After a several-month-long investigation stemming from allegations of serious misconduct during fall Rush, the University recently released a comprehensive report of its inquiry. Three fraternities and one sorority were found guilty of hazing and have recieved penalties from their national chapters ranging in severity from social probation to the loss of their national charter. While the report’s findings seem to suggest that the University greatly exaggerated incidents of Greek misconduct, it does definitively illustrate a thriving culture of hazing in the Greek system. Although it is encouraging that the more serious of these allegations have not been substantiated and that the Greek system has undertaken measures to make and enforce anti-hazing codes, it is problematic that the Greeks have continually refused to implement pro-active measures to combat the culture of hazing endemic to the system.
In the past, the University has shown a considerable amount of respect for the autonomy of the Greek system. Recently, the University has felt compelled to intervene on the autonomy of the Greeks in order to try and prevent hazing incidents. Despite the many claims of the Greeks that their internal system can enforce its anti-hazing policies, its failure to produce real change in its hazing culture has placed in doubt the continuation of its autonomous status within the University community. Responding to past hazing incidents, the Greek community created a hazing task force in October of 2003, which established a definition of hazing, duties of the members, procedures for handling complaints, judicial procedures and possible sanctions for those who disobey the rules. Yet, just a mere year after the Greeks barred hazing, continued incidents compelled the University to conduct its own investigation — threatening the future autonomy of the system.
The Greek system’s official stance on hazing seems to reflect a true understanding of its severity and the appropriate measures needed to prevent it. Unfortunately, all of the official activity to change hazing and alcohol abuse in the Greek system has lead to little change in the attitudes or actions of many of its members. The practice of hazing is institutionalized in the system by a culture that actively supports it. The hierarchical structure of the Greek system encourages a culture of heavy drinking and humiliation to gain acceptance. There may be no easy answer to the problem of hazing, but the failure of the Greek system to abandon its practice and take proactive steps away from a culture supporting it do nothing to prevent future hazing incidents from occurring and only lend credence to the University’s contention that its intervention may be the only means to prevent future hazing.
Responses to previous criticisms of the Greek system have focused on the fact that the system is committed to community service, which goes largely unacknowledged by the University community. The community service the Greeks perform should be commended, and it would be a lot easier to if the Greeks abandoned their culture of hazing in favor of more community service activities or other fraternizing events that did not involve the degradation of others.
The University’s report has provided the community with information that it has already suspected for a long time — the Greek system is consumed by a culture of hazing. The recent hazing incidents might not seem that severe, but they are symptoms of a chronic illness. Until the Greek system proactively changes its hazing culture, hazing will persist, and the potential for administrative intervention will remain.