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Ben & Jerry's Keeps 'Hazed & Confused' Name Over Protests

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A shopper chooses a pint of Ben & Jerry's Hazed & Confused ice cream in a freezer  in a supermarket in New York
Richard Levine/Alamy
Vermont-based ice cream maker Ben & Jerry's has decided to keep the name of its new ice cream flavor, Hazed & Confused, according to Bloomberg. The company had considered a change in response to the complaint of a couple whose son, Harrison Kowiak, died in a fraternity hazing incident in 2008. The parents said that the name was insensitive and belittled a dangerous campus practice.

Ben & Jerry's, which is owned by Unilever (UN), initially released the flavor in February 2014, reported Franchise Herald. The name is a reference to the phrase "dazed and confused," which is the name of a Led Zeppelin song and a 1993 coming-of-age move, according to Bloomberg. The ice cream contains chocolate and hazelnut, the latter being the source of the "hazed" part.

Lianne and Brian Kowiak took notice in September and complained to the company. The website StopHazing.org urged its readers to send protests to Ben & Jerry's. The company said that it had only received a handful of comments, but would consider a name change in its October management meeting.

Harrison Kowiak had a golf scholarship to Lenoir-Rhyne University. When a sophomore in 2008, he had pledged the Theta Chi fraternity, as the Tampa Bay Times reported. A lawsuit filed by the Kowiaks claimed that their 160-pound son and another boy had been put through a gauntlet line, where they were pushed, shoved, and tackled by fraternity members who weighed as much as 250 pounds and were on the school's football team.

At some point Kowiak could no longer stand. Instead of immediately calling 911, the lawsuit says, the fraternity brothers told him to get up and walk - which he did, until he collapsed.

Finally, the brothers loaded him into one of their cars and drove them to Frye Regional Medical Center. Kowiak, the lawsuit says, suffered seizures along the way.

Allegedly, the fraternity members told the hospital that Kowiak was hurt in a sports accident. The injuries were serious enough that he had to be airlifted to a major medical center, where he died the next day from blunt trauma to the head, according to a medical examiner.

The family settled the lawsuit in 2012, according to a blog post by the law firm Heygood, Orr & Pearson.

Lianne Kowiak became an anti-hazing activist after her son's death and found herself at odds with the political arm of the fraternity industry, Bloomberg reported.

Ultimately, Ben & Jerry's kept the name, with a corporate spokesperson telling Bloomberg that nothing in its marketing "condoned hazing, supported hazing, or even inferred hazing." In September, the company released a statement that said, "The flavor Hazed & Confused and Ben & Jerry's as a company in no way condone -- nor support in any manner -- the act of hazing or bullying. Ben & Jerry's believes that hazing and bullying have no place in our society."

According to Merriam-Webster, the verb haze also means to make hazy, cloudy, or dull, which would actually be in keeping with the original song title.

The Kowiaks said that Ben & Jerry's had "completely avoided ... the unintentional implications of this chosen name," according to the blog GrubStreet.com.

It's not the first time Ben & Jerry's has faced controversy over its ice cream. In 2012, the company got into hot water over including fortune cookies in a flavor named for Jeremy Lin, a Harvard graduate who became a big professional basketball star, according to Boston.com.

 

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