Greek chapters are moving past last year’s batch of hazing charges by strengthening relationships with their national counterparts to better educate their newest members on chapter ethics and standards.
With spring recruitment nearing, the University’s swelling number of fraternities and sororities has taken a more proactive stance toward addressing hazing – a development administrators and students credit to the growing on-campus presence of national chapter representatives.
Senior Vice President of Student and Academic Support Services Robert Chernak said outreach to national organizations has made the largest mark in thwarting hazing at local levels, where an active approach to disciplining and educating members has replaced the hands-off standard of previous years.
“It took a long time for national leadership to realize they had a role,” Chernak said. “Nationals have a vested interest in preserving integrity of chapters. They’re now being very, very cooperative. Ten years ago, nationals didn’t want to step in and get a bad reputation.”
As broad-based movements to combat hazing spring up across the U.S., advocacy organizations have also stepped up efforts to influence safer practices. Many national chapters have begun requiring members to complete an online course on alcohol consumption, hazing and sexual assault.
Last week, the father of a Florida A&M University student beaten to death in November started a nationwide anti-hazing campaign charging schools to recognize, report and ultimately end hazing on their campuses.
Nearly 75 percent of students nationwide involved in a social fraternity or sorority experience hazing – defined as humiliation, degradation, abuse or endangerment – according to a 2008 report from the National Study of Student Hazing.
Four chapters at GW have been charged with hazing since last spring, spurring student leaders to seek national guidance to cope with social probation and loss of University housing, which prohibits organizations from having alcohol at their events. Ten sororities and 16 fraternities are chartered at GW.
An ongoing investigation of Alpha Epsilon Phi for allegations of hazing and underage drinking remains the only incident this academic year.
Junior Daniel Gil, president of the Inter-Fraternity Council, said the fraternities that faced hazing charges made “marked improvements” in reducing risks and educating new members.
Interaction with nationals has allowed GW’s chapters “to identify possible problem chapters and address the issues before anything becomes out of hand,” Gil added.
A national representative of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity said when the organization learns about an instance of hazing, it will work with that chapter and its university more vigilantly to address the charges, but declined to provide specifics.
“When there’s hazing going on, we want to do our best to see that it stops. If that means working with university administrations, that’s what we’re going to do,” Justin True, the fraternity’s associate director of communications and marketing for Pi Kappa Alpha, said.
Pi Kappa Alpha lost its place on townhouse row last spring due to hazing charges. Two other chapters, Kappa Kappa Gamma and Sigma Phi Epsilon also lost their spots due to hazing and substance abuse charges, respectively.
Director of the Center for Student Engagement Tim Miller attributes the widening scope of national chapters to the rising popularity – and revenue bases – of Greek life across the country. This boost in funding, he said, has been directed toward the expansion of training initiatives including chapter leadership, officer transition, goal setting and problem solving.
“To focus on hazing is to leave out the vast majority of all programming done on behalf of our members,” Miller, who is also the associate dean of students, said.
The heightened focus on national branches has also allowed Greeks at GW to better understand the values of their individual chapters, Marta Cofone, president of the GW Panhellenic Association said.