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CNN SATURDAY MORNING NEWS

Interview with Gregory Danielson, Hank Nuwer

Aired May 10, 2003 - 08:10   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And when I looked up and I saw blood, I knew that this wasn't right.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, this is from a paint can being thrown at me and Tabasco sauce and vinegar and stuff like that in my eye. And just spam on my face. And fish guts, pig ears, there was pig intestine wrapped around my neck.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Ugh. A victim of an Illinois high school hazing describes some, and just some, of the abuse dished out by her classmates. It happened last Sunday at an off campus gathering. Mostly female students from Glenbrook North High School. Such disturbing video we've been watching.

Criminal charges in this hazing could be filed next week and some adults could also be in trouble.

CNN's Whitney Casey is covering the story and she joins us from Chicago -- good morning, Whitney.

WHITNEY CASEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Anderson.

Well, police have certainly had a prodigious task here sifting through all of that videotape that we've been showing you. If you watch the videotape closely, you can see that there are other boys and girls there with video cameras, possibly about two dozen, police say, that they've had to look through.

But what they're focused on right now is some video we showed you yesterday and that's of the girls there in the yellow jerseys. Those are the senior girls. They've got some videotape in where you see the girls drinking out of kegs and that's what they're focused on right now. They say they have identified most of the girls in the hazing and the school has already disciplined them.

But what they're focusing on is an anonymous tip that came in from -- into the local police department, saying that parents may have provided this alcohol that fueled this melee. What they're saying is that the alcohol started out as a pre-party with the seniors and some of the girls who watched the videotape with me said that there were four kegs there and some of the video we showed you yesterday were girls doing what they called keg stands, hand stands on kegs, excessive amounts of drinking. There was quite a bit of violence and police are saying it's that drinking that escalated this melee.

Now, school officials say they have no jurisdiction here. They say that this was not school sanctioned. It was held off campus. And so they say they could not suspend these kids. Instead what they have done is, as they went into this weekend, they no longer can participate in some of their extracurricular activities.

Police, in the meantime, have been visiting local liquor stores in order to find possibly the connection between what they say may have been parents. Because at local liquor stores here in Illinois, they have to leave an I.D. and they have to sign a release. So they say if, indeed, parents were involved, they believe they'll get to the bottom of it, Anderson, and they hope to have charges as soon as Monday.

COOPER: Whitney, is there any information about whether or not these girls are talking? I mean are they coming, have they come forward? We heard, we've heard from some of the juniors. You know, are the seniors talking to the police? I mean are they admitting what went on?

CASEY: Well, right now they're a little tight-lipped after they initially started talking because we found out that 60 lawyers in this area have been hired to handle this case. They have, you know, the offensive and the defensive, the seniors and the juniors.

But I actually spoke with yesterday one junior who claims to be one of the captains of the teams. She says what I think is really interesting is they've been going back to school. Everybody had to go back to school. So these juniors, who have been watching this videotape and the five girls that have been initiated are all back in school with the seniors that injured them.

So far they say they haven't even communicated whatsoever -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right, and as you said on Monday charges may be filed.

Whitney Casey, thanks for following the story -- Arthel.

ARTHEL NEVILLE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: OK, we want to get more perspective now on hazing and what can be done to stop it.

Joining us now is Hank Nuwer. He is the author of three books on hazing. And Gregory Danielson, who was the victim of hazing as a college student.

We want to say good morning to both of you and thanks for joining us.

Gregory, if I could, let me start with you.

Tell us, first of all, what sort of hazing incident were you involved in?

GREGORY DANIELSON, HAZING SURVIVOR: Well, it was my college freshman year. I was coming in as a soccer player for the men's varsity team. And so it was an initiation, a hazing for the soccer team, the men's varsity team.

NEVILLE: But what happened to you? How bad did it get?

DANIELSON: Well, it got to the point where I was unconscious and had to be sent to the hospital because of blood alcohol poisoning.

NEVILLE: So were you forced to drink?

DANIELSON: Yes, I was. There were certain games, certain drinking games, certain obstacles that all the freshmen had to participate in as a rite of passage into the soccer team.

NEVILLE: But, so at what point, or why didn't you just say listen, I don't care about being on the soccer team? I'm not going to kill myself.

