, but harder still to keep track of them after they’ve left, or when no event is taking place at all.
Yes, there are fraternity-related deaths every year, and yes, each is horrific and bone-chilling. There’s no denying that. But attempting to stigmatize an organization — a subculture — with a word like “deadly” is careless and downright unfair. No data has been presented on similar deaths among college students outside of the Greek system, people who drunkenly stumbled out of a non-Greek event and toward their deaths. Pure incidence is not as statistically meaningful as percentage, and certainly, it’s not the same thing as “deadliness.”