Nearly two years after the death of Antonio Tsialas ’23, hundreds of Cornell students participated in a week of anti-hazing events renamed after him.
While Greek life organizations make up the majority of Cornell student organizations that have been charged by the University with hazing in recent years, all students on campus were encouraged to participate in last week’s events.
According to Kara Miller, Director of Sorority and Fraternity Life, National Hazing Prevention Week aims to increase student knowledge about hazing awareness and inspire people to speak out about hazing.
Tsialas was an 18 year-old first-year student studying economics and math who loved to play soccer and spend time with friends and family. He was found dead in Fall Creek Gorge in October 2019 after a dirty rush event at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity, which has had its recognition indefinitely revoked.
“The loss of Antonio was a tragedy within and outside of our campus community,” Miller wrote. “It is our hope that by honoring his memory through efforts to raise awareness and education about hazing, we can help make a significant change in our Cornell community so other families do not experience the loss that Antonio’s family has suffered.”
The Student Code of Conduct defines hazing as an act in which the condition or initiation, recruitment, admission or membership of a group puts participants at risk of any kind of harm. This can include the consumption of alcohol or drugs, unpalatable substances, illegal actions and menial tasks.
Last week, Cornell students were encouraged by the University to sign an anti-hazing pledge created by a national anti-hazing organization, in which they promised to work to prevent, stop and report hazing, as well as empower others to do the same. The pledge also includes recognition of the harm that hazing causes, condemnation of hazing of all kinds, advocating for hazing prevention and admonishment of those who facilitate hazing.
“No student should ever have to face physical or emotional harm for the sake of joining an organization that is supposed to stand for brotherhood or sisterhood,” Ashley Acosta ’22, president of the Multicultural Greek and Fraternal Council, said in a University press release.
Cornell encouraged students to participate in anti-hazing event options within their own organizations, which included watching and discussing films, reading and talking about hazing-related articles, listening to and conversing about hazing-related podcast episodes and other educational activities.
According to the Student Code of Conduct, students convicted of hazing face possible sanctions including community service, fines, educational steps, suspension and expulsion, depending on factors including the severity, impact and context of their actions as well as any previous disciplinary history. Student organizations face similar possible penalties.
One of the week’s events included a message-writing campaign on stickers placed on signs on the Arts Quad on Friday. More than 300 students participated, writing reasons why they condemned hazing.
Miller acknowledged that students joining organizations on campus this year may be particularly vulnerable to hazing after the isolation of remote learning, and encouraged organizations to treat new students safely.
“Students’ need for social belonging, connection, and friendships may be especially heightened this year after a prolonged period in which many have felt lonely, isolated, or disconnected,” Miller wrote. “It’s important that the increased desire for meaningful connection with others be supported and not be exploited.”
Students who want to learn how to prevent hazing can participate in How to Recognize and Respond to Hazing, a training made by the Skorton Center for Health Initiatives at Cornell Health. If students are aware of hazing activities that they want to report, they can contact the University by phone call or online hazing reporting form.
“If you suspect or learn that someone you know is experiencing hazing or uncomfortable pressures or challenges related to joining a group, team, or organization, you can help them by being supportive,” Miller wrote. “You can talk with the person you’re concerned about directly and share that you care about them and are concerned. You can also encourage the person to report hazing or you can make a report yourself.”
According to Miller, Cornell’s anti-hazing events this fall are not over yet –– there will be an anti-hazing keynote presentation on Nov. 8 at 7 p.m. in Statler Auditorium.