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Archive for Thursday, December 4, 1997

ATTITUDES TOWARD HAZING ARE CHANGING

December 4, 1997

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Hazing incidents still occur at Kansas University, but they're not a standard part of fraternity life anymore.

Kansas University sanctions against a fraternity for hazing can be devastating, ranging from probation to suspension, which can exclude fraternity members from participating in university-sponsored events.

But when members of sanctioned fraternities talk about their punishments, they are surprisingly positive.

"At the time, a lot of chapter members felt really bitter that the punishments we incurred as a chapter had to happen to us," said Josh Newville, past president of the Delta Chi fraternity.

"But I look back on it as something that has not only helped us, but Greek organizations as a whole," said Newville, who was a Delta Chi member in August 1995 when two members were hospitalized after drinking and being forced to do push-ups and work outside in near 100-degree weather.

Several KU fraternity members say sanctions helped hazing become a thing of the past. They also allowed fraternities to re-evaluate their goals.

Newville said the one-year suspension ordered by KU Vice Chancellor David Ambler and a two-year charter suspension from the Delta Chi national office was a "wake-up call" to many fraternities at KU.

"It was a turning point for the house," Newville said. "Now the sanctions are over and things are a lot more positive. There's definitely a lot more caution right now, and I think we've developed to the point where we've changed not only the behavior, but also the attitudes around here.

"The mentality around the house is not that hazing is something you don't do because you'll get in trouble if you get caught, but that hazing is wrong."

Dave Diefendorf, recently appointed president at Delta Tau Delta, said the house's two-year probation that was enacted in October 1996 has served to educate its members. Accusations of sleep deprivation and alcohol consumption resulted in the probation, which included anti-hazing education programs.

"It makes them actually sit down and re-evaluate," Diefendorf said. "I think it's the most positive thing that's happened to this house."

Spotlight on hazing

Of the 23 fraternities and 14 sororities governed by the Interfraternity Council and Panhellenic Assn. at KU, six fraternities have been placed on probation or suspension since fall 1996. All cases have been investigated by the dean of student life's office and the student organization and leadership development center, which oversees the Interfraternity Council and Panhellenic Assn.

Final decisions are handed down by James Kitchen, dean of student life.

"I think today students have a nontolerance of hazing," Kitchen said.

Chancellor Robert Hemenway was quick to send a message to organizations about his zero tolerance hazing policy when he took the position in fall 1995.

"If anyone tells you that you must be abused or degraded, hazed or harassed so that you can be a member of a group -- Greek or non-Greek -- you let us know," Hemenway said during his first convocation speech. "There is no place for such an organization at the University of Kansas."

Statements such as those have heightened awareness of hazing and made people more comfortable with reporting incidents, said Danny Kaiser, director of the Student Organizations and Leadership Development Center.

"I don't think we're handling things differently than before, but maybe we have a little stronger footing to respond to those situations and we get more of them reported now," Kaiser said. "I think that's good, and it's been helpful."

Traditions fall

If the KU administration, Greek organizations and society agree that hazing is wrong, why does it still occur?

"I'm not condoning hazing by any means, but a lot of good things came out of it," said Al Boulware, past president of Phi Delta Theta and president of the Fraternity and Sorority Presidents Forum.

"People became closer as far as being part of the group, but there's been a lot of radical things that were also involved," Boulware said. "The problem is that hazing got out of hand and guys went on power plays that didn't serve a purpose."

The key is to replace hazing with another tradition, Kaiser said.

"Fraternities and sororities are very much tradition ingrained. If you can get the tradition of hazing out, it's harder to get it back in," he said. "Once it becomes socially ingrained that hazing is wrong, it's less likely to happen."

Traditions die hard, Boulware said, and some groups had to struggle to find activities to replace physical activities and other hazing rituals.

"Some chapters have not changed as quickly as society has wanted them to," he said. "But I think it's getting to the point where we've got to change or we're not going to be here."

Diefendorf said hazing continued to be encouraged until the early 90s, when the effect of suspensions and probations began sinking in.

"I'd say five years ago, (anti-hazing policies) were preached and not followed, but that's changed dramatically," he said. "Hazing is looked down upon in the Greek system, and it's not an environment that encourages hazing anymore."

-- Chris Koger's phone message number is 832-7126. His e-mail address is koger@ljworld.com.

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