A 19-year-old freshman at Baruch College in New York just wanted to join a fraternity. So, along with a bunch of his future brothers, he headed earlier this month to rural Pennsylvania, where he died of a head injury in a barbaric initiation ritual, which entailed being blindfolded and carrying a backpack loaded with sand while being shoved and pummeled in the freezing dark.
A few weeks earlier, another 19-year-old pledge at a fraternity known as Gobbler House at Wilmington College in Ohio was subjected to a different, but equally brutal ceremony, which included lashings with knotted towels. He was lucky: He only lost a testicle.
By now, the horrors of hazing at fraternities (not to mention sexual assaults) are well known, and offer persuasive reasons for colleges and universities to distance themselves. But research provides another reason: fraternities make students dumb — or at least dumber than their classmates. That isn't only at odds with the goal of higher education itself, but also a depressing departure from the original purpose of fraternities, which was to make students smarter.