The University’s chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity (SAE) has been accused of hazing and illegal alcohol and drug use. The University, which claims to have accumulated substantial evidence against SAE, is threatening the chapter with either suspension from the University or criminal charges. We support the University’s “zero tolerance” anti-hazing policy and hope that, if the allegations against SAE are true, the University acts harshly and justly in response.
Considering the huge number of policies the Greek office creates but doesn’t effectively enforce (for example, the “no unregistered parties” rule, the “no mixers” rule, and the wristband rule for registered parties, among many others), we are happy to see the administration taking action on this problem. We are especially happy to see the problem being addressed before someone has gotten badly hurt.
We suspect that hazing is much more rampant at this University than administrators formally acknowledge. As is evident from the widespread binge drinking that takes place approximately three times a week, many students have a habit of being reckless, apparently assuming that nothing bad will happen to them. At least some students seem to apply this dangerous attitude to the concept of hazing as well.
The student body has no excuse not to know what hazing is, especially considering all of the educational programs that members of the Greek system are forced to attend. However, peer pressure reinforces whatever systems are already in place. Even students uncomfortable with what is going on find themselves in a lose-lose situation: if they speak up in objection, they risk alienating themselves and being ostracized from their desired group of friends. Although we may question why a student would want to be friends with a group insistent on hazing, having to find an entirely new group of friends is a formidable task that is much easier said than done. It is unsurprising, then, that students might prefer to endure hazing than risk this other option.
For this reason, change realistically must come from the group level rather than the individual level. Organizations that haze, including non-Greek students as well, must rethink their procedures and reevaluate their priorities. Students must reaffirm a commitment to actually caring about the people they are ostensibly initiating as friends. Such a commitment is completely incompatible with hazing.
We applaud the Greek office and University administration for taking action, because students need a wake-up call. Hopefully this can be that wake-up call; hopefully we won’t need to see a body.