Monday, March 29, 2010

Best of Busted!

Fraternity Loses Charter, House after Campus Hazing Incident

The University of Southern Mississippi on Friday revoked Kappa Sigma fraternity's charter and closed the house on campus… An alleged hazing incident at the Kappa Sigma fraternity house has left a student in intensive care … Two students involved were admitted to the hospital for treatment of alcohol poisoning. One of the students remains hospitalized for continued treatment and observation.

The mother of the student in ICU…, said her daughter, a sophomore, had been invited to become a little sister of Kappa Sigma. At an initiation party last week, little sisters already affiliated with the fraternity initiated the new students.

"They poured pancake syrup in their hair and silly string - things like that… Then, they tilted their heads back and poured in whiskey and vodka." according to the mother.

Some students who were at the party brought (the woman) to the hospital, saying they had found her on the side of the road. (She) had a blood-alcohol content of 0.47, more than five times above the legal limit of 0.08, and is being treated for alcohol poisoning. A 100-pound woman would have to drink more than 10 cocktails in one hour to have a 0.47 blood content.

Let’s recap. According to the above allegation, a fraternity was coordinating hazing activities directed at women who were attempting to become little sisters of the organization. Allegedly, this hazing progressed in a manner that resulted in one of the women being admitted into Intensive Care for at least several days. The only way this woman got the help she needed is that she was found on the side of the road after the party.

There are multiple significant concerns with this allegation. First, there is the apparent forced consumption of considerable amounts of alcohol that resulted in this woman being admitted with a BAC of .47. According to news reports, this is the equivalent of ten drinks in one hour for a 100 pound woman and at that level of intoxication, there is serious risk of an individual slipping into a coma or even death.

Additionally, in case you did not know or catch it above, Kappa Sigma is a men’s fraternity and the individuals treated for hazing were females who were allegedly hazed by other female “little sisters” of the organization. This is troubling, because now we are not only hazing our members; we are hazing people who can not legally become members of our organizations. Actually, we are allowing individuals who are not members the opportunity to haze other individuals who can not become members, all in the name of and under the auspices of fraternity. As a point of information, just for the sake of it, Little Sister organizations are prohibited as they are a threat to the Title IX exemption that fraternities and sororities have as single sex organizations.

Okay, and now let’s address the issue of the woman in question allegedly being found on the side of road by other party goers (if such a horrendous action can be addressed without simply reinforcing its insanity). How does something like this happen? Did the woman leave on her own and not make it back to her residence or was she just dropped off with the hopes she would be found by someone who would get her the help she needed. Or was she directed by others at the party to be taken to the hospital who indicated she was found on the side of the road rather than to tell the truth about what allegedly occurred at the Kappa Sigma house. Hey, anything is possible.

The chapter leadership did acknowledge participation in the alleged incident and have cooperated with the investigative processes that have occurred. Okay, we’ll give you that one… however, this is too little too late.

How and why do these incidents still happen in the name of fraternity, especially when members are allowing non-members to perpetrate these acts under the name of the fraternity? We are glad that this woman got the help she needed and her peers sought medical attention, as the alternatives could have been tragic. However, this is yet another situation that could have been avoided entirely.

Wells, V. (2008, Sept. 4) Alleged Hazing Under Review. [Electronic Version]. The Hattiesburg American.
Wells, V. (2008, Sept. 6) Fraternity Loses Charter, House After Campus Hazing Incident. [Electronic Version]. The Hattiesburg American

Monday, March 22, 2010

Stop the Killing

On March 6th, 2010 a young man named Matthew Tembo was found dead at the Pi Kappa Alpha Fraternity House on the Carnegie Mellon Campus.  His autopsy results concluded that he died of acute alcohol poisoning after a night of binge drinking celebrating the birthday of a friend.  Matt was not a member of the fraternity, he was a guest.  Matt was not even a current student at Carnegie Mellon (although he had attended there previously).   Matt was from Divonnes Les Baines, France and was a current student at the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg.  Do a simple web search for Matthew Tembo and you will find this headline over and over and over:  Man, 20, Found Dead at Carnegie Mellon Frat House (yes, I know, he was really 22...but the illustrated point here is what the headlines read).  

Here we go again.  Another death at another fraternity house.  Another headline telling the world that what we do as members of the fraternity/sorority community is drink.  Drink a lot, in fact.  We love our alcohol so much that we watch our friends kill themselves - and many times we've even provided the smoking gun. 

This isn't a time where hours of community service matter.  Our collective number of affiliated politicians, successful businesspeople, and movie stars is irrelevant.  The academic success of many of our chapters - nobody cares.  And the leadership...well, we show great leadership in extreme alcohol abuse.   That is the message that has been successfully sent, not just with this incident, but with so many others that have come before it.  And I'm not just talking about when there is a death, we do the same thing with every headline, every story, and every incident that shows destruction to property, physical assault, sexual assault, hazing, or any other number of harms.

I'm tired of hearing the retort "but we do so much good!  It isn't fair!  They only cover the bad stuff!  The press is out to get us!"  The last I checked, what they do is their job.  It's their job to find those things that are out of sync and report them to the public.  And anytime an incident as mentioned above occurs, it is clearly out of sync with our stated values as organizations.  

