This article has been updated to include a statement from the University.
Cornell admitted that it “mischaracterized” its findings after the Zeta Beta Tau fraternity challenged the University’s claim that the fraternity’s chapter at Cornell held a “pig roast” contest in which “new members could accumulate ‘points’ by engaging in sexual intercourse with women.”
Zeta Beta Tau, which says it is the largest Jewish fraternity in the country, conducted an internal investigation and found that Cornell made its claims based on “incomplete information” and that there was no evidence the contest occurred, ZBT spokesperson Risa Morris said in a statement.
The fraternity hired a third-party investigator to look into Cornell’s claims and, during the investigation, “it became evident that the University’s decision was based upon incomplete information,” Morris said.
Cornell updated a statement on its hazing website, but maintains that the Fraternity and Sorority Chapter Review Board found that it was “‘more likely than not’ that the allegation occurred.” The allegation referenced is that someone associated with the chapter encouraged new members to participate in the contest.
The Review Board however did not find that any individual associated with the chapter “had in fact acted on such encouragement” or that the contest had “actually occurred,” the hazing website now reads.
Cornell said the review board considered evidence that included two non-anonymous reports.
The statement now includes an acknowledgement that “an earlier version of this statement, posted in February 2018, mischaracterized the findings of the Review Board, including the role of the chapter, and lacked context for the sanctions imposed by the University.”
Cornell has not changed the sanctions it imposed on the chapter, as it remains on probation.
Cornell earlier this year placed ZBT on probationary recognition for two years and required members to undergo a review by the national organization. Members also had to participate in sexual assault awareness and bystander intervention programs.
Morris said that after the national fraternity discussed its findings with Cornell, the University and the fraternity agreed that the University’s original statement “misrepresented” the findings.
“The University did not find any evidence that the alleged ‘contest’ had occurred and issued a revised statement on its website,” Morris said in the statement.
John Carberry, a spokesperson for the University, told The Sun late Sunday night that the University had conducted a review of both its findings and the statement after the sanctions had been imposed. This review determined that the language of the statement “mischaracterized” the results but that the actual findings were still deemed to be appropriate.
“While that review did conclude that some of the statement language mischaracterized the findings of the Review Board, resulting in an updated statement being posted to that site on July 9, that same review concluded the findings, recommendations and the sanctions imposed by the university as a result of the Review Board’s recommendation were appropriate,” he wrote in an email.
“We stand by our rejection of any behavior that degrades and dehumanizes women and contributes to a culture of tolerance for sexual violence, and we will continue to pursue reforms to Greek letter organizations at Cornell outlined in the initiative launched by President Martha Pollack this spring,” he continued. “We also will continue to work with the local and national leaders of ZBT to support their repeated public pledge to demonstrate that this type behavior will never be tolerated again.”
ZBT declined to provide a copy of its report to The Sun or release any information other than its statement summarizing its report. The president of the Cornell chapter of Zeta Beta Tau, Adam Fuhrman ’20, said the email from the national organization “speaks for itself.”
Paul Russell ’19, president of the Interfraternity Council and a columnist for The Sun, said that “regardless of the findings about these allegations, the IFC will continue to explore new ways to do our part in addressing the widespread objectification of women in various communities on campus.”
Morris said ZBT’s national office was “pleased” that Cornell did not find evidence that the alleged contest took place, and said it “takes all allegations of misconduct very seriously and has a number of programs designed to educate our members on this important topic.”
“We will continue to enhance our efforts in helping our men understand the essentials of a healthy relationship while never tolerating the mistreatment of any brother or guest within our chapters,” she said.