The start of another semester brings new opportunities for students on campus to get involved in the university’s Greek life and plenty of other organizations.
With the Greek community beginning the recruitment process, some students have anxiety about hazing while others say they don’t think fraternities and sororities are prevalent enough on campus to even notice them.
During the past few months, hazing cases have been exposed on college campuses around the nation, resulting in the enlightenment and strict enforcement on hazing laws and policies during recruitment, including at SIU.
The state and university have implemented laws and policies to crack down on hazing within clubs, organizations, fraternities and sororities on campus.
Kyle Elliot, a freshman from Mt. Juliet, Tenn., studying radio-television, said rush week, a period of time where Greeks try to recruit new members, usually occurs during the second week of the semester and lasts about two to three weeks. He said his fraternity Phi Kappa Tau passes out flyers to get students interested, usually following a meet and greet with the fraternities to get to know students.
“We do community service events with other organizations,” he said. “It’s more of a public thing, but it is also used as a recruiting tool.”
On and off-campus events like intramural sports, organization informationals, barbecues, banquets, showcases and meet and greets are some of the prevalent approaches taken to display the Greek community and some of their talent in a positive light.
Nicholaus Bates, a senior from Chicago studying criminal justice and member of Omega Psi Phi fraternity, said every member of his organization must go through a hazing education program to understand what hazing is.
“Along with going through the education process, there are imposed penalties on members of the organization who haze, such as restrictions on activities individuals can participate in, like step shows, etc.,” he said.
Bates said because of the recent attention in the media on hazing allegations and policies, it has helped his organization become more conscientious of hazing.
“The national presidents of my organization actually emailed us a letter, educating members on what can happen if hazing does occur,” he said.
In a Florida A&M University hazing case last November, four FAMU band members were expelled in association with the death of Robert Champion, a 26-year-old drum major who was killed on a bus after a FAMU and Bethune-Cookman Classic football game, according to the Miami Herald.
Andy Morgan, coordinator of fraternity and sorority life in student development, student life and intercultural relations, said the case at FAMU was done by alumni following tradition and was a power struggle from a continuing cycle that occurs in many Greek organizations.
Morgan said there are several different degrees of hazing, and all fraternities and sororities abide by the many definitions of hazing by state laws and the student code of conduct.
“We have all of our new members sign that they understand what hazing is, based on the definition on the non-hazing compliance form,” Morgan said.
He said hazing can be physical and psychological shocks, quests, treasure hunts, scavenger hunts, road trips or anything that creates excessive fatigue. Hazing can also be activities carried in or outside the confines of the organization’s chapter house that are subject to pressuring or asking individuals to engage in activities that are vague and uninformative to their purpose.
Though hazing has occurred, strict state laws and school policies are enforced for all student organizations to abide by to ensure student safety, he said.
According to the Illinois Hazing Law, hazing is considered a Class A misdemeanor, which is ranked as the most serious misdemeanor, resulting in defendants being sentenced up to one year in jail. Hazing that results in death or great bodily harm is a Class 4 felony, which results into a one to three years, sentence in the Department of Corrections.
Bethany Wendler, student involvement and leadership development coordinator, said laws and policies are placed in order to protect the welfare of individuals who are in fear of protecting themselves.
She said typical consequences of hazing in a university atmosphere include individual expulsion or suspension of students involved. If an organization hazes, the chapter can be removed from campus and it would take time for the chapter to be allowed back.
While hazing polices are coordinated through fraternity and sorority life, other faculty members facilitate and address hazing issues among students and other organizations.
Derrick Williams, wellness coordinator at the Student Health Center, conducts workshops for fraternities and sororities, athletes, Registered Student Organizations and various student organization programs across campus about violence.
“I personally speak with many students on campus about the problematic nature of hazing and the social, physical and psychological damage it causes,” he said. “I’m currently working on a national program called Colors and Letters to address college hazing, because as a person who believes in nonviolence, the FAMU case really impacted me.”
Jourdain Hagen, a senior from St. Louis studying English, said she doesn’t really see a lot of Greek activity on campus.
“I don’t really think it influences our campus at all,” she said.
Hagen said her concern is that fraternities and sororities don’t reach out to the entire student body, and to a certain extent, Greek life is a popularity contest.
“There is a lot they can do to change that attitude,” she said. “If you’re attractive and you have a good personality, then you don’t have a problem getting into a sorority, but if you’re not and it’s hard for you talk to people, then you’re going to have a problem getting into one.”
While the Greek community does conduct events for students and staff on campus, there are qualifications and characteristics fraternities and sororities seek in their new members.
Elliot said academic success and good qualities in a person, such as honesty and trustworthiness, are some of the characteristics his organization looks for in recruits.
“We don’t try to stereotype at all. We just take the guys who seem the most interested and are good quality for what we are looking for,” he said.
Alexander LaVeille, a sophomore from Crete studying business and member of Alpha Tau Omega, said grades, character and diligence are some of the most vital qualities his organization looks for in recruits. When meeting new recruits, his organization observes the behavior of students in public, whether in class, business or social settings.
“Fraternities and sororities are organizations that are businesses when it comes down to it, and if someone isn’t putting in the work, then they probably shouldn’t be there,” LaVeille said.
Adrian Garcia, a senior from Chicago studying advertising and member of Sigma Lambda Gamma fraternity, said his organization must abide by the hazing rules made within the headquarters of his organization.
“Hazing policies have affected my fraternity positively based on learning right from wrong, following rules and keeping tradition,” Garcia said.