The following reflects the majority opinion of the editorial board
When Miami students, parents and faculty members received an email last week from university President Gregory Crawford that addressed what he called “a serious and credible report of dangerous hazing” of a new member pledge that occurred at Miami’s fraternity chapter of Delta Tau Delta, the collective groan of a disappointed campus could be felt to your very core.
Crawford took the opportunity to outline that his disappointment is leveled not only at those who are responsible, but at the entirety of Greek life on this campus.
“Let me be clear, hazing is not tolerated on our campus,” Crawford wrote. “The administration will take swift, stern and appropriate action in handling any and all cases of hazing … I have asked University leaders to review the allegations in the context of our larger Greek community and to make recommendations that can be implemented immediately across all fraternities and sororities. Nothing is off limits in this evaluation.”
Our Editorial Board believes this review will, ultimately, fail to correct the root problems at the center of fraternity life if the university does not change its approach.
First and foremost, this kind of egregious behavior at the hands of three male students wielding power over another is a brutal assault.
To refer to this incident as hazing is to diminish the severity of the situation. A pledge was not forced to do someone’s laundry or mow the lawn – this was a sadistic attack.
Three Delt brothers chose to take the pledge to his “Big Brother’s” room, where they chose to bludgeon the student 15 times between his buttocks with a spiked and grooved paddle to the point where he thought he was going to die.
They made the choice to hide behind the cover of the fraternity as a whole to carry out actions that can only be described as despicable.
There are two popular conceptions of justice. There’s the kind of behavior where older members feel they need assert their dominance and control over their pledge because because they themselves were tormented when they were inducted. Then there’s the kind of behavior where members strive to make sure the treatment they experienced never happens to another person, because they wouldn’t wish it upon anyone. Retributive versus restorative justice. We here at The Student believe in restorative justice, and we implore Greek organizations on this campus to do the same.
The toxic masculinity fostered in environments like that bedroom of boys in Delts is an issue which the fraternity system as a whole must address, and it is one that must be a central part of any investigation into Greek life. But we must be careful not to place blame at the feet of the entity as a whole, because that fails to account for the larger picture.
It’s irresponsible to drag sororities into this conversation, when their recruitment standards are enforced to a T, while men are shuffled around in “unofficial” recruitment proceedings and are asked to answer provocative questions and are subjected to humiliating conditions.
Each year we watch as Miami women comply with each restriction and policy imposed by Miami’s Panhellenic Association during recruitment. Potential new members are encouraged to purchase multiple outfits for each day’s theme, spend hours in the Armstrong Student Center waiting to cast votes or be interviewed by older sorority members and create carefully-formed answers during questioning rounds.
Women are expected to put their best foot forward to get into their desired sorority. They warn one another about forbidden conversation topics while waiting in between rounds: no boys, booze or drama. Any woman who doesn’t follow it will be judged accordingly.
Girls are weeded out for “rushing for the wrong reasons,” like joining solely to party or meet guys.
Meanwhile, fraternity recruits undergo an extremely different process. Pledges are passed among frat houses to meet with each one and are subjected to conversation topics radically different from the ones asked of sorority recruits.
Instead of small talk about majors, student org involvement or why they decided to rush, men are subjected to to invasive questions about their sex lives and drinking habits. If the pledges’ answers aren’t what the frat is looking for, they’re passed over.
Many frats on campus have worked to move away from this system and attempt to foster a positive environment free from hazing. We commend those efforts, but believe more needs to be done to improve fraternity recruitment across the board.
Proving yourself is the common denominator in both fraternity and sorority rush. The difference is the metrics by which men evaluate one another in comparison to the way women value their peers.
Interfraternity Council (IFC) should expect their recruits to undergo a similar process to that of sororities. They should have to put their best foot forward and prove that they are rushing to support the ideals of leadership and philanthropy with which Greek life affiliates itself.
This isn’t the first time Miami has used a specific issue within a frat to look into Greek life as a whole. But if Crawford’s administration is serious about preventing these incidents from happening it needs to take a hard look at the kind of culture it has been complicit in maintaining.
Holding a double standard in how women rush on this campus is an act of deafening complacency. Miami can’t afford to pretend to be surprised by deplorable conditions in some fraternities when the university hasn’t even bothered to set expectations of fraternity life. Relying solely on the frats and individuals who act in good faith to recruit honestly, with integrity and without hazing, to set an example is lazy. They’re doing the right thing, but Miami isn’t.
It’s also irresponsible to level a threat of investigation into all of Greek life without outlining what that looks like. The university should provide a clear timeline for the proceedings, culminating in a conclusion by finals week this semester. It must be transparent about the avenues of changes it is pursuing, and must consult student leaders from across campus to inform any decisions that are made.
When the men who are responsible for this assault are formally charged, Miami has the responsibility to expel them for their actions. We hope the university does the hard work of restoring justice in a situation that sorely lacks it, and hands down their judgement with the nuanced understanding this situation calls for.