November 12, 2001

IFC Conducts Summit on Anti-Hazing

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As part of its ongoing mission to end hazing and improve new member programs in fraternities, the Interfraternity Council held a Hazing Summit for fraternity leaders on Saturday in the Multipurpose Room of the Noyes Community Center.

The purpose of the summit, according to Brian Strahine ’01, president of the Interfraternity Council, was to educate fraternity leaders about what constitutes hazing, why it is ineffective in building brotherhood, and ideas for implementing safe and effective new member programs.

“I want chapter members to understand that hazing is not the answer to a successful membership,” Strahine said.

In his opening remarks, Richard Goldman ’03, vice president of communications for the Interfraternity Council, stressed that hazing is not consistent with the values around which fraternities are organized.

“We associate our houses with words like honor, brotherhood, gentlemen, conduct, leader, philanthropy, truth, friends for life. What does being a leader have to do with throwing food at pledges? What kind of truth is there when houses close their curtains to hide their actions?” Goldman stated.

The summit was moderated by Dr. Joel Fish, director of the Center for Sports Psychology in Philadelphia. Fish defined hazing as “any behavior that is physically, emotionally, or psychologically abusive to an individual, or selected group of individuals, for the purpose of gaining entrance or acceptance into an established group.”

Fish explained that some fraternities and sports teams haze their new members as a rite of passage or tradition. He then added that hazing is the worst method of achieving brotherhood or team unity.

“If we are going to build healthy teams, we have to respect individual differences,” Fish said.

In explaining this point to the fraternity leaders, Fish showed the audience pictures of abstract objects and asked random people what they saw. Each person he asked saw a different person, animal, place or object. This showed the audience that an activity one person views as acceptable can be considered objectionable by others.

As an example of extreme hazing, Fish showed an interview with an advisor at the University of Vermont. In the interview, the advisor explained the activities to which new members of their hockey team were subjected. One such activity included having all of the new members undress, stand in a single file line, and hold the genitals of the person in front of them. Another activity forced new members to eat pies containing raw fish until they vomited.

In addition, Fish asserted that fraternities that haze their new members develop a reputation, which can result in a decline in membership and a decrease in alumni support.

“Reputation can be either your best friend or a ball and chain which you must carry,” Fish said.

Following Fish’s portion of the program, fraternity members were placed in small discussion groups to brainstorm goals for new member programs and possible ways for achieving them.

Adam Raiken ’02, a member of the Kappa Sigma fraternity, suggested that fraternities organize their new member programs around the mission of the fraternity. In order to do this, fraternity leaders, as well as members, must have an understanding of the history and evolution of their chapter.

“Many fraternities may feel they have a lot of distance between themselves and the founding fathers and find it difficult to relate to their original goals. If houses were to stress their goals and build their activities around them, they would have a constructive new member program,” Raiken said.

Thomas Aichele ’02, President of the Phi Kappa Tau fraternity suggested awarding houses that propose and implement progressive new member programs. He also explained that his fraternity, which was officially chartered at Cornell last month, plans to utilize some of the activities facilitated by Cornell Outdoor Education, such as the high ropes course, snowshoeing, rock climbing and kayaking for its new member program in the spring. This initiative was praised by Jeff Lewis, leadership consultant for Phi Kappa Tau.

Claudio Gualtieri ’03, a member of the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity, explained why fraternities sometimes do not use effective new member programs and see hazing as their only option.

“The definition of hazing is so broad that people don’t know what hazing really is, and they can’t be creative in their new member programs,” Gualtieri said.

“There are two sides to every corner,” Lewis added. “What one person sees as hazing will seem perfectly fine to another.”

At the conclusion of the summit, the Fraternity and Sorority Advisory Council commended the Interfraternity Council for its dedication to ending hazing and improving new member programs.

“We are ahead of the problem. We have seen the problems at other campuses, such as Colgate, Wesleyan, Hamilton and now Dartmouth. At Cornell, we have self-governance and the ability to choose what we condone, what we want to change, and the will to implement that change,” said Anthony Cashen ’57, chair of the Fraternity and Sorority Advisory Council.

Archived article by Seth Harris