Bowling Green State University Student Death Renews Conversations About Hazing : NPR

A bullying-related student death at Bowling Green State University has renewed talk about bullying on college campuses. Adam Lacy / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images Hide caption

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Adam Lacy / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

A bullying-related student death at Bowling Green State University has renewed talk about bullying on college campuses.

Adam Lacy / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

No deaths from hazing incidents were reported at the college in 2020, but there were already deaths by the time the campus reopened to students two harassment-related deaths this year. Eight men are charged with involuntary manslaughter, reckless murder, manipulation of evidence, and failure to comply with underage alcohol laws, among other charges, after Stone Foltz, a sophomore at Bowling Green State University, died of alcohol poisoning on March 7.

At a press conference On April 29, Wood County Prosecutor Paul Dobson described the fraternity event where initiates were asked to drink 750 ml of hard alcohol – or about 40 shots, according to Hank Nuwer, author of Hazing: Destroying Young Lives. Dobson said Foltz’s death was “the result of fatal alcohol poisoning in a harassing incident.”

Experts like Nuwer are concerned that as students return to face-to-face learning and desire to take the “college experience”, more harassment-related deaths may be on the way.

“There seems to be an interruption when you don’t see that alcohol-related cloudiness can be fatal,” he says.

Nuwer is a retired professor of journalism at Franklin College and the author of five books on bullying. He spoke to NPR’s All Things Considered about how the Stone Foltz case could reshape law enforcement, how colleges create a “perfect storm” for exposure, and how the practice can end once and for all.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Highlights of the interview

On the legal history of the prosecution of harassment

There have been charges all along, but often they are dropped or unsuccessful. I would consider this a landmark case as there is a potential for at least five years’ imprisonment if the prosecutor succeeds.

Grand Jury Report on Penn State Hazing Finds

We have 44 state laws on harassment, but some are very, very weak. And Ohio is weak now, but they try to strengthen it after death Ohio University [in 2018]and now bowling green.

On what going back to college campus means for bullying

In fact, what I see is we have two freshman classes where the sophomores took online classes. Now they’ll be out there and they haven’t had any harassment or alcohol education programs. They come out with enthusiasm because they are now the people of status who have power over those promises. And then the regular freshman class comes in, everyone excited as always, and we’ve seen so many times that students die in the first few days of students on campus, sometimes before they’ve attended a single class.

On the challenges to end the harassment of fraternity

In my opinion, campuses are the perfect storm for this because we’re all about status and power. All of these obstacles have resulted in alcohol being added to the mix today. Before 1940 there was not a single alcohol death. Now it’s one of the biggest [causes of hazing-related deaths]. There were 62 deaths from 2009 to 2021; 39 were alcohol-related.

Whether this is an opportunity for colleges to reset that part of campus culture

I want a tough approach. You need to pursue the alumni who encourage this. You have to punish all the cloudiness – not temporarily. This tradition has to end and cannot be considered a tradition. As Mr. [Paul] Dobson, the prosecutor, does in the Stone Foltz case: You have the full prosecution [of the law].

Karen Zamora and Patrick Jarenwattananon produced and edited the audio story. Cyrena Touros customized it for the web.


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