Hundreds of UA men waded through the crowds and heat along greek row and throughout campus in the days before classes in hopes of getting a bid from one of the UA’s fraternities.
The number of students coming out to rush continues to increase despite headlines haranguing UA fraternities in recent years.
In the past year, Delta Tau Delta, Theta Chi and Delta Sigma Phi fraternities shuttered following hazing allegations and other violations. Another six fraternities are currently under sanctions.
“The last thing we want to do is close a fraternity or sorority,” says Johanne Ives, assistant dean of students for Fraternity & Sorority Programs.
Ives says that a recurring theme among the fraternities that have been successfully removed from campus has been hazing.
Any potential new members seem undeterred. Last year, 894 men participated in the first round of fraternity recruitment, according to UA officials, and this year 959 men made the decision to go through the beginning stages of recruitment.
Damian Liguori, a biology freshman, is one of the many “rushees” who is hoping to join a fraternity this fall.
“There are a lot of perks to being in a fraternity,” Liguori says. “You get that great brotherhood bond between guys, there are intramural sports and philanthropy. It just sounded like an overall good experience, so I decided to rush.”
Liguori is aware of judicial issues with UA fraternities because he had two cousins who were in Phi Gamma Delta, commonly referred to as FIJI, a fraternity that was removed in August of 2014 for hazing, providing alcohol to minors and non-cooperation with university officials and the University of Arizona Police Department.
In April 2014, a freshman member of FIJI died after falling from the top of the Colonia de la Paz Residence Hall. During its investigation, UAPD found an email that told FIJI members to lie to law enforcement about alcohol related activities on the night of the student’s death.
Liguori says the past behavior of fraternities never made him question his decision to rush because the houses that engaged in dangerous practices are now no longer recognized by the university.
Joseph Fice, a computer science freshman, says he shares the same belief as Liguori.
“There are different fraternities of different moral standards,” Fice says. “I can just stay away from the ones that can potentially get kicked out.”
Theta Chi lost their recognition on May 20 after the university determined the organization was engaging in hazing and causing harm. The university launched an investigation after a picture from a private fraternity Facebook page was shown to a dean of students staff member that displayed injuries of a member from the practice of “paddling”.
The investigation found that paddling had started as an isolated incident in the fall of 2011 but eventually grew to be a tradition for the chapter’s new members and had occurred as recently as fall of 2014.
The hazing tradition would happen at the “reveal” event when new members found out who their “Big Brothers” were. The Big Brothers were allowed to hit their “Little Brothers” once with a paddle that the little brothers had decorated before the event.
Visible welts on the Little Brothers from the paddling ritual would sometimes last for a few days.
During the practice, current members would help brace the Little Brothers so they would not fall down from the impact of the paddle.
Delta Tau Delta was removed in July following their national office’s suspension of the chapter.
According to a statement from the fraternity’s national office, the decision to suspend the chapter was based on repeated violations of the fraternity’s risk management policies on top of “poor academic performance among the new members and failure to make satisfactory progress during the spring 2015 semester.”
The fraternity had a history of physical altercations at registered date dashes and violations for their new member program, alcohol and hazing, Ives told the Daily Wildcat in July.
Leaders of fraternities, student life and administrators are optimistic that new forms of behavior and altered viewpoints will prevent fraternities from repeating Delta Tau Delta’s mistakes.
Nathaniel Husband, current vice president of the Alpha Sigma Phi fraternity, says he believes that fraternities need to take advantage of helpful resources they are provided with to maintain recognition when things go awry. Husband says that opening lines of communication between fraternities and administration is a key to keeping fraternities from being removed.
Husband says he and his fraternity’s president, John Thaxton, schedule meetings with the associate dean of students, Chrissy Lieberman, a few times each semester to discuss ways to address their fraternity’s problems.
Alpha Sigma Phi’s judicial issues during the last academic year included endangering, destruction of property and alcohol violations.
Being a relatively new chapter on campus, little alumni support is available to Alpha Sigma Phi. As a result, Husband says he believes that he and his fellow fraternity leaders must take charge to amend their organization’s past mistakes.
“We’ve been very proactive in trying to work with the school,” Husband says. “Proactive approaches are what is ultimately going to help keep organizations on this campus.”
Whenever Husband sees an article about hazing in a fraternity, he says he posts it to his fraternity’s Facebook page to remind his fellow brothers that their organization does not tolerate that type of behavior.
Moving forward, Husband says he believes the future of greek life will be centered on organizations coming together in order to find solutions to the problems that have plagued chapters in the past.
“We’re going to have to adapt to what one of our advisors calls ‘the lawsuit heavy days,’” Husband says. “Anyone can get sued, everyone is liable and at fault; we need to be protecting student safety.”
Husband says that his message to other fraternities that are currently under sanctions from the university is to use what is readily available to greek organizations.
“Reach out to your FSP [Fraternity & Sorority Programs] advisers and see what you can do with them, and work with the dean of students and admissions,” Husband says. “Their goal is student safety, and our goal is brotherhood, fraternity and creating memorable experiences during college.”