So it is time to stop the killing.  It's time to stop the stupidity.  It's time to stop blaming the other members and the other chapters and intervene when you see things going badly.  It's time our advisors and our alumni start actually expecting excellence out of us and creating real and meaningful consequences for us when we don't perform (yes, that might mean shutting chapters down).  It's time our members start holding each other accountable both within individual chapters and across the fraternal community.  It's time to stop whining about what people think about us and realize that our community collectively has created that reality.  And yes, it is fair that those atrocities are what people remember.  It is fair that people get pissed off and question our purpose.  It is fair because it's real and let us never forget that a person's life is far more important than any community service project or any amount of money raised and nothing can make up for it when we (the collective "we") harm or take a life.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The best Greek Week ever!

As March whizzes by, spring break becomes a memory, the weather turns a bit warmer and the sun starts to shine, undergraduate fraternity and sorority students across the country turn their attention to the most important week of the year. Ladies and Gentlemen, it is time for Greek Week!

In case you could not pick up on the slight hint of sarcasm, I do not actually believe that Greek Week is the most important thing happening in our fraternal world. There are a few things that puzzle me about Greek week:

• Theme and t-shirt design: If I could get back the hours I’ve spent in meetings talking about all of the different variations and merits of themes, as well as the corresponding t-shirt designs, I would be a happy woman. Think about it.

• Competition: Do your organizations on campus compete against each other for a week or longer to win bragging rights for the next year? What do you think that looks like to other individuals on campus? Are they beating down your door to join in the fun? Does this practice build community?

• Hours spent: How much time does the average member spend on Greek Week? Do their academics/sleep/health suffer? How could those hours be spent differently? What if you spent those hours in service? What impact could you have?

• Money spent: What does your chapter invest in Greek Week? Your council? Your entire community? How could you be using that money differently?

• Values displayed: If a non-member, a faculty member, or a community member were to stop by and observe your Greek week events, what would they think? What impression would they walk away with? What values do they see present?

Some fraternity/sorority communities across the country definitely get it right. Others are headed in that direction. They spend their time working together as a unified force to display their values in action and have a positive impact on the local community. Yet, other communities are still having intense discussions about their theme. Which type of community do you have on your campus?

Monday, March 1, 2010


Fort Valley State Fraternity Suspended During Hazing Investigation

A Fort Valley State University fraternity is suspended while police and school officials investigate an alleged hazing assault during an initiation.

On [December 7], a Fort Valley State University fraternity member was arrested for aggravated battery in the case.

Fort Valley Police Chief Detective says [the] 21-year-old [alleged perpetrator] was arrested after an incident involving the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity at Fort Valley State University.

[The Chief Detective] says last week, [the victim] was taken to the hospital with injuries to his back and kidney failure. He says the student told his mother the injuries were from a hazing incident at the fraternity.

The Fort Valley Police Department is continuing to investigate the incident… and said more people could be charged and they may also find more victims.

Fort Valley State University vice president… says the university is looking at expanding its existing anti-hazing policies.

"We are looking at possibilities of a workshop-type seminar arrangement where potential pledges are advised about the hazing policy," says [the Vice President].

[The Vice President] says pledges would then sign an agreement to not practice or take part in hazing and to report it. He says any involvement in hazing can warrant punishment.

"It can be an active role or a passive role in allowing this to happen," says [the Vice President]. "Then the university, probably in cooperation with the regional office of the fraternity, would take punitive action."

We’ve mentioned before how much we love the articles that have comments from the public attached to them. As if these types of articles are not already humorous enough (in that ‘this is so ludicrous you can’t really do anything other than laugh’ kind of way) we also get to read the take of the public. Which, by the way, tend not to take the time to plan out their thoughts much less check spelling. Anyway, the comments are varied, but many refer to the fact that the hazed student had a preexisting kidney condition. According to those who appear to support the fraternity, this condition really made the whole shebang appear worse than it really was.

Okay… so BESIDES the fact that hazing is not only wrong but also one of the oldest stories in the book in regard to fraternities and sororities misbehaving, NOW we’re trying to argue that it wouldn’t have been that big of deal had this guy had had healthier kidneys? But I suppose such a noncreative argument ought not to be a surprise when coming from people who (allegedly) haze… the least creative approach to new member development.

Finally, we don’t usually poke fun at the administrators on campus but that certainly doesn’t mean they aren’t fair game. As you read, the Vice President responded to the incident by saying “We are looking at possibilities of a workshop-type seminar arrangement where potential pledges are advised about the hazing policy… pledges would then sign an agreement to not practice or take part in hazing and to report it. He says any involvement in hazing can warrant punishment”.

Are we the only ones banging our heads against the wall right now? Statements such as this one are clear and unfortunate indications that sometimes even our advisors and administrators don’t have any clue about the basics of hazing. Like, for example, the fact that people get coerced into being hazed and feel powerless to stop it. In other words, it’s safe to assume that both parties usually know that it’s wrong – or at least against some policy.

The idea of having ‘potential pledges’ sign such an agreement seems about as likely to stop hazing as putting raw hamburger in a Ziploc bag as to stop a dog from smelling it.

Susskind, S., Irwin, J., & Ruffes, V. (2009, December 10). Fort Valley State fraternity suspended during hazing investigation. WMBF Fox News. Retrieved December 13, 2009 from