The Tau Epsilon Phi fraternity will no longer be recognized by Cornell after two of the fraternity’s pledges were hospitalized in a “mentally scarring,” “sexually humiliating” hazing incident, a University official said Wednesday.
The pledges were hospitalized after an alcohol-related hazing incident in October, according to Cornell. Unless an appeal overturns the decision, TEP’s recognition will be revoked for a minimum of four years.
The pledges were placed in “really humiliating, sexually humiliating kinds of activities,” said Travis Apgar, associate dean of students for fraternity and sorority affairs.
“There was one activity where the only thing [the pledges] were wearing was underwear, and it’d be ripped off,” Apgar said. “It’s pretty strange on one hand, and pretty serious and mentally scarring on the other.”
Apgar said the decision to revoke TEP’s recognition was clear.
“These are incredibly intelligent young men, how would they not see that there are better ways to build brotherhood and trust?” Apgar said. “Things that are physically or mentally harmful, especially so egregious as this, we cannot and will not tolerate on our campus.”
Representatives from TEP rejected multiple requests for comment.
The announcement follows President David Skorton’s condemnation of the hazing process and a highly publicized effort to eradicate it at Cornell. In a 2011 op-ed in The New York Times, Skorton said “national fraternities and sororities should end pledging across all campuses; Cornell students can help lead the way.”
Following the February 2011 death of Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity brother George Desdunes ’13 after a pledging event, Cornell Greek life faces a series of changes as the University adopts policies to end hazing.
“We’re under a little more scrutiny right now with everything that’s going on: preserving the Greek system in general, preserving safety,” said Alan Workman ’13, executive vice president of the Interfraternity Council.
Still, without dismissing the new emphasis on eliminating hazing, Apgar said the University would have probably kicked TEP off campus even before the recent push.
“It’s hard to speculate … but I would like to believe if we had this in front of us five years ago we would’ve made the same decision,” Apgar said.
Cornell’s punishment raises concerns about the its medical amnesty policy, since the fraternity called for emergency medical help for the pledges. Apgar said that though illegal alcohol consumption is protected by medical amnesty, hazing is not.
Apgar added that the hazing reported to have occurred at TEP is not widespread throughout Cornell’s Greek system.
“People want to generalize this to the rest of the community, but I think that’s unfortunate … there are a lot of fraternities and sororities working very hard to let people in through legitimate activities,” Apgar said. “This is not happening in every Greek organization.”
Though the fraternity may choose to appeal the University’s decision within the next two days, its loss of recognition at Cornell makes the chapter unable to recruit new members, among other lost recognition privileges.
Original Author: Lianne Bornfeld