By Samantha Milowitz || Staff Writer
This week’s common hour featured the Gruver family: parents, Rae Anne Gruver and Stephen Gruver, who lost their eldest son, Max Gruver, due to hazing just two years ago. The two now travel and speak with various college campuses, high schools, and organizations across the nation, telling Max’s story and trying to end hazing so that no other person has to experience the horror that they have. At each school, they sell wristbands, printed with statements such as “#StopTheHazing” and “FlyHighMax,” so that others can spread awareness and always keep in mind that if they see something they should say something. The Max Gruver Foundation has sold 35,000 wristbands in the past year. The Gruvers have also helped to make a new Felony Hazing Law in Louisiana, as it has been deemed “The Max Gruver Act.”
Rae Anne Gruver began the common hour by letting us get to know who Max Gruver was. She spoke of his interest in political journalism, his kindness towards his family and friends, and why he wanted to join a fraternity in the first place. She spoke about how he wanted to make friends, to have a home away from home. The fraternity, Phi Delta Theta, was one that Max liked a lot because of the people that were apart of it. She spoke about his excitement for the fraternity and even stated how he was up for pledge class president.
Rae Anne then described the incident that took away her son’s life. While she did not know the details until after receiving the call of his death, the events that took place were soon revealed by fraternity brothers who came confessed after being questioned about the night. The pledges, including Max, had been summoned to the house for “Bible Study,” a ritual hazing practice in Phi Delta Theta.
She described how the pledges were first doused with chili sauce and then placed in a single file line. They were then forced to stand against the wall, their toes and nose touching the wall. The pledges were then asked questions about the brotherhood if the pledges answered incorrectly, they had to drink a type of alcohol called Diesel until told to stop. This alcohol was different than most as it is 190 proof, 2.5 times stronger than rum or vodka. She described how Max answered pretty much every question wrong, and how the more he drank, the more questions he got wrong. At one point, the brothers had to wrap a puke bag around his neck, and even after that, he was forced to drink 5-6 more pulls of Diesel. The brothers then left Max to “sleep it off,” causing him to choke on his own vomit in the middle of the night, causing his death. Rae Anne described how the pledges, then, were forced to carry Max’s dead body to the back seat of a car, where he was taken to the hospital even though there was nothing more a doctor could do. 10 fraternity brothers were arrested following Max’s death, one facing up to 10 years in prison.
As Rae Anne read the details of her son’s murder, she broke down, muttering into the microphone for a moment to say, “sorry,” as she wiped her tears and continued. There has never been a more quiet Mayser gymnasium.
Then it was time for the father to speak, Stephen Gruver. Stephen spoke about the actual word “hazing,” and what it means to haze. He asked students in the crowd to ask themselves the following questions as the first sign to be able to take note if they are being hazed: is this causing emotional or physical distress? Is this illegal? Am I being asked to keep this a secret? Would I do this to myself or my own sibling? He then spoke about how hazing is not just physical abuse, not just forced drinking, but falls under many categories: mental abuse, physical abuse, financial extortion, sleep-deprivation. He spoke to the crowd with pleading words, emphasizing that if there are students here being hazed, that they should not just sit by but stand up because you never know when someone can take it a step too far. He ended by equivocating hazing to something we are all familiar with: drunk driving. While we might think we have our driving and our drinking under control, we don’t. It is important to acknowledge that even something small can eventually turn into something bigger, worse.
This common hour was brought to F&M by senior, Anna Gombar. Anna Gombar is a member of the organization Alpha Delta Pi and Rae Anne Gruver is an alumnus of Alpha Delta Pi, as they met each other through the mutual organization.
The Gruver family encourages students to speak up if they are being hazed and report any and all hazing to the Department of Public Safety or your house dean. They did not expect it to happen to their son, so why would you expect it to happen to you? See something, say something. End hazing once and for all.
Junior Samantha Milowitz is a Staff Writer. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.