According to the coroner, Max had massive amounts of alcohol in his system at the time of his death--more than six times the legal limit. Experts said he asphyxiated in his own vomit but probably died painlessly because he was unconscious when he passed away.
Max's parents did what many parents do when they lose a child to a a senseless death; they threw themselves into a heroic effort to prevent others from dying the way their son did. In Max's honor, the Gruvers started an anti-hazing foundation, dedicated to raising public awareness about college hazing. They also distributed 30,000 silicon wristbands that say "Stop the Hazing."
In addition, the Gruvers endorsed a law that will grant "medical amnesty" to anyone who reports acute alcohol poisoning as a medical emergency. And they are calling for more transparency about fraternity hazing. If they had known about Phi Delta Theta's history of hazing, the Gruvers say, they never would have allowed Max to pledge that group.
LSU officials publicly support the Gruvers' efforts. I'm sure they were particularly pleased to hear the Gruvers' call for more transparency because "transparency" is a word college administrators dearly love. It rolls over the tongue so smoothly, like a single-malt scotch. And when college administrators use that word--and they use it often--they are never telling the truth.
Already, LSU is equivocating about some of the Gruvers' demands. Ernie Ballard, a school spokesperson, pointed out the problems with amnesty. "Every university struggles with the balance of amnesty and penalties," Ballard explained. If too many conditions are attached to amnesty, students discount its value. On the other hand, "if the amnesty is too broad, habitual offenders may not be held accountable."
LSU president F. King Alexander and Governor John Bel Edwards are talking about tougher penalties for fraternity hazing. But they are "concerned" that tougher sanctions might deter students from reporting bad behavior.
Apparently then, hazing is a conundrum--requiring long and tedious deliberation.
But here is the truth about fraternity hazing. More than forty states already have anti-hazing statutes, some of them dating back more than half a century. And many of these statutes contain amnesty or immunity provisions.
And the Clery Act, passed more than 25 years ago, requires all colleges and universities to file annual reports of criminal activity, including assaults, as a condition of receiving federal funds. The Clery Act was put in place to ensure transparency on college campuses--the very thing the Gruvers are demanding.
Nevertheless, in spite of anti-hazing statutes and the Clery Act, four college students died this year from hazing or criminally negligent drinking episodes.
Hazing won't stop on college campuses until the hazers are sent to prison. If one LSU fraternity boy were sent to Angola State Prison for pouring 190 proof alcohol down some poor kid's throat, LSU would have a lot less hazing.
And hazing won't stop until the universities are held liable for damages when hazing occurs. LSU has anti-hazing policies on its books, and it is willing to deliver a slap on the wrist to fraternities when hazing is discovered. But how much more serious would LSU be about hazing if the Gruvers obtained a quarter-of-a-billion dollar judgment against it? A lot more serious, I warrant.
The Gruver tragedy will soon be forgotten. A few months from now, the local district attorney will conclude he has more important things to do than prosecute college boys for hazing. A deal will be struck of some kind, and no one will go to jail. LSU or some of its wealthy supporters will make a generous donation to the Max Gruver Foundation, and the Gruvers won't sue.
And next year, or two or three years from now, another college boy will die in his own vomit at a fraternity hazing exercise. And then we will hear another call for more transparency.
|Angola State Prison, where LSU hazers belong|
Rebekah Allen. 'He would have done great things with his life.' 2017.The (Baton Rouge) Advocate, December 30, 2017.
Rebekah Allen, Grace Toohey, and Emma Discher. 10 booked in LSU fraternity hazing death case. The (Baton Rouge) Advocate, October 12, 2017, p. 1.
Lela Skene. LSU fraternity pledge Maxwell Gruver's 'off the charts' blood-alcohol level shocks experts. The (Baton Rouge) Advocate, October 11, 2017.