“It’s about to be a very eventful night to say the least,” tweeted West Virginia University student Nolan Burch on Wednesday afternoon, Nov. 13. Around midnight the same day, Burch was found not breathing and without a pulse at the Kappa Sigma fraternity house in the university. That Friday, he was pronounced dead. On Nov. 14, West Virginia University suspended all fraternity and sorority events after what they are calling a “catastrophic medical emergency.”
Hazing in fraternities and sororities is nothing new, and shocking cases similar to Burch’s are not uncommon. West Virginia is the second school to suspend Greek activities just this week, with Johns Hopkins doing the same following claims that a 16-year-old girl was raped in a bathroom during a party at a fraternity house.
Hazing, however, is not only prevalent in fraternities. Sororities can be just as cruel, if not more so, than fraternities. SAS alum Chelsea Quint recalls hearing a horrific hazing story. “This sorority made pledge girls all get naked and they would bring in guys from one of the fraternities who all carried sharpies, and these guys would go around and circle everything on the girls’ bodies they did not like, or that they did not approve of.”
Asked why she is not currently a part of a sorority, Quint said, “The main reason why I’m not [part of a sorority] is because almost all – except for four sororities – were recently kicked off campus. The hazing was really, really bad.”
SAS alum Yin Ng – who currently attends Rice University – said, “The pressure of having to spend money [to join a sorority] and constantly impress people is a turn-off. Hazing is a problem, and if you do not get into the sorority you want on bid day, you feel rejected and it hurts your self-esteem.”
Current seniors, anticipating the much-awaited college experience, react.
“How would I know?” Michael Wong responded when asked whether hazing is a problem in Greek life. A majority of students are aware of the issue, but many base their judgements on what they have heard or read. The most pressing question, though, is whether students think hazing is acceptable because it’s tradition. If so, to what extend is hazing tolerable?
“I think it’s acceptable, but it shouldn’t be a tradition if people are getting hurt,” seniors Kaitlyn Han and Victoria Chou agreed.
Nathan Gunawan believes that hazing is okay “as long as it doesn’t become violent. Some are traditions, so it’s good, but once it gets out of hand, it’s a problem.”
Should colleges reevaluate Greek life on campuses?
Student Emma Park contends, “You always hear about extreme hazing, where you are required to drink excessive amounts of alcohol and you end up in the hospitals. I definitely think colleges need to reevaluate fraternities and sororities that are notorious, but I do not think all frats and sororities need to be punished.”
Senior Gabe Zink agrees, “The hazing problem is largely focused in big state schools, and I think recently the issue has been getting better. I do think Greek life needs to be kept in check a little more, and I know this is starting to happen.”
Zink said he is considering joining a fraternity in college,“but only a fraternity with a good reputation.”
Ng, however, said “It’s just not for me. I’m sure other people enjoy the sisterhood.”
Not all Greek systems have the same reputation. Many spend as much time on philanthropy as they do on their social lives. But it’s up to students to do their own due diligence. Google the name of your prospective college or university and “hazing” and see what comes up. Better to be surprised now than later.