The brothers of Colgate University's Theta Beta Pi fraternity are lucky. They're getting a second chance.
That's more than some pledges across the nation have received as a result of hazing gone bad.
Hazing is certainly nothing new. Nor is it limited to Greek organizations. Other close-knit memberships - big-school marching bands and sports teams, for instance - also put newbies through their paces before granting full "acceptance."
But ordeals that once-upon-a-time were just silly shenanigans have in more recent times degenerated into life-threatening behaviors ranging from ingesting near-toxic concoctions and binge drinking to violent physical abuse and public humiliation. Such risky behaviors - sometimes fatal - have caused colleges and universities to clamp down. And they should.
The Colgate fraternity was suspended last fall because of hazing allegations and its house was closed. This semester, the frat is starting anew with a restructured organization, a live-in adviser and a new rule book. Last week, the brothers shared their new vision with faculty, key community members and alumni.
Despite the restructuring, the fraternity will remain on disciplinary probation through the spring 2017 semester, said Bilal Badruddin, Colgate's interim director of fraternity and sorority affairs.
Colgate deserves credit for working out what will hopefully be a positive solution. Bad experiences in some cases have caused schools to ban Greek organizations entirely, and that's too bad because many fraternities and sororities contribute significantly to their communities both on and off campus through volunteer efforts while still maintaining responsible social behavior.
In fact, that's part of the deal with the Betas. Badruddin said the fraternity's national organization - called in to scrutinize the Colgate chapter - enacted a discipline plan and placed the group under special reorganization terms. Christian LaBonte, chapter development coordinator from the national headquarters, said that means no alcohol is allowed to be consumed in the frat house and social events must involve community service, their philanthropy or be inherently educational.
College comes with many experiences, and belonging to a Greek organization - or any collegiate group - can be extremely rewarding. It not only allows young people to celebrate themselves, but it can also form a bond of friendship that lasts a lifetime. Rites of passage have long been tradition, but initiation practices cannot be allowed to take that nasty turn from benign hijinks to deadly rituals. Many Greek organizations today have found ways to maintain tradition and create responsible missions that can help build a better college and community. That should be a goal.
As for hazing, that's a tough one. Elizabeth J. Allan, author of "Hazing in View: College Students at Risk," points out in her study that there are no simple solutions or foolproof methods of eliminating it. That makes it so much more of a challenge for overseers.
And it's why colleges and universities must remain vigilant. When dumb becomes dangerous, it can turn deadly.