ANNA LOWENTHAL, STAFF REPORTER
CHRIS FRANCIS, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
Despite Illinois Wesleyan University’s attempts over the years to put an end to hazing, both allegations and instances of hazing practiced by fraternities and sororities are emerging this semester.
At the request of all eight victims/witnesses of hazing The Argus interviewed for its investigation, names (both of individuals and organizations), class years and genders have been omitted. Sources feared severe harassment and bullying should their identities be discovered.
One Greek organization member recalled an event in which fraternity members were stripped naked and told to run around school grounds. “I just looked away, I felt embarrassed for them,” the source said.
Further allegations include pressured and/or forced underage drinking.
Sources willing to speak with The Argus expressed a sense of betrayal and disappointment in response to the hazing. “They promised me they were never going to haze us,” one of the sources said, “our campus even has an anti-hazing week.”
A number of sources were willing to share more detailed accounts of their hazing experience several years in the past. Still, they wished to remain anonymous.
“On initiation night, we had to sit on the floor in the doorways of separate rooms, writing about why we wanted to join the sorority and why we deserved to be in it,” one alumni source said. “The whole time, the senior girls were walking around screaming at us and slamming paddles on the door frames and walls right above our heads.”
“One girl started laughing so they put her in the shower and turned the water on her fully clothed, even though we were all dressed up in formalwear for initiation. We weren’t allowed to stop writing for a long time. Finally they took us downstairs blindfolded, and made us sit at tables in a dark room.”
A second source also shared her experience. “[During a hazing event] they would yell questions at us about [the Greek organization’s] history that we were supposed to have memorized, and if you got it wrong, they would yell about how you were unworthy to be a [member of the Greek organization].”
“I was so pissed off that we were being screamed at, I thought it was such bullshit,” the second source said.
When asked about hazing’s effect on their perception of fraternities and sororities, one current student source who pledged this semester said, “Being in Greek life made me lose my self-worth, and I’m not ok with that.” This student deactivated from the organization following a hazing incident.
“Initiation night was pretty humiliating. I feel embarrassed looking back on it, thinking about how I allowed myself to be so emotionally degraded by anyone, let alone girls who claimed to become my ‘sisters’ once the process was over,” a source said.
“Your real friends would never do anything that makes you feel like you need to suffer—physically, psychologically, mentally, whatever—in order to deserve their respect.”
After witnessing an unsettling hazing incident, a member of a Greek organization said, “It’s a mindset on our campus. The perpetrators, victims, and Greek life just accept it.”
The same source recounted feelings about their own experience being hazed. “I was never in physical danger,” said the source. “But looking back, there are things I’m surprised I didn’t protest against. There were things happening that were against my beliefs, but I didn’t say anything at the time. And that’s the scary part.”
Some officials within Greek life commented on the allegations of hazing on campus.
“You always hope that nothing is going on, but you never really know,” said a fraternity leader who wished to remain anonymous.
“Panhellenic takes hazing very seriously and all of our policies on the issue are available online at http://www.iwu.edu/greek/councils/panhellenic/,” said Mary Heath, the College Panhellenic Council vice-president of administration.
Some sources reflect these Greek life members’ sentiment concerning hazing. “Some of the older ones apologized to us and said it would never happen again. They’re taking steps to make it stop,” a source said.
Illinois Wesleyan administration has taken a firm stance on hazing, attempting to stop further incidents from happening this year.
“Hazing is not just something that happens in Greek Life,” said Blake Bradley, Director of Fraternity and Sorority Life at IWU. “It happens in many other organizations as well, and everyone handles it in different ways. You can have 30 people in a pledge class getting hazed and everyone will be affected differently. No one can know what that person has been through in their life or how hazing can impact them.”
“Hazing can refer to a wide variety of things, but it’s basically anything a pledge is forced to do or go through that a full member would not have to do,” said Vice-President and Dean of Students Karla Carney-Hall. “I generally refer to incidents as being either ‘little h’ hazing or ‘big H’ Hazing.”
Little h “hazing,” according to Carney-Hall, could consist of active members making pledges answer phones or emails for them. Big H “Hazing” is what people generally associate with the term: forced drinking, humiliation, psychological or physical abuse, etc.
Carney-Hall says there have been four instances of hazing reported and investigated by the university administration since she came to Illinois Wesleyan in 2011. But this has not shaken her belief in fraternities and sororities on campus.
“Fraternity and sorority leaders on campus have offered 100 percent cooperation and integrity in taking responsibility and making efforts to address [hazing],” Carney-Hall said. She referred to the 250 Greek students who went through “bystander training” this fall—meant to teach students how to deal with and report unethical behavior within their organizations—as evidence of their efforts.