The national Zeta Beta Tau (ZBT) fraternity put its foot down against hazing by revoking the charter of Cornell’s chapter last semester. However, the new leadership of Cornell’s chapter is currently working on reorganizing, recruiting new members and regaining their charter.
According to Michael Cimini ’92, a member of ZBT’s National’s Supreme Council and a Cornell chapter trustee, ZBT is a non-pledging fraternity and avoids hazing by not having a two-tiered membership consisting of brothers and pledges. Last spring, the fraternity was caught forcing its new members to partake in “demeaning” pledging activities, such as waiter duties and house clean-ups, Cimini said.
The chapter admitted to this, Cimini explained, and was ordered by the national fraternity to cease all pledging activities. However, several brothers continued some of their pledge programs and the national fraternity expelled all of the current members.
Most of the brothers appealed their expulsions and were reinstated when it was found that they were not directly involved in the pledging activities. These members are considered by the national fraternity to be a colony. This means that the members are in the organizational stage of creating a fraternity. They must successfully recruit more members and show that they are committed to a safe, non-pledging environment before they can earn their charter again, according to Cimini.
“It is our hope that fraternities of the twenty-first century would be smart enough to move away from destructive hazing activities which do not promote unity or brotherhood in any meaningful way,” Cimini said.
The president of the ZBT colony would not comment on the number of brothers involved with the fraternity last semester and the number who have since won their appeal or expressed interest in joining the house.
A phone number for ZBT’s former president could not be obtained before publication.
New leaders of Cornell’s chapter see their charter’s revocation as a wake-up call and a warning to those who take part in such activities.
“We were not conforming to [the national’s] standards. … Now, I believe we are back on the course in terms of what the school wants and what nationals want,” said Brian West ’03, vice president of the ZBT fraternity.
“Given everything continues to go as it is going now, and as [the nationals] want, we will be a chapter again by next [academic] year,” said Robb Stokar ’03, vice president of the ZBT fraternity.
When asked if there is something that can be learned from this situation, Stokar said, “Don’t [mess] with nationals. They mean business.”
Members of Cornell’s Interfraternity Council are now taking a strong stand against hazing. On November 10, it will host an anti-hazing summit and will invite the executive director, alumni president and chapter president from each of the 44 chapters at Cornell.
“I recognize that many Cornell students must engage in dehumanizing and degrading acts of behavior in order to obtain Greek membership. This behavior is not consistent with the values and standards that our founding fathers had and I am committed to breaking down the hazing walls so that each member will benefit from a genuine Greek experience,” said Brian Strahine ’01, president of the Interfraternity Council and a member of the Delta Upsilon fraternity.
According to Judicial Administrator Mary E. Grant, hazing is most commonly a violation of Title II of the Campus Code of Conduct: Regulations For the Maintenance of the Educational Environment. Common educational sanctions recommended by Grant for students found to be hazing their new members are community service, alcohol and drug education, a letter of apology and a disciplinary record.
Last year, Susan H. Murphy ’73, vice president for student and academic services, commissioned a task force on hazing and will make a recommendation to the University on how to deter it. The commission is set to issue its report this fall.
The Cornell administration is optimistic that this report, complemented by the efforts of the Interfraternity Council, will reduce hazing and improve new member recruitment.
“I am very proud of the work that [the Interfraternity Council] has done in speaking out against hazing in our community. I know that Brian [Strahine] has made this a top priority for his term, and as a result, I am confident that we will see the quality of the new member period improve,” said Suzy M. Nelson, associate dean of students for Fraternity and Sorority Affairs.
Archived article by Seth Harris