In 1978, Chuck Stenzel, a healthy student pledging a fraternity at upstate New York’s Alfred University, obediently drank a pint of bourbon and three-quarters of a pint of Scotch while locked in the trunk of a car. Later, after following orders to chug even more alcohol and to fill a garbage can with vomit, Stenzel died.
In Broken Pledges, Hank Nuwer uses the Stenzel case — one that ultimately resulted in a tough New York State law on fraternity hazing — to investigate the persistence of such harassment not only at the university level, but in the world of professional societies and the military as well. The details are sufficiently horrifying to make good agitprop — just what Nuwer intends. B