Logan Dobson : Crimes and weak punishments

I was a bit surprised by the decision Student Judicial Services reached at the conclusion of its investigation into the Greek-life community’s numerous allegations of hazing. Surprised, I think, and a little bit confused.

To be fair, this could all be my fault. You see, my personal belief was that when GW said it has “zero tolerance” for hazing, it meant that organizations that were found to have hazed would not be allowed on campus. As it is now, those organizations were found to have hazed and, hey, they’re still here!

So maybe it isn’t a “zero-tolerance” thing. Maybe it’s a “little-bit-of-tolerance” thing. Someone put that in the brochures.

I can’t comment on the factual nature of the complaints that were filed. I don’t know the negotiations, which occurred between GW, the national fraternities and the chapters involved. All I know for sure is the following: At some point, hazing was alleged. GW looked into the allegations, and found that hazing had occurred. Then, GW issued a reprimand, the consequences of which did not include the accused organizations being removed from campus.

How ridiculous is this? Hazing is the worst thing a fraternity or sorority can do. GW claims to have no tolerance for the act. Dean of Students Peter Konwerski called the behavior “unacceptable.” Perhaps I’m missing something here, but it certainly looks like it’s been accepted.

How else are we supposed to read this decision? GW found evidence of hazing, and GW allowed the organizations to continue to exist. I’d say that’s at least a sliver of acceptance.

This is a weasely and regrettably tepid response from our administration. Oh, they’re on social probation! And they can’t live in their buildings! Oh, the humanity!

Supporters of the University’s decision will undoubtedly proclaim the punishment fits the crime. This was just the work of a few bad apples gone too far, they’ll say. Spare me. This is what we always hear from those who think their only crime was getting caught.

It is the responsibility of the administration to create and maintain a set of rules and severe punishments for breaking those rules. It is the responsibility of the administration to ensure there is a severe disincentive for Greek-life organizations to engage in hazing activities. And it is, above all, the responsibility of the administration to foster an environment where students know their university takes hazing seriously. In the University’s decision, the student body was failed on all three counts.

GW must make an effort to find and punish hazing anywhere it exists – and not just in the Greek-life community. Of course, prosecution requires some measure of proof and, so often, we hear allegations without anything to back them up. That’s why it’s so disappointing that in this case, when the University obviously had enough evidence to prove that hazing occurred, it still declined to make the right call.

We are all extremely lucky that, in this case, there was no lasting damage. Students elsewhere have died from hazing, and I’m grateful we didn’t experience anything on that level of tragedy. But if GW was actually serious about preventing hazing, there was a clear decision to be made. It chose instead to shirk that responsibility and make a decision sure to satisfy no one but the organizations, which got away with hazing. In the future, we must hope for a firmer constitution.

Logan Dobson, a senior major in political science, is a Hatchet columnist and member of the Sigma Chi fraternity.

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