December 7, 2001

Code of Conduct Now Places Ban on Hazing

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The campus code of conduct now officially bans hazing.

The University Assembly voted on Wednesday during their regular meeting in the Straight’s International Lounge to add a broader definition of hazing practices by campus organizations, more specifically campus fraternities and sororities, to the University code of conduct.

Instead of being governed by individual groups, this definition will encompass every campus organization and allow organizations with similar bans in place, the ability to work with the University in recognizing and understanding the problem.

“The fact of the matter is that New York State prohibits hazing. Many fraternities and sororities already have laws banning it. What was missing was specific language in the code of conduct,” said Prof. Donald Tobias, city and regional planning who is the president of the University Assembly. “We spent a lot of time [discussing the issue]. This language in the bill is an attempt to surface community discussion.”

Tobias said he hopes that through more formal legislation, the University can add more support against hazing and change the community’s view of the sometimes dangerous practice.

“What I hope is that many members of the Greek system and other organizations take this [issue] very seriously and then monitor the behaviors of their organization,” Tobias said.

Cornell, similar to hundreds of colleges across the country that allow a Greek system, also deals with the problem of hazing at the hands of fraternity and sorority brothers and sisters wanting to induct new members into their houses, typically during pledge season which can begin early after winter break and end around spring break, according to the office of fraternity and sorority affairs Website.

Although the resolution includes any organization, Tobias notes that hazing in the Greek system is a more prevalent problem. “No one wanted to come across being against the Greek system. If any conduct is having a negative effect on students,” Tobias said.

This problem led to the University creating the University Wide Anti-Hazing Task Force which consisted of both students and faculty last February to investigate the problem of hazing on campus.

According to Tobias, once the task force finished their proposal they forwarded their findings to the Cornell Judiciary Committee (CJC) who found the issue important enough to bring it to the University Assembly’s attention. “They took the recommendation to add it to the campus code of conduct and brought it to us,” he said.

Although the fact that many fraternities and sororities already had anti-hazing laws, the addition to the code of conduct did not come easily. The Assembly rejected proposals from the CJC twice earlier before passing this one. Tobias notes that they wanted the law to be as clear as possible without defining a “laundry list” of activities that which students could not engage.

“There was concern that the language be as explicit as possible around such issues, as mental distress. The CJC took that information back with them and submitted a second proposal which was consequently not approved,” Tobias said. “There were concerns about to what degree the entire Cornell community had the chance to [give input.]”

Due to the makeup on the Assembly — six undergraduates along with three graduate/professional students, five employees, seven faculty and three administrators — they were the right campus governing body to decide on the measure. Undergraduate members involved in the process had asked for a public forum but do to the often pubic nature of the issue, the referendum was denied.

Tobias feels that this public airing of the hazing issue may allow the community to change its opinion. “I think that the recommendation of the hazing committee was to get this type of discussion going and start to talk about community standards,” he said noting that some members used the change in community thought regarding drunk driving as an example.

Campus fraternities and sororities and organizations that are involved in their well being are also appreciative that the University is showing its support for an issue that they have been dealing with individually for years. “I’m really glad that the University is paying attention to this problem, ” said Rebecca Walker ’02, the president of the Cornell Panhellenic Association which oversees 13 campus sororities. “While I don’t think it is the largest problem in the sororities, it’s something that we deal with. I don’t think that we are immune to it.”

Walker stated that all campus sororities and fraternities begin the pledging process by signing an anti-hazing statement bringing the issue in their minds from the beginning. Throughout the process, every act that does take place, Walker notes, is taken very seriously. “You have to put yourself in the shoes [of the one whose being hazed],” Walker said.

She finds that hopefully this will allow her to work with the University more closely. “You can’t do it alone,” she said.

“For me, the change in the code represents acknowledgement by the University community that hazing is unacceptable. I am impressed with the way in which Greek student leaders are confronting the problem,” said Associate Dean of Students for fraternity and sorority affairs, Suzy Nelson.

Nelson believes that the additional mentions in the code of conduct should allow more in the University to examine their conduct and see if it falls into unacceptable behavior.

“This is not only a Greek problem, but a community problem. For that reason, Cornell should have a statement in the code of conduct that indicates hazing is wrong,” she said.

Archived article by Carlos Perkins