Last Wednesday, to the surprise of many, Binghamton University found itself on the front page of The New York Times. In the article, Peter Applebome dredges up months-old allegations of last year’s hazing scandal, which led the University to enact a campus-wide suspension of pledging and induction.
The crux of the article is the depravity of the alleged hazing. The proof, by-and-large culled from second-hand sources, paints a dark picture of the Greek system at Binghamton: waterboarding, force-feeding and paddling are just a few of the incidents reported.
But Applebome’s article misses the mark on an important — crucial, even — fact. A large chunk of the reports about hazing, including the charge that “some of the pledges had acquired pneumonia from …‘waterboarding’” are in reference not to organizations recognized by campus, but to “fraternities” that have neither national nor campus charters.
Applebome does, to be fair, point this fact out. But he does so as an aside: “the problem is compounded by the presence of unsanctioned fraternities, some with rowdy reputations.” Stuck at the end of an unrelated paragraph, the fact that the fraternities are unsanctioned receives no elaboration.
To the outside reader, this may appear insignificant — which is exactly the problem.
The article appears to indicate that hazing is pervasive at Binghamton University — that virtually every organization here is engaged in nightly hazing of pledges, and that the difference between sanctioned and unsanctioned organizations is semantic.
But to anyone who goes to school here and is guilty of attending at least the occasional frat party, the difference is clear — and it is far from insignificant.
Let’s not kid ourselves, hazing is to some degree a part of every Greek organization, and even those sanctioned by the University have stuck a head down a toilet or shoved a bottle down some poor pledge’s throat once upon a time.
The unsanctioned organizations referred to — APES and SAMMY — were also campus and nationally-recognized organizations, once upon a time. But they lost both charters due to hazing and other malfeasance. Since then, they’ve operated with impunity, subject neither to campus regulation nor the burden of a national chapter.
To us, it is no surprise that organizations with no campus affiliation, no national oversight and no real link to Greek life at all engage in persistent, extreme hazing. They have no one to report to.
The Times’ articles lackadaisically blurs the lines between affiliated and non-affiliated organizations, and fails to adequately address why exactly the article is again newsworthy, months after the scandal.
While three organizations are currently banned from recruiting new members, another two received warnings and two are still under investigation, there was nothing in the article that wasn’t true last semester, when the first New York Times article about hazing at Binghamton came out.
The release of an article that does little but add a sensationalist spin to old facts is not constructive. It does not prompt administrators here to action — it simply rubs salt in the wounds of a school already struggling to repair its reputation.
But while the article left certain things unclear, it did prompt members of Greek life into action: last Friday more than 100 fraternity and sorority members showed up to an anti-hazing rally on the Spine.
Waving signs decrying the evils of hazing and chatting amiably with members of the media about how their organization would never, ever dream of hazing, the handful of Greeks proudly wearing their letters didn’t seem to be aware of the irony of their actions.
While we doubt that every Greek organization is engaging in anything as serious as waterboarding, hazing is not an issue restricted to off-campus organizations. Anyone with a friend in a social Greek-letter organization can tell you that. So for us, the rally was a shallow if hilarious attempt at damage control.
Yes hazing does happen. Greek life at Binghamton needs some serious work. We don’t pretend to know the right answers. But we do know what the wrong answers are: confusing a part with its whole — or more precisely, confusing a whole with its degenerate cousin — and kicking the entire Greek system off campus, a warning that’s been tossed around.
If the biggest part of the problem is unaffiliated organizations that have been kicked off campus, then we fail to see how kicking more organizations off campus is a solution at all. It seems that that would truly compound the problem.