DANIELSON: Well, you know, that's the tough situation. You know, I had trained 18 years. It was my passion to get to this point, the same as the other freshmen. You kind of have to look at it in the context. At this point, it would have been just as easy for me to say no to my soccer coach, saying I don't want to train, I don't want to take the fitness test, as it would have been to say no, I don't want to do this drinking. It, you know, I wouldn't have been part of the team at that point.

NEVILLE: Sure.

DANIELSON: I would have been, you know, looked down upon.

NEVILLE: That's horrible.

Mr. Nuwer, let me bring you in here now and ask you, I mean, what drives this sort of hazing and how does it get out of control like this? And, as Gregory just told us, I mean he felt like he was in a catch-22.

HANK NUWER, AUTHOR, "HIGH SCHOOL HAZING": Well, part of it is that a team relies on camaraderie. It's not enough that your coach says that you can start. It's important to you that your teammates accept you. In the case of Greg Danielson, the players had been warned that an initiation is coming for some time, but they don't use the word hazing. And there's a lot of joy at the beginning because you're, you know you're going to be accepted after that night. It's a kind of ritual, well, you'll be drinking and there's even outsiders there cheering you on. And so there's all this excitement.

But the point is a sane person such as Danielson, after drinking a certain amount, doesn't want to participate at, if he didn't at the beginning, he certainly doesn't want to participate when he thinks he's in danger.

NEVILLE: But he can't back out then.

NUWER: He can't back out and he's not in control of his functions at this point, as his blood alcohol skyrockets over to a point near death. He was in a closest and then they shaved his head.

NEVILLE: So who is responsible? At the end of the day, I mean who is liable?

NUWER: Well, I want to -- Greg is in my next book coming out and I wanted Gregory to tell his story as a case study. I wanted his coach, Coach Ballovic (ph) at the University of North Carolina, to tell his story. And the athletic director at the time, John Swofford, who is now the head of the ACC, to tell their story with it.

In my opinion, the soccer initiation had been around for a long time. They needed a clear policy that said as a disciplinary issue that hazing was not allowed.

I saw their disciplinary statement. Correctly they said drugs should not be allowed. They said what kind of athletic shoes they should be wearing.

NEVILLE: But what about alcohol?

NUWER: But nothing about hazing and nothing about binge drinking and nothing about an alcohol initiation or shaving of heads.

NEVILLE: So then that, does the responsibility lie, then on the shoulders of the administrators at school?

NUWER: Yes, it is, and that one went all the way up to the chancellor. And they did an investigation which did not bring police in. At this point, you have a criminal matter, police investigated it, it needed to go to a prosecuting attorney and it needs to become a criminal matter.

NEVILLE: And how likely is that going to happen?

NUWER: Not very likely. We've had cases of alcohol poisoning and so on, including Indiana University, the death of Joe Bisanz, where then prosecuting attorneys declined to press charges, saying that basically the victims were responsible because they started out just like the others as part of this. There's...

NEVILLE: The victims aren't responsible, Gregory, right? I mean as you were saying, this is your passion. You wanted to be on this soccer team and you -- what advice do you have, Gregory, to some other students who may be coming up and following along that same path, who wanted to join an athletic team or perhaps a sorority or a fraternity? I mean what do you say to them? Should they at some point "rat out" their fellow students?

DANIELSON: Well, first of all, they need to have the knowledge. Like when I was 18, I had no idea what hazing was. So I didn't even know that I was a victim of a crime. And so I started blaming myself at that point. But they need to have the knowledge and know what hazing is. And they also need to have an open communication with someone in a position of authority so that they can speak out and feel comfortable about doing that and feel like they're going to get a sincere and honest response from that coach, from that teacher, from that principal.

NEVILLE: So the do...

DANIELSON: And that...

NEVILLE: Do you do this before you go into some sort of initiation?

DANIELSON: Well, even before you sign with the school, before you, you know, even get into the school, maybe you talk to the principal. Before, you know, you sign with that soccer team, you talk to the coach and say what are your policies on hazing? I've heard about it. I know about it. Can you tell me, has it ever happened in the past? Things like that.

NEVILLE: OK, Gregory Danielson, I'd love to talk to you more, but I'm out of time here.

DANIELSON: Sure.

NEVILLE: Hank Nuwer.

NUWER: Thank you.

NEVILLE: Thank you both for joining me this morning.

NUWER: Thank you.

NEVILLE: OK.

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