University hazing policies came under spotlight last spring when the Office of the Dean of Students issued new rush and pledging policies in response to several hazing allegations and a January night during which 10 University students were hospitalized for alcohol-related incidents.
In light of last week’s National Hazing Prevention Week, The Cavalier Daily returned to the email exchanges of relevant administrators during those months. The following information has been obtained from emails secured through the Freedom of Information Act.
In response to a specific rush incident at Phi Gamma Delta (FIJI) that resulted in the hospitalization of a student with a .45 BAC, FIJI subsequently underwent an Inter-Fraternity Council Judicial Trial and was placed on social probation for five weeks. Three individual members involved in the incident received specific sanctions, including suspension and loss of leadership positions in the fraternity.
Then-IFC president Andy Colberg sent an email to members of the IFC community warning the fraternity community of a possible crack down by the University on fraternity activities due to rush-related hospitalizations.
“If we do not take responsibility and change our process, the University has made it abundantly clear that they will take over the rest of rush or cancel it, and they will reconsider the standing of the Inter-Fraternity system at U.Va.,” Colberg said in a Jan. 25 email. “Unfortunately, we are too big not to fail.”
The remainder of the 2013 male rush process was consequently different from past years. No hard liquor was allowed at any fraternity events, including Bid Day. Each fraternity was required to have a minimum of six sober brothers at all events, and IFC representatives were permitted to randomly monitor rush events to ensure compliance.
In late March, Associate Dean of Students Nicole Eramo received an anonymous email from a pledge that read: “I am writing to anonymously report about the hazing that has been occurring during the pledging process. It has become very, very bad.”
On April 4, University Dean of Students Allen Groves sent out a letter to all IFC chapter presidents requesting that the fraternities initiate their new members by 6 p.m. on April 6, effectively shortening the semester-long pledge period to nine weeks. Grove’s letter came after two hazing investigations involving the Chi Phi and Kappa Alpha chapters, as well as multiple other reports of hazing.
Though the IFC did not make the decision to shorten the new-member period to nine weeks, IFC president Jake Pittman accepted Groves’ decision. “At the end of the day I think a lot of people understand the reason why it happened … there needed to be a precedent shown for stopping this kind of behavior at the university,” he said in May. “The IFC completely endorses the administration’s action to prevent future hazing.”
Some chapters expressed concern that Groves’ decision unnecessarily sanctioned a “blanket punishment” to all chapters, even those adhering to the IFC rules and regulations.
“Instead, what the school should be doing is treating each individual fraternity separately,” said a member of the IFC community who requested anonymity. “They should investigate each claim of hazing or rush violation or party violations and punish those fraternities individually, because what that does is that makes those fraternities into an example and everyone else complies after they see what happens.”
That same student pointed to the Greek community’s higher than average GPAs and philanthropic activism. “I think by treating us as one whole body they’re making it into an us against them issue, which we don’t want,” he said. “We want the school to look at more of the good we do.
The student also clarified that what he felt was often misunderstood about the pledging phase, and why some fraternity brothers were disappointed with the shortened new-member period. “A lot of pledging is tradition, and it is what your specific chapter has done for 100 or 150 years,” he said.
In correspondence with the leaders of IFC last semester, Groves cited the need to continue “substantive discussions” about hazing in the fall. But in regards to the future of these policies, the Office of the Dean of Students declined to comment.