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Short-Term Consequences and a Lack of Transparency Won’t Change Toxic Frat Culture

By WSN Editorial Board

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Fraternities have been a staple on college campuses for centuries, but in recent years, incidents of hazing, sexual misconduct and violence have come to light, raising questions about the ethical standards of Greek Life. In January, Cornell University’s Zeta Beta Tau Fraternity was put on probation for two years as punishment for a hazing competition held in 2017 in which brothers competed to have sex with the most women. At NYU, Pi Kappa Alpha and Phi Gamma Delta Fraternities were suspended for five and six years respectively in November 2017 for hazing, but the specifics were withheld from the public. In many cases, fraternity culture has proven to be problematic, yet the consequences have been inadequate in addressing the offensive and damaging behavior perpetuated by fraternities across the country. Additionally, NYU’s lack of transparency regarding indiscretions of sororities and fraternities on campus only worsens the situation and prevents a necessary dialogue on the need to reassess fraternity culture.

Members of Cornell’s ZBT chapter would compete to have sex with the most women, in the event of a tie, whoever had sex with the heaviest woman would win, thus leading to the nickname, pig roast. In January, the Fraternity and Sorority Review Board concluded that Cornell’s ZBT chapter had violated the university’s no-tolerance policy for both hazing and sexually abusive behavior. However, for a no-tolerance policy, the probation of two years seems to be a light sentence; no tolerance would suggest that chapter of the frat be permanently banned from the university — several of NYU’s suspended fraternities and sororities are not eligible to return in five to seven years due to hazing violations. Max Kaplan, the president of NYU’s ZBT chapter advocated for harsher punishment for the frat than was actually enforced by the university. “[Cornell’s ZBT chapter] should have been punished a whole lot harder. They should have been removed from campus,” Kaplan said.

It is easy to point fingers at the Cornell brothers. However, the fact that two NYU fraternities, Phi Gamma Delta and Pi Kappa Alpha, and a sorority, Omega Phi Beta, were suspended last November for hazing, is a clear indicator that toxic frat culture is a problem at NYU too. NYU does not divulge the details of the hazing incidents that occured until the cases are closed, however, the NYU community has been given little to no information on the status of these investigations. NYU students are left to wonder what exactly members of these fraternities did. Cornell has a public log of hazing incidents, with specific details of each incident, as well as the disciplinary action the university will take. NYU has no such log, only a public list of suspended organizations with only vague reasons for their suspensions. If NYU created a similar log, it’s hard to imagine the effect would be anything other than increased accountability. However, transparency is not enough. Without supervision and stricter rules, fraternities are given a lease to do as they wish, as long as they don’t get caught. NYU needs to take greater responsibility for its students; it needs to foment transparency and enforce a stricter policy in regard to fraternities. NYU needs to demonstrate that it is dealing seriously with an issue that has often been swept under the rug.

Fraternities are supposed to represent values of charity, maturity and leadership, none of which are displayed by continuous suspensions for hazing, by NYU or other schools. A stringently enforced system of punishment as well as more transparency is necessary in order to rein in the toxic fraternity culture that created the pig roast, rather than putting a Band-Aid on the problem by cyclically suspending frats and then letting them back in a few years later.

Correction, Feb. 20: A previous version of this article mislabeled Omega Phi Beta as a fraternity. Also WSN did not specify that the ZBT chapter being referenced in the second paragraph was that of Cornell University. WSN has also learned since publishing the article that information on Phi Gamma Delta and Pi Kappa Alpha was not made public because the investigations are still ongoing. The article has been updated to reflect this update.

Email the WSN Editorial Board at [email protected]

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