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Jenna Comments On New York Times Piece

THE NEW YORK TIMES: “After Students’ Hazing-Related Deaths, Fraternity Eliminates Tradition of Pledging”
Recently, on March 10th, one of the largest fraternities in the United States, Sigma Alpha Epsilon, said they will no longer allow pledging as a process for undergraduates to participate in while joining the organization and will welcome those who are willing to join with open arms. This was a solution for a long period of injuries and deaths related to the pledging procedure. As stated directly in the New York Times article, “While pledging is not meant to be synonymous with hazing, which is illegal, in practice one often leads to the other”. In other words, the intention of pledging is not the illegal practice of hazing, but it ritual tradition that has been followed through multiple generations to build close relationships with those who are being welcomed into the fraternity brotherhood. To those who already are a part of the organization, it is a way of developing trust and loyalty with new members. Unfortunately, the foundation of developing trust and loyalty have led to too much negative behavior