This interactive hazing death map is the work of Hank Nuwer, a Franklin College professor who has diligently recorded every hazing-related death in the United States since the middle of the 19th century. This is IvyGate, however, so you’re probably most concerned with the Ivy League. That’s where it gets interesting.
Only four Ivies—Brown, Cornell, Penn, and Yale—have recorded instances of students dying from hazing. (Nuwer’s list is imperfect, to be sure—we’ve excluded both a bystander’s death at Cornell and an auto accident involving Yale students; Brown’s sole death is also iffy.) Per Nuwer’s list, the Ivy League has experienced six hazing-related deaths in total. Half of them occurred at Cornell.
In fact, Cornell was the among the first schools in America to witness a hazing-related death, in 1873, in which a student fell into one of Cornell’s gorges, allegedly while blindfolded. Cornell is also among the most recent schools (Ivy or otherwise) to witness another hazing death, in 2011, of George Desdunes. According to ABC News, Desdunes was allegedly blindfolded, too.
Cornell shares some uncomfortable company: it is one of six schools in the United States to have three or more hazing-related deaths in its history. The others are MIT and the Universities of Maryland, Missouri, Virginia, and Texas—at the last of which, in 1928, a fraternity pledge “died from the electric shock when he had to crawl through mattresses charged with electric current.”
After the jump, we’ve collected a list of every Ivy League hazing-related death since 1873:
1949: “While on a tour of a fraternity house intended as a rush event to introduce pledges to different fraternal chapters, H. T. Gehl, 19, fell down a set of stairs and died two days later.”
1873: “Mortimer N. Leggett died in a fall into a steep gorge while on a walk in the dark required by fraternity members. Family claims that Leggett was blindfolded were disputed by the chapter.”
1899: “Pledge Edward F. Berkeley drowned while completing a pledging errand.”
2011: “The mother of member George Desdunes has sued SAE over allegations this member’s death was the result of pressure to drink put upon him by the chapter’s pledges.”
1977: “A pledge died of a heart attack after weeks of beatings and physical exertion at the bequest of a chapter which claimed it had a connection with a national historically black fraternity. The national disavowed all ties.”
1892: “A blindfolded student was killed in an accident in an initiation incident condemned then as outdated “criminal recklessness” by the national fraternity, according to a published article by Fred Kershner (now deceased), formerly of Columbia Teachers College and a fraternity member.”