In light of national press surrounding the hazing allegations and the halt to pledging last semester — including a front-page article in The New York Times on Wednesday — more than 100 students involved in Greek organizations gathered outside the Glenn G. Bartle Library to publicly denounce hazing.
The rally, largely organized by the fraternity council presidents and Greek conduct coordinator Will Madera, was an attempt by Greek Life to distance itself from the perceived misrepresentation by the Times article.
“He made it sound as though all of us were just as bad as the people and the incidents he wrote about,” said Zach Stein, president of the Interfraternity Council. “Everyone was upset to be stereotyped and generalized like that again, because we’ve been working so hard to move away from that and fix our ways.”
The Times article included reported incidents of hazing from anonymous sources, but did not name any University-sanctioned fraternities or sororities.
“They decided to report on actions that were mostly secondhand, anonymous, reports,” said University President Harvey Stenger. “I think it was old news that was something we’ve addressed for the last five months, and I think it’s unfortunate that they didn’t talk about the way that we’ve addressed it.”
The only fraternity accused of hazing by name was Alpha Pi Epsilon, or APES, which is not sanctioned by the University and not associated with any national organization.
“The article did specify, but they didn’t specify clearly enough that APES and SAMMY — and groups like that where a lot of the worst hazing does occur — aren’t part of any of our councils, and they’re not a part of our school,” said Stein, a senior majoring in anthropology. “We’re trying to keep a safe distance away.”
According to Stein, Madera wanted to invite SAMMY and APES to the fraternity councils meeting to discourage them from hazing.
“I told him we don’t want to associate with them in any way, shape, or form,” Stein said.
At the rally, students wore their Greek letters while waving flyers with a no hazing graphic. Doug Matijakovich, president of Pi Kappa Phi, estimated that 10 or more members from each fraternity and sorority attended the rally.
“We just want to bring it to people’s attention that we are not who people make us seem to be,” said Matijakovich, a senior majoring in biology. “Because of all the negativity, we need to take baby steps, we’re not going to fix our image in one rally.”
Despite the attempt of Greek Life to portray itself as adamently anti-hazing, the secrecy of the pledging process still leaves doubts as to whether hazing has ceased altogether. Jon Ganzarski, a founding father of Alpha Epsilon Pi, said he expects hazing to continue, although perhaps to a lesser extent following the disciplinary actions last semester.
“The rally was a move,” said Ganzarski, a first-year graduate student. “They got in a lot of trouble last year and they want to get out of trouble, so they need to look better with President Stenger. Every Greek organization wants to function as much through their own traditions and practices, they remain tied to campus for legal reasons and the benefits of being an on-campus organization.”
Ganzarski said he is no longer active with Alpha Epsilon Pi and does not pay annual dues. He would not comment on whether AEPi hazes pledges.
IFC president Stein said he can do little more than take fraternities at their word that pledging rituals do not include hazing.
“We have a lot of mutual trust between the IFC president and the presidents of all the chapters, and if they tell me something I believe it until they prove me wrong, which I hope doesn’t happen,” Stein said.
Matijakovich said that the secrecy of the pledging process, at least for Pi Kappa Phi, has its roots at the national level.
“We have rituals that have fraternal secrets involved, and we don’t want everybody to be aware of our secrets, our personal secrets,” Matijakovich said. “So, in a sense some things have to be secretive. It doesn’t mean this secret information involves hazing, it’s just saying that we have secret information that we cannot tell an outsider.”
He said many of the secret rituals involve learning the history of the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity. Pi Kappa Phi was not the subject of hazing allegations last semester, and was reinstated within weeks of last year’s halt to pledging.
“The things that we keep behind closed doors are to make it a bond that only we understand,” said Tim Szczesny, a member of Pi Kappa Phi and a sophomore majoring in computer science. “We weren’t hazed. There’s a lot of things you can go onto the Pi Kappa Phi website and they’re nationally known. Our rituals are about brotherhood.”
However, Stein admitted that Greek tradition is steeped with hazing nationwide, and phasing it out in Binghamton will be a slow process.
“They’re getting rid of the dangerous stuff first, anything that’s going to put anyone in any mental or physical harm they need to get rid of that, but then slowly but surely we’ll get rid of the milder stuff, and then hazing altogether,” Stein said.
Even the professional fraternities have had their problems, acknowledged Jessica Iankowitz, president of the Professional Fraternity Council, who said there were reports of sleep deprivation last year.
“We have since agreed that we should have a cap, and that people should not be out past a certain time,” Iankowitz said. “Everything is just completely different than last year.”
According to the Office of Greek Life website, two fraternities — including Theta Tau, the engineering fraternity — are still under investigation, and one fraternity remains on probation.
Stein said he could not comment on the specifics of the investigations, but he believes members of the organizations under investigation attended the rally.
“A lot of them have done a lot of hard work to change their process, to change traditions that have been there for years to make it safer,” he said.
On Monday, President Stenger released a letter on B-Line acknowledging the national coverage of hazing at Binghamton. In the letter he reaffirmed his commitment to student safety.
“Student safety is my highest priority,” Stenger wrote.
Stenger, who was a member Alpha Sigma Phi, told Pipe Dream that he believes hazing is not a standard practice in fraternities and sororities.
“It is not something that people do because they want to do it, it is usually one or two people within a house that get out of hand and they do something that they probably shouldn’t have done or don’t know why they did it that moment,” he said. “The students in Greek organizations did a good job of telling people that their organizations aren’t involved in the actions highlighted in the New York Times article.”