Last week, the Recruitment, Acceptance, Retention and Education committee — which President David Skorton charged with transforming pledging in the Greek system — released a set of recommendations that will be discussed and voted on in the coming months. There is little doubt that the recommendations put forward by the committee would completely alter not only the pledging process, but also the Greek system as we know it.
The recommendations would no doubt make the Greek system safer. They add an enormous amount of oversight and many of the recommendations put forward by the committee would prevent problems before they happen, not simply punish chapters for mistakes that have already occurred. Specifically, the changes recommended by the committee include adding live-in advisors for fraternities that are defined as “at-risk;” creating a minimum GPA requirement and a suspension process for chapters or members below the minimum; involving chapter alumni in risk auditing; and advisory groups for each chapter and further shortening the new member education period.
With more oversight, perhaps Cornell can prevent the widespread hazing practices that currently occur on campus. According to President Skorton, over 60 percent of fraternities at Cornell have hazed their members in the last decade. While some members of fraternities argue that the process creates a sense of unity and respect for the organization, we feel that the negative aspects of hazing outweigh any of the benefits and that hazing should have no place at Cornell. Extreme cases of hazing have been known to lead to serious injury and death, but even minor forms can have serious consequences, including depression, stress-related illness and decreased academic performance.
Skorton’s charge and the deliberations that have gone into this plan are necessary for maintaining the overall health and wellbeing of the Cornell community. However, the committee should consider revising the policies to have reforms come from the chapters themselves to a greater extent. Skorton has said that his charge to change pledging as we know it would be executed by the members of the Greek system themselves. However, under this plan, it is not the chapters that are changing their behavior; instead, this process is largely controlled and driven by external actors, including live-in advisors and chapter alumni. If reforms come from within, there will be more support from the individual chapters which will give the policies legitimacy and make them more successful.
The recommendations put forward by the committee are an important step toward fixing the problems that have been prevalent within the Greek system. We hope that the Greek system will be able to accept the challenge to eliminate hazing, and that Cornell will not have to rely as much on strict external oversight to compel chapters to change their behavior.