In an effort to change the overall culture of Greek life, the University of Central Florida recently prohibited all 48 Greek chapters from holding social, new member education, and initiation activities until further notice. Once UCF feels confident that its Greek chapters have adequately addressed issues pertaining to alcohol abuse and hazing, and will reflect and uphold the school’s creed (as well legal and university regulations), then activity can resume.
Two recent hazing-related events may have served as the catalyst for UCF’s bold move. Local 6 News reported in early February that the Sigma Chi chapter was temporarily suspended pending investigation in response to a photo taken at a local bar that depicted an alleged hazing activity. This photo was posted to TotalFratMove.com’s Facebook page with the caption, “Forcing a pledge to chug while two others puke in misery. Total Frat Move.”
In December of 2012, a formal conduct hearing found the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity guilty of hazing; UCF placed ATO on emergency suspension based on evidence that showed pledges were forced to participate in mandatory study hours, as well as an activity called “forced reflection,” in which pledges had to stand in front of mirrors and evaluate themselves.
Banning sororities and fraternities altogether, however, will not necessarily remedy the culture of partying pervasive to America’s college campuses. According to an article published by the Betty Ford Center in 2011, approximately 2,000 American college students die each year from alcohol-related deaths.
Greek life across college campuses is often villainized as the main proponent of binge drinking, general debauchery, and of course, hazing. Lest we forget, however, that 26-year-old drum major, Robert Champion, died in November of 2011 after partaking in a hazing ritual that was part of Florida A&M’s “Marching 100” initiation. Called “Crossing Bus C,” this ritual required pledges to run down the bus’s center aisle through a sea of assault inflicted by the marching band’s senior members.
Hazing is easier to define and identify when it occurs in formally recognized Greek life organizations. But 55% of college students allegedly experience hazing rituals in their clubs, teams and organizations, though the majority of them do not classify these activities as such. Eradicating the Greek life system altogether is not the solution, since evidently hazing can find a home in a variety of student groups. At its best, Greek life helps to form part of a university’s history and culture, ideally working to cultivate friendships that value community service and leadership.
Of course, UCF’s effort to improve their Greek life culture is an admirable endeavor, but it may prove more worthwhile to examine the role that alcohol, drugs and hazing play in all student groups, as well as in the general social scene, if they truly want to make its campus healthier and safer.