Manny Felix, the president of the Associated Students of the University of Arizona, reinforces Husband’s notion that Fraternity & Sorority Programs and the Dean of Students Office are here to aid organizations, not to solely discipline them.
“They want Greek Life on campus and they want to see them stay,” Felix says. “They don’t want to see students go to the hospital. They don’t want to hear about sexual assault cases within greek life. They’re trying to think of ways on how to help students avoid getting in those situations.”
Felix is a former president of Delta Sigma Phi, a fraternity that was removed from campus in March due to hazing, endangerment and providing alcohol to minors.
Felix points out that a new philosophy of “interfraternal” connecting instead of competing could help squash the trend of fraternities being removed from the UA.
“There shouldn’t be that culture any more of ‘who’s the best fraternity;’ it should be a culture of ‘how can we help each other stay on campus,’” Felix says. “It should be more of a culture of ‘I don’t want to get kicked off and you don’t want to get kicked off, so how are we going to help each other out?’”
Felix is urging all greek organizations to use the resources available to them at the first sign of trouble.
“It’s always best to communicate and reach out,” he says. “Nationals, alumni, other members and Dean of Students Office, ASUA, cultural centers, anyone—they can help out.”
For students who are unsure about rushing due to the removal of eight fraternities in the past three years, Husband advises that they speak with the fraternity leaders about their concerns with an organization’s past.
“Talk to the president, the vice president, the new member educator and ask them, ‘You guys were accused or charged with hazing allegations a semester ago, is that happening again?’” Husband said. “It’s taboo in pop culture to talk about hazing, but it has very serious consequences, and it’s not something that you should just shirk over. You should ask them.”
Ives says that from her staff’s perspective, they believe that students are becoming desensitized to the language of hazing. As of this summer, Ives says the office has been using language that details the transgressions of organizations.
“We’ll say that the organization was physically assaulting their members, rather than hazing, because it connotes kind of a different level of ‘That’s not okay,’” Ives said.
The university will also observe National Hazing Prevention Week from Sept. 21-25, which will include activities, resources and team-building.
Still, not all students believe a positive change for greek life is going to happen overnight.
Jordan Olmstead, a senior studying Middle Eastern and North African studies and a former member of a UA fraternity, says he believes that fraternities will adapt; but it will take a lot of effort on the part of the organizations to eradicate dangerous behavior.
He suggests that fraternities interested in creating a positive culture change move away from pledging and adopt more stringent risk-management policies to de-escalate tensions with administration.
“I think that other fraternities will start to calculate that the risks attendant with pledging, and other egregious violations of the rules aren’t worth risking being kicked off of campus and adjust accordingly,” Olmstead says.
Olmstead, who originally didn’t believe greek life was for him, decided to give it a chance. He ended up deciding that the fraternity experience did not align with who he was as a person, but he thinks that a “no pledging, no hazing” policy would do a lot of good. As soon as a member is accused of a sexual assault, Olmstead says he believes that member should be expelled from his chapter immediately.
He says that his message to the young men who decide to rush is to join a fraternity that has a large emphasis on personal development, campus engagement and academics, and to become friends with others who aren’t involved in greek life.
“I would advise them to cultivate a group of friends and activities outside of the fraternity, to avoid being socialized into a carbon copy of their brothers,” Olmstead says.
Ives says one reason why hazing can persist in fraternities is the lack of support from alumni volunteers and advisers.
“Sometimes, if there’s just one person, they can’t be everywhere and be there all the time,” Ives says. “We really need fraternities and sororities to have multiple alumni advising or working with the organization.”
When Delta Tau Delta first got into trouble for hazing in the fall of 2014, Ives says one of the reasons why the university decided to maintain its recognition was because numerous alumni stepped up and proclaimed they would increase their presence around the fraternity and at meetings and new member events.
“Unfortunately I think it was just too late,” Ives says regarding the alumni involvement in Delta Tau Delta. “By the time those [alumni] were engaged and doing some of those things—even in the spring—the current members … weren’t ready to change the behavior.”
Anthony Caputo, the former chairman of the Delta Tau Delta alumni supervisory committee, says he believes that alumni boards are a good source of leadership for students, but the committee shouldn’t be held accountable for the fraternity’s wrongdoings.
“The involvement in the alumni shouldn’t be an excuse as to why you made a bad decision,” Caputo said. “You choose to break into a residence that’s not yours; you choose to not study for a test and get a poor grade; you choose to take advantage of a woman who is obviously intoxicated, and you know better. You make those decisions.”
Caputo says that he and about 10 other alumni volunteers continually tried to help the fraternity through their challenges, but its members weren’t meeting them halfway.
“They weren’t committed to utilizing what was available to them. One of the things that was tremendously available to them was alumni support,” Caputo said. “They had trouble helping themselves.”
Caputo says that the fraternity didn’t respond to the sanctions that were handed down to them by the university in a timely manner and did not submit a new member development program that is required for all fraternities.
“If you don’t respond, but the resources are there, you’re not going to be successful,” Caputo says.
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