September 22, 2022

KEMPFF | Professional Orgs Haze Too 

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I first saw the cult at 1 a.m. I’d come back to Warren Hall to find my missing wallet when I saw them. In the hallways of Warren were throngs of suit-clad students, milling about the classrooms in frantic conversation. They were in various states of exhaustion, and most seemed just to want to go home. 

“What are you guys doing here?” I inquired. “Business club recruiting,” the suit told me before he quickly hurried off to whatever cult assignment came next. 

A great deal of attention has been paid to fraternity hazing, but there’s a topic that’s often been coyly avoided: professional club hazing. From the intense recruitment process to the borderline harassment which new members often face, there are many signs that there’s a problem in the business and professional club world. 

It’s become blatant, pointed out by campus humor publications and observed by most students. Yet, a decisive lack of University oversight has allowed a toxic culture to spill out of hand. It’s time for the University to step in and enforce some measure of oversight on these students.

Unlike fraternities and sororities, which are under strict recruitment rules, professional organizations appear to have free rein. An apparent patchwork of passed-down procedures and a need to cut down a sheer backlog of applicants forces the organizations to come up with ways to shorten the list. They can be invasive and intense, following the “pressure test” philosophy. Unsuspecting students can be grilled and feel inadequate for a lack of finance knowledge. Isn’t that why they are applying to the club?

The hazing really begins, however, once new member education starts. Again, unlike the fraternity and sororities, these professional organizations operate with a disturbing amount of autonomy.

The process often includes consecutive nightly events where new members are required to stay up well past midnight. These new members often have the grit to withstand verbal abuse. They stay for a shangri-la of professional connections and a new skill set to advance their career. The problem, of course, is that they then perpetuate the same cycle to a new class of recruits. 

There are darker influences in this community as well. Business organizations often host social events, many of them with a heavy drinking influence. Unlike fraternities and sororities, which follow strict event registration rules, these clubs operate as they choose. I’ve personally witnessed binge drinking and unsafe conditions at the hands of these organizations.

So why has this been allowed to persist? There have been countless articles written in The Sun about this very topic. Yet, it continues. You see a group of suit-wearing students, arriving exhausted at RPCC at 2 a.m, and you smile and laugh. This hazing has been normalized across campus. It really should not be. 

The principle behind these clubs is noble. Students want to pass on what they’ve learned and help other students succeed. But the lack of oversight on these organizations has allowed them unusual power in students’ lives.

So, what can Cornell do? It’s not unreasonable to think that there should be some regulations like what social fraternities and sororities are subjected to. It’s essential that the University guarantees some accountability from these groups.

Not all professional organizations participate in this behavior. Yet, it’s widespread enough and heinous enough that it’s time for a change. I’m calling on the cults to make a change.

Brendan Kempff is a senior in the Hotel School. He can be reached at [email protected]. Slope Side runs every other Thursday this semester.