What to do about hazing?

UAlberta case shows universities need to reexamine their relationship with the Greek system

The rollercoaster ride that has been the University of Alberta hazing scandal may have finally come to an end this week, with the university announcing a 5 year suspension for the Delta Kappa Epsilon (DKE) fraternity. The move follows a month long investigation into the allegations of extreme hazing brought forward in campus newspaper The Gateway.

Judging by comments on the Gateway’s website, it seems some students had hoped for a much harsher punishment. “The [university] had a chance to make a statement here and fell through hard. Removing a group’s status means nothing,” one commentator wrote.

This move could cause more harm than good, as the suspension of the fraternity’s status as a student group may create more distance between the university and the frat house. The suspension bans the fraternity from registering as a student group and prohibits them from using the university’s name or insignia, along with with any other student group perks such as use of campus space or university equipment. Though members of the fraternity are required to report to Dean of Students Frank Robinson periodically, seeing that they’re not permitted to associate themselves with the U of A during this period, it is questionable what kind of responsibility they now have to school officials.

This suspension could instead push the fraternity to become completely independent of the university, which would leave the university with no jurisdiction to discipline students participating in hazing or other questionable activities often associated with the Greek system.

The university’s code of student behavior states that no student at the U of A “shall create a condition which endangers or potentially endangers or threatens the health, safety or well being of other persons.” The policy also states that no U of A student “shall physically abuse another person, threaten any other person with physical abuse or cause any other person to fear physical abuse.” The hazing, which the fraternity has admitted took place, arguably would abuse this code, under which punishments include probation, expulsion, and the rescission of a student’s degree.

Yet these punishments only apply to individual students, not to groups, meaning that the university would have to pursue individual investigations into those involved in the hazing, which would be a far more difficult feat if the university can’t pinpoint exactly which students were involved.

Though I don’t believe the suspension is a sufficiently harsh punishment for the fraternity, I’m also not sure how much good would come from punishing the individual students involved. Even if the university expelled the individuals who inflicted the hazing, or rescinded their degrees, how does that prevent future frat members from engaging in the same behavior?

If hazing practices are deeply entrenched in the Greek system, that is an issue that can’t be addressed by simply disciplining fraternities and sororities on an individual basis. This is something universities have been doing for years, and it doesn’t appear to be decreasing the number of hazing allegations that surface. Universities should instead reexamine their involvement in fraternities and sororities, and find a new strategy to combat a problem that is rooted in tradition and not simply tackle these issues case by case.

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