Maintain zero tolerance

The Office of the Dean of Students was right to revoke FOAs for fraternities who conducted hazing activities

This month, the University revoked the FOAs of both Pi Kappa Alpha and Sigma Nu fraternities. Dean of Students Allen Groves said both fraternities engaged in unacceptable activities which qualified as misconduct. Groves said these incidents left “no room for negotiating,” resulting in the termination the Fraternal Organization Agreement. Neither fraternity will be eligible for a new FOA until May 2016, though PIKA plans to appeal the decision.

The Inter-Fraternity Council released a statement Tuesday saying it supported the University’s decision, saying the fraternities’ “dangerous and unhealthy actions … run contrary to the remarkable movement towards more sustainable new member education that has been achieved by many chapters across the IFC.”

We wrote earlier in the term about Sigma Alpha Epsilon’s ban on pledging, arguing that even though such a move is well-intentioned, it likely will not have any effect unless more fraternities follow suit. Peer pressure and conformity to widespread fraternity culture are more powerful than orders from distant national organizations.

Orders coming from the Office of Dean of Students at the University are more powerful than orders from national organizations because they have a direct impact on the fraternity’s ability to participate in University-run recruitment activities, which are the lifeblood of the Greek system. The chapter’s chances for survival are slim if they cannot bring in new members, and now that the fraternities cannot participate in official recruitment for the next two years, their future is uncertain.

Such action also sends a message to other fraternities that hazing carries with it real consequences. Groves’ order to drastically shorten the pledging process last year was criticized for punishing the fraternities who were not guilty of misconduct in addition to the ones who were. This strategy though, would likely motivate a change in the larger culture, which is necessary in order to have a tangible effect. If students within the entire Greek community are more critical of the organizations who prompt ODOS to impose more restrictions on everyone, peer pressure is channeled into a motivation to abide by University policies in order to keep all Greek students safe.

Groves described that decision as “the last bullet I have short of making you leave,” while this year’s decision is the final straw. This time only two fraternities were forced out, but there are some colleges who have banned fraternities altogether, such as Williams, Middlebury and Amherst. There are punishments worse than having the pledging process shortened; this April’s decisions are evidence of that.

Groves said PIKA is probably appealing the decision because they feel they actually have improved their pledging process greatly, and that the University has not taken that improvement into account. Groves said he believes this claim to be true. But even if there has been improvement, there is clearly still evidence of denigrating and potentially dangerous activity. Groves made clear his primary concern is safety, and behavior of this kind anywhere on the spectrum cannot be tolerated if the University is to maintain that basic standard of well-being.

Regardless of the degree of the misconduct, it is important to maintain a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to hazing to ensure situations do not escalate to the point where students end up hospitalized or worse. The case of Zeta Psi in 2011, in which a student was hospitalized after drinking soy sauce is an example of how seemingly harmless activities can escalate to the point of life-threatening condition. In the cases of PIKA and Sigma Nu, investigations revealed evidence of misconduct which should not be tolerated, even though some feel it did not put the pledges in immediate danger.

The decision to revoke FOAs works both as a punishment and a deterrent in this case. Hopefully the IFC remains committed to its statement against hazing, and works with the University to create a Greek culture which fosters brotherhood and leadership, without carrying on the repugnant activities that continue to mar its reputation.

Published April 23, 2014 in Opinion

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