April 1, 2013

EDITORIAL: Eliminating Hazing Beyond the Greek System

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Last week, the University Assembly passed a resolution that would require the University to disclose to the public when a campus organization is found to have violated the Campus Code of Conduct. We commend the administration’s recent efforts to better inform students about the campus judicial process. Particularly as we strive to eliminate hazing, the Cornell community can benefit from knowing when all student organizations — Greek and non-Greek — are found guilty of misconduct. Still, communication alone will not suffice to change the hazing culture at Cornell. Just as Cornell has begun to apply harsher penalties to Greek chapters that practice hazing, it must do the same for all student groups around the University.

President David Skorton should not hesitate to sign Resolution 5 into effect. The policy will increase the community’s awareness of campus organizations that fail to adhere to the standards of behavior expected at Cornell. Students have a right to information about groups that are funded by the Student Activities Fee, to which every Cornell student is obligated to contribute annually. Perhaps most importantly, it also eradicates an arbitrary distinction between Greek chapters and other campus groups: New Greek rules approved last semester established a disclosure requirement specifically for fraternities and sororities. Hazing is not a Greek problem alone, and differentiating between Greek and non-Greek groups fails to address the full extent of hazing at Cornell.

Nonetheless, although the U.A.’s resolution is a step in the right direction, it seems like a small one. Of about 900 misconduct cases that reach the Judicial Administrator’s office each year, only three to five involve student groups, according to J.A. Mary Beth Grant J.D. ’88. Cornell has nearly 1,000 organizations registered with the Student Activities Office, but there are undoubtedly more than five occurrences of group-related misconduct each year. An increase in transparency will only be an effective deterrent if it is accompanied by more serious enforcement of the Code of Conduct.

If President Skorton approves Resolution 5, we look forward to seeing whether it will successfully incentivize student groups to cease harmful practices including hazing. The policy will educate students about the character of the organizations they choose to join — which may in turn encourage those groups to shun dangerous behavior. In the meantime, we hope Cornell will pursue additional avenues aimed at identifying and addressing an issue that — despite often being exclusively associated with Greek life — continues to persist University-wide.