Cornell Pledges To End Fraternity Hazing


Hazing is any action or situation, with or without the consent of the participants, which recklessly, intentionally, or unintentionally endangers the mental, physical or academic heath or safety of a student.

Here’s a recent example of hazing: Last February,  a 19-year-old Cornell sophomore died in a fraternity house while participating in a hazing episode that included mock kidnapping, ritualized humiliation and coerced drinking.

President Of Cornell Pledges To End Hazing On His Campus

Responding to this incident, and many others, David J. Skorton, President of Cornell University, wrote an op-ed that was published in The New York Times on August 23. Here’s an excerpt from what he wrote:

This tragedy convinced me that it was time — long past time — to remedy practices of the fraternity system that continue to foster hazing, which has persisted at Cornell, as on college campuses across the country, in violation of state law and university policy.

Yesterday, I directed student leaders of Cornell’s Greek chapters to develop a system of member recruitment and initiation that does not involve “pledging” — the performance of demeaning or dangerous acts as a condition of membership. While fraternity and sorority chapters will be invited to suggest alternatives for inducting new members, I will not approve proposals that directly or indirectly encourage hazing and other risky behavior. National fraternities and sororities should end pledging across all campuses; Cornell students can help lead the way.

Why Not Ban Fraternities And Sororities Altogether?

For Skorton, the answer is simple: “The Greek system is part of our university’s history and culture, and we should maintain it because at its best, it can foster friendship, community service and leadership.”

That may be true, but with over 2,000 alcohol-related deaths occurring each year among American college students, alcohol or drug abuse is clearly a serious problem on our college campuses.

At Cornell, High-Risk Drinking 2 To 3 Times More Prevalent In Fraternities

In fact, Skorton admits that at  Cornell, high-risk drinking and drug use are two to three times more prevalent among fraternity and sorority members than elsewhere in the student population.

Something needs to change, and there are signs of progress. Some private colleges have banned all fraternities and sororities. Jim Yong Kim, president of Dartmouth, has helped organize a multi-campus approach to identifying the most effective strategies against high-risk drinking. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has established a college presidents’ advisory group to develop and share approaches to this problem.

Princeton University Will Prohibit Freshmen From Joining Fraternities Or Sororities

And beginning in the fall of 2012, Princeton University will prohibit freshmen from affiliating with a fraternity or sorority or engaging in any form of “rush” at any time during the freshman year. The decision to institute the ban is being communicated this week to all returning Princeton undergraduates by President Shirley M. Tilghman.

There is clearly a pressing need for better ways to bring students together in socially productive, enjoyable and memorable ways. Let’s hope that college leaders will take up this challenge, so that no 19-year-old is ever again subjected to those Cornell hazing rituals.

On a personal note, as a native of the U.K., I’m still trying to figure out exactly what the allure of fraternities and sororities is.
What do you think? Should they stay or go?

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Photo Credit: Will Hale via Creative Commons


Stephan B.
Stephan B6 years ago

I did not go tho college But in the 70 and 80s I remember too numerous occasions where I in my late 20 and 30s, of being hassled by fraternity brothers. After trade school in the evening, I was a bouncer at several night clubs. On an ideal night nothing happened that could not be talked down peacefully. There were too many times the 'brothers', with alcohol fueled testosterone, would want to pick a fight, either directly or on another patron, so I would have to intervene. They are a pack, vying for top dog on any night. Several time court cases ensued and the brothers, being fraternal, were seen as being better than the rest of society. I have been admonished by judges and told they had more credibility because of their commitment to the charters of their fraternity. I believe I spent about $3,000 to $5,000 in contempt charges, regardless of the out come, in those years. Several times, after appeals, I. or my employer, were found not culpable. To get this verdict we had to Subpoena the previous judge, which can't be done, and the cases were thrown out.

A psychologist, one told me I was a target because to some, I represent a father or social figure they felt safe accosting, . Perhaps with a band of brothers behind them, I became a power totem some needed to test or topple. These weren't the nicest places, but what bar is when a fraction of the patronage binges to the point of braggadocio and violence. I didn't mind because,and the wages were very good for this sort o

K s Goh
KS Goh6 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Lynne B.
Lynne Buckley6 years ago

Hazing is pathetic and should be outlawed.

Dominic C.
Dominic C6 years ago

Fraternities and sororities should be allowed to thrive as organizations for students as co-curricular activities. But these organizations should not haze new recruits and freshmen.

clara H.
Clara Hamill6 years ago

I have never been in a sority but I don't think it's a good idea to ban them just because there are some bad people. Why don't we ban Scull and bones next or are they afraid that high powered well to do will go after them.

Ray M.
Ray M6 years ago

it's about time these arcane practices are abolished EVERYWHERE.

Joy Mcronald
Joy M6 years ago

I say do away with them...

Hugh W.
.6 years ago

Don't see the big deal of sororities or fraternities. If someone wants to join let them. I never joined one, but had 2 brothers that had. Their frats actually raised a lot of money for charity and also did a lot of charity work in the community. You can't paint all groups bad because of a few bad apples. College kids are going to drink too much regardless if they are in a frat/sorority, that is just a part of life.

Tom Sullivan
Tom C Sullivan6 years ago

Only brain dead jerks want to do this stupid act.

leanne mcivor
leanne Torio6 years ago

Hazing is disgusting, and to put people through that just 'to belong' is all wrong, who would want to belong to such cruel bullying? Students should boycott all those universities that still have those antiquated notions and is not of that culture .