Hazing policies similar to peers’
By Daniel Bornstein And Ashley Ulrich, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Friday, February 3, 2012
While Dartmouth’s Greek system has come under fire for allegations of fraternity hazing and subsequent administrative inaction, the College’s peer institutions maintain comparable anti-hazing regulations and procedures for dealing with violations, although a higher percent of eligible Dartmouth students are affiliated with a Greek organization than at similar colleges and universities.
After Cornell University’s Greek organizations came under national scrutiny last winter when a student died at a fraternity pledge initiation event, university president David Skorton responded with an opinion column in The New York Times urging colleges and universities to address hazing and binge drinking on campuses.
“We need to face the facts about the role of fraternities and sororities in hazing and high-risk drinking,” Skorton wrote in the column. “Pledging — and the humiliation and bullying that go with it — can no longer be the price of entry.”
The article was a plea to “end pledging as we know it,” Cornell’s Associate Dean of Students Travis Apgar said in an interview with The Dartmouth.
Since last spring, Cornell has tried to lead the way in hazing prevention by providing educational resources, Apgar said.
“We always have a challenge of making sure students know that all these resources exist,” Apgar said. “We have not seen an increase in the reports of hazing since last spring, but I also think that the student leadership in the Greek community and in other student organizations is looking at the president’s charge very seriously.”
Apgar said affiliated students are working with faculty, staff, alumni and national partners to come up with a unified response to the president’s charge of designing new ways to initiate recruits into the Greek system.
Most reports of hazing come through the university’s hazing prevention website, according to Apgar. There is an option for students to report incidents anonymously, but these reports are harder to confirm and investigate, he said.
“The form on the website asks for certain information including contact information like an email address for investigators to follow up on,” Apgar said. “We keep that information confidential.”
The university judicial system determines if a source is credible in its investigation, but it never reveals the source’s identity to the public, according to Apgar.
The protocol for investigating a complaint includes contacting the reporter of the hazing incident to determine if there is any immediate danger facing any involved students, Apgar said.
“We make sure everyone is okay, that sort of thing, and based on that information, we take appropriate action,” Apgar said. “We would intervene, meet with any witnesses that we could and gather any relevant information we could find, which we would send to the Greek judicial board in the case of a sorority or fraternity.”
If the involved group is a team or other student activities group, the relevant office or dean is contacted, Apgar said.
Typically, Cornell’s governing council classifies infractions in three phases — low, moderate and high — for their risk level and orders sanctions ranging from educational courses to expulsion and removal of the Greek organization from campus, according to Apgar.
“We all agree from the trustees and the president all the way down, that the frat and sorority experiences are generally very positive and something we want to preserve,” Apgar said. “We are not trying to diminish the Greek system. We want it to exist for the next 150 years or longer.”
Cornell’s definition of hazing is more inclusive than New York State’s definition of hazing, Apgar said. Within the last two years, Cornell’s definition was amended to include activities regardless of whether the individual consented to participate.
Hazing regulations at the University of Pennsylvania are also more stringent than Pennsylvania state law and include time constraints on activities, according to Scott Reikofski, the university’s director of student affairs and fraternity and sorority life.
“New member programs may not take up more than 10 hours per week, excluding study hours,” Reikofski said. “New member programs may not occur between midnight and 8 a.m. Sunday through Thursday nights. All new member programs can be no longer than six weeks in length.”
Most hazing violations are reported to the Office of Student Life but may also be directed to the Office of Student Conduct, which handles individual disciplinary cases, Reikofski said. While anonymous tips are welcome, they render investigations more difficult to conduct, he said.
Reikofski said his office engages with Greek organizations following hazing incidents to transform their social culture.
“In terms of organizational discipline, typically behavioral contracts are developed that include a combination of punitive and educational sanctions that are designed to address and modify the culture of the organization and return it to its professed values and function,” Reikofski said.
About 30 percent of Cornell freshmen, split evenly between male and female students, rush fraternities, sororities and co-ed fraternities, Apgar said. Affiliated students make up about 27 percent of the 14,000 undergraduate students at Cornell. In total, there are 66 recognized Greek organizations on campus, he said.
Greek participation has “steadily increased” over the last few years, and this year roughly 800 men and 800 women — a record at Cornell — officially rushed Greek organizations, Apgar said.
Roughly 31 percent of men and 29 percent of women are members of Greek organizations at Penn, according to Reikofski.
Approximately 60 percent of eligible Dartmouth students are affiliated with a Greek organization.
At Washington University in St. Louis, where 28 to 30 percent of students are affiliated, the Greek life office informs new member-educators of Missouri anti-hazing laws, according to Michael Haynes, executive director of campus life. Hazing incidents involving an entire Greek house are handled by the Office of Greek Life on a case-by-basis, whereas instances executed by particular individuals are subject to the university’s Office of Student Conduct.
It is difficult to track the presence of hazing in Greek organizations, most of which goes unreported, Hayes said.
Much like at Dartmouth, the cases most likely to be reported are those observed by individuals — like resident advisors or coaches — outside the Greek system, Hayes said.
Physically or emotionally harmful activities organized by student organizations are immediate cause for disciplinary action, according to Washington University’s hazing policy. Like those of other schools, the policy also does not differentiate between activities undertaken by force or choice.
Missouri’s state hazing law closely corresponds to this language, Hayes said.
At American University, all hazing cases — whether carried out by groups or individuals — are handled by the dean of students’ office, according to Curtis Burrill, the coordinator of fraternity and sorority life within the Office of Student Activities. Roughly 18 percent of American University students are affiliated, he said.
Hazing, which can be either voluntary or involuntary, is anything that may “injure, abuse, humiliate, harass or intimidate” an individual being initiated into a group, according to the institution’s hazing policy. According to the policy, hazing can be either physical or psychological in nature.
Staff writer Madeline Zeiss contributed reporting to this article.