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The Dartmouth
February 22, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Rush onset spurs hazing discussion

Although recent controversy regarding hazing at the College is not expected to impact the number of men choosing to participate in rush, it has led to increased discourse about the dangers of hazing and efforts to alleviate the practices by emphasizing more productive pledge term activities.

The College's strengthened efforts to combat hazing will positively impact the practices of fraternity members during the course of their pledge terms, according to Greek Letter Organizations and Societies Director Wes Schaub.

"I expect them to take this seriously for the most part because I think there's a lot at stake if they don't," he said. "But I'm hoping they want to take this seriously because I hope organizations realize that there are a lot of different ways to do the kind of things they want to do."

In order to better embody the "ideals of their organizations," fraternities should engage their new members in more constructive and productive activities that better prepare students to be members, Schaub said.

"I'm a firm believer that pledge programs make really good pledges, not really good members," he said.

This term, all students interested in joining a Greek organization were required to attend a GLOS pre-recruitment education session focused on teaching students about their rights and responsibilities with regard to hazing, Schaub said. Providing students with more information prior to starting the recruitment process empowers them to make good decisions, he said.

On Jan. 25, The Dartmouth published an opinion column by Andrew Lohse '12 titled "Telling the Truth," which accused the administration of ignoring incidents of hazing in the Greek community. Lohse alleged that Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity, of which he was a member, participated in hazing practices that included swimming "in a kiddie pool full of vomit, urine, fecal matter, semen and rotten food products." The allegations were the impetus for creating the new GLOS mandatory information sessions, Schaub said.

According to Inter-Fraternity Council President and Psi Upsilon fraternity member Tim Brown '13, the information sessions were an effective way to communicate important information about the rush process, which is not always clear to those looking to undergo the process.

"I think it's really helpful for people to understand the expectations for them and for the process," he said. "It's a largely uncertain process for a lot of sophomores, so knowing more can't hurt."

The educational sessions provided relevant information without serving as a "scare tactic" to dissuade students from drinking or joining fraternities, according to Chris Carvounis '15.

Schaub said he is optimistic that increased awareness of hazing problems at the College will lead to changes in the practices of Greek organizations.

"I think change is really hard, but I think that everybody realizes it's something that needs to happen," he said.

Increased focus on the problems associated with hazing has had a positive impact on communication between Greek houses, the GLOS office and prospective new members, Brown said.

In anticipation of fall rush, fraternities have been making an effort to rethink and reform the way in which they approach hazing and pledge term, according to Brown.

"I've noticed a little bit of thoughtful reconsideration of traditions," he said. "That doesn't necessarily mean a lot has changed or will change, but people are taking a lot of things into consideration and trying to make the experience as positive as possible."

According to Phi Delta Alpha fraternity member Atul Vaidyanathan '14, fraternities are attempting to shift the focus of their pledge terms to "development-based" activities that encourage interactions between members.

"Every time you join a fraternity, you're basically joining a friend group, a brotherhood," he said.

In particular, SAE has been developing an "innovative" new pledge term in response to the attention it received following January's hazing allegations, according to Brown.

"Because there was a lot of attention focused on them, they were the first to really start thoughtfully examining the role of pledge term in the cultivation of brotherhood," he said.

SAE President Michael Fancher '13 declined requests for comment.

Prospective new fraternity members expressed varying levels of confidence that fraternity hazing practices would undergo substantial change this year. Carvounis said that though he is not opposed to pledge term in general, he wants to see fraternities examine their own practices more closely and reform them accordingly.

"I hope that they at least accomplish the goal that was stated in those info sessions I hope that it causes these fraternity houses to really look at what they're doing and compare it with the values that they have as a house," he said. "I hope it helps them be a little introspective."

Sam Farid '15, who is planning to rush this fall, said he does not expect to see substantial changes in the way fraternities approach their pledge terms.

"I think that the only thing that will change is the above-ground stuff, for example the [Alpha Chi Alpha fraternity] sirens," he said. "I think as far as what actually happens in frats, it probably won't be that different. It's such a well-kept secret."

Farid also said that fraternities may try to find "loopholes" in the system which will allow them to continue their traditional hazing practices.

The hazing controversy is not expected to substantially impact the number of men and women who participate in the fall recruitment process, given the number of students who have attended the mandatory informational sessions, Schaub said.

Overall, the allegations will have little effect because hazing practices are not the most important factor in a student's decision to rush, according to Brown.

"I don't think people choose houses based on that," he said. "I think they choose houses based on values and culture and the people that they wanted to be in a house with."