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Thursday, February 10, 2011

Should Colleges Stop Fraternity Hazing?

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To the Editor:
Re “A Pledge to End Fraternity Hazing” (Op-Ed, Aug. 24):
The pledge by David J. Skorton, the president of Cornell University, to end fraternity hazing at Cornell deserves tremendous praise. His bold action will inevitably be duplicated by other college administrators. His shift in awareness and this decision are perfect examples of the institutional change sought by the surging anti-bullying movement.
In the end, helping children and other vulnerable populations always comes down to what courageous, groundbreaking individuals will do. Those of us who are advocates greatly appreciate Dr. Skorton’s model leadership on hazing.

STUART GREEN
Director, New Jersey Coalition for Bullying Awareness and Prevention
Summit, N.J., Aug. 25, 2011

To the Editor:
David J. Skorton’s article reminded me of the hazing I avoided at Cornell University when the restrictions were not as emphatic.
The Greek system of fraternity and sorority membership has been a major part of student life on campus. It provided friendship and a sense of belonging and housing.
I remember a sleepless night spent in the fraternity basement with my pledge class as part of the ritual. The fraternity brothers offered some super-spicy food for breakfast, and I refused to eat it. I was told to eat or leave, so I left.
I ended up accepted anyhow and went on to be social chairman of that fraternity and then the Interfraternity Council, comprising all fraternities. The moral of the story is to just say no and assert your dignity when confronted with hazing.

STEVEN A. LUDSIN
New York, Aug. 24, 2011

To the Editor:
As a freshman at Mizzou (the University of Missouri) who just stepped on campus a week ago, I’ve already observed and heard the awful things that have gone on in fraternities and sororities.
I overheard one person say she went “fraternity hopping” with some friends, woke up all the boys in the frat house, and started drinking at 10 a.m. She said they kept drinking all day long and had to get up early for classes the next morning. There have already been people arrested here, and we’re only in the first week of classes!
I did not “rush” when I came to Mizzou because I don’t believe in the fraternity style of “let’s drink and party all day and night, wake up hung over and then stumble to our 8 a.m. class.” I believe in going to college to get an education and earn a degree, not to have a hangover every morning.
I feel sorry for the kids who “rushed” and those who ended up pledging because I believe that they don’t know what they’ve gotten themselves into. I hope for their sake that they turn their lives around and don’t make the same mistakes many others before them have made.

STEVEN ANTHONY
Columbia, Mo., Aug. 24, 2011

To the Editor:
As a Cornell undergraduate and fraternity man, I strongly disagree with David J. Skorton’s prescription for, in his words, “constraints on group behavior.” Having recently returned from a semester in Syria, I have some experience with regulations couched in terms of the common good.
Syrian state television endlessly expounded on the necessity of restricting rights because, allegedly, people left to their own devices would abuse freedom. Even here, we too often fall prey to the notion that an elite minority (in this case, college administrators) may restrict the liberty of its denizens “for their own good.”
We forget that liberty includes the real right to take risks, and yes, even to do stupid things (and suffer the consequences).
It is not up to Dr. Skorton, no matter how lofty his aims, to “bring students together in socially productive” ways. Thank you, but I’d prefer a beer.

JONATHAN PANTER
Ithaca, N.Y., Aug. 24, 2011