May 3, 2017

LETTER TO THE EDITOR | Cayuga’s Waiters Alumni respond to hazing allegations against on-campus group

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To the Editor:

On April 25, Cornell released its findings on allegations of hazing by members of Cayuga’s Waiters, Cornell’s oldest all-male a cappella group. The 321-member Waiter alumni community are appalled by the incidents described in the findings. Until these allegations were leveled, hazing was never part of Cayuga’s Waiters culture. Waiter alumni stand with Cornell in condemning hazing unequivocally.

Neither the on-campus group nor alumni dispute the finding that former members introduced hazing to Cayuga’s Waiters. In fact, any alumni member implicated in hazing has been expelled from the group and any alumni activities permanently.

The findings, however, tell only part of the story. Over a number of years, group members reached out to Cornell leaders directly through its official hazing reporting channels for help in changing group culture. Those requests went unanswered. Also, it’s important to remember that Waiters who were referred to the Office of the Judicial Administrator for discipline had themselves been the victims of hazing. Nonetheless, they were working in good faith with Waiters alumni and Cornell to turn around the group’s culture per the University Hearing Board’s initial sanction. Alumni were also petitioning Judicial Administrator Michelle Horvath, Interim President Hunter Rawlings III, and other administration leaders to work with Waiter alumni on a plan that would have allowed Cayuga’s Waiters to continue as an institution, with the active involvement and supervision of alumni under new governance documents and structures, and after a multi-year suspension. The proposed sanction is more severe than the one recommended by the UHB, but more forward-looking than the dismissal ordered by the University Review Board and endorsed by Interim President Rawlings.

Nonetheless, Waiter alumni stand by our hope to work with Cornell to raise awareness of the damage hazing can do to students and the Cornell community. We also hope to continue performing at Cornell Reunions, for alumni groups, and the general public. A short documentary titled “Old Men Singing” about alumni Waiters from the 1950s who perform every year at Reunions was released recently. It is an intimate look at the varied, deeply personal experiences that have been the true hallmark of the Cayuga’s Waiters experience at Cornell and thereafter.

Each Cayuga’s Waiters alumnus wants to thank the countless fans from across the decades for their encouragement and support during this difficult time. The main reason Cayuga’s Waiters exists is to celebrate the Cornell experience in song, and to make people happy along the way. While we hold out hope this is not how the song ends for Cayuga’s Waiters, we would like music, fun, and pride in the shared Cornell experience to be our lasting legacy.

 Nat Comisar ’81, on behalf of Cayuga’s Waiters Alumni Advisory Board

9 thoughts on “LETTER TO THE EDITOR | Cayuga’s Waiters Alumni respond to hazing allegations against on-campus group

  1. Sooooooo are you going to try to get the Waiters back on campus?

    My birthday’s coming up, and my birthday last year was probs the best moment of my life when they sang for me……..<3

  2. “Over a number of years, group members reached out to Cornell leaders directly through its official hazing reporting channels for help in changing group culture. Those requests went unanswered.”

    The unintended consequence of Cornell disbanding Cayuga’s Waiters is that it will discourage members of other groups from reporting hazing. People will see this and realize that if they report hazing, it may lead directly to their group being destroyed by Cornell.

  3. Cornell JA’s war on hazing pretty much resonates the mantra of America’s war on drugs – kick them out or lock them up and that will solve the problem.

  4. I’m well aware of the terrible consequences of extreme hazing. It is a tragedy that it’s gotten to the point where the norm has shifted so far that most institutions (fraternity, athletic, A Capella groups (still funny to me)) have serious hazing issues that need to be addressed. That being said, it wasn’t always this way. While it’s not PC to address, the fact is, our young folks are going to miss out on a lot of character building that comes through “hazing”. Am I talking about butt chugging beers? Icy hot on the nuts? No, I am not. I am, however, talking about the lower grade stuff that was present during the 80s-90s at CU. It taught a lot of us how to trust our peers and formed bonds that stand to this day. I digress as I know this is an untenable argument based upon what has happened over the last 10 years across the country. There is no reset button.

    That all being said, the waiters are being less than honest with this response. Hazing as defined by the university was absolutely present until at least 2003 in their organization (that I know about). You guys were initiating people with alcohol at Blair street around that time so whatever, your alums aren’t helping themselves by playing the innocent card. Unless everyone can own their part of this and move forward you won’t get past it. College men “haze” each other, fact. It’s unacceptable how far its come. Still, the fact of “hazing” being a part of growing up is not going to change. The Hill has been dead wrong about all of this and continued to throw babies out with their bathwater. Tossing a fraternity, sports team or A Capella group (still hilarious) off campus will not change human nature.

    • Hate these anynomous names…(A Carumba, et al.)….that said, sorry to learn that Cornell U still is plagued with ridiculous practices of hazing… Glad I departed and worked in Africa for several years, then attended an “adult” university (Universite de Geneve, 1966-’68) to finish my degree… (ILR ’64)

  5. Totally agree that hazing is human nature and it’s absolutely unacceptable that it’s gotten too out of hand and gone too far. What strikes me is that Cornell leadership hasn’t recognized that it’s part of human nature and work closely with student groups to not let it reach that unacceptable level.

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