After Cornell revoked its recognition of the Tau Epsilon Phi fraternity this month in the wake of alcohol-related hazing allegations, a University official stressed the need to take advantage of Cornell’s medical amnesty policy in emergency situations.
In October 2012, two of the fraternity’s pledges were hospitalized after members of the fraternity called for emergency services in relation to an alcohol-related hazing incident. Though the medical amnesty policy protects organizations and individuals from judicial consequences if they call 911 in an emergency medical situation involving alcohol or drugs, it does not apply to instances of hazing, according to Travis Apgar, associate dean of students for fraternity and sorority affairs.
Apgar said that, while TEP called for emergency medical help after the October incident, its loss of recognition was not related to alcohol consumption, but rather to reports of hazing at the incident that surfaced several days later, as well as a history of similar violations.
“The reason we have to close [the fraternity] is that they hazed their new members. They put their new members’ lives at risk,” Apgar said. “Furthermore, this is an organization in particular that has a history of hazing, a history of alcohol-related violations … Even if we were to have applied amnesty in this case, we would have ended up with this same result.”
But one TEP brother –– who spoke to The Sun on the condition of anonymity –– stressed the disbanded chapter’s commitment to seeking medical help in emergencies no matter the potential disciplinary consequences.
“From my perspective, there shouldn’t be any disincentive for calling 911, within or outside the Greek system,” he said. “I can say definitively that there's never been a doubt in any TEP brother's mind that you should always call 911.”
Still, the brother said he feels student safety could be improved if the University’s policy were to cover all medical emergencies, including those related to hazing.
“There’s no way of ignoring the fact that there is still pledging and hazing … Even when there is this culture change, there should still be this idea that the human life is of the utmost importance and there just shouldn’t be any reason not to call,” he said.
But Apgar said the incident alone did not result in TEP’s loss of recognition. The decision to remove the fraternity from campus was reached after the University received first- and second-hand reports, complaints filed online and police reports indicating that hazing had occurred.
“[The allegations of hazing] would have come to us one way or another,” Apgar said.
Despite the lack of applicability of amnesty, Apgar applauded TEP’s decision to call for assistance, stressing that its call for help was not the reason the fraternity’s recognition was revoked.
“They absolutely made the right choice...The reality is that there are no judicial consequences that are worse than risking somebody’s life,” he said.
Former Interfraternity Council President Chris Sanders ’13, who has worked during his tenure to promote the University’s medical amnesty, underscored the hope that even if the policy does not always apply to certain situations, fraternity members will still prioritize others’ well-being and call for assistance, no matter the disciplinary risks.
Sanders said that a major, student-driven shift is necessary if Greek culture is to remain relevant on campus Of those organizations that continue to engage in alcohol-related and other hazing,
“People have the audacity to continue to haze with hard alcohol or alcohol in general. There needs to be a change. We can’t just idly stand around and say it’s bad administration policy,” Sanders said. “People need to make a conscious decision to be healthy and safe.”
The TEP brother said he felt the University's efforts to promote medical amnesty to fraternity houses and other organizations have made the policy seem more inclusive than it is.
"It felt like it was a clear-cut thing. I think that's why everyone was so excited,” he said. “[We thought] if there ever is an instance where someone is sick, you can always call without fear for yourself or your organization."
The TEP brother said he believes Cornellians involved in Greek life should not be "afraid” of administrators, but rather should aim to work collaboratively with them.
He also emphasized that TEP’s punishment does not represent a solution to the problems of the Greek system on campus.
"It's really unfortunate that the University continues to act reactionary and [thinks] that this won't happen again,” he said.
Correction: A previous version of this article stated that Chris Sanders '13 is the president of the Interfraternity Council. In fact, Sanders is the former IFC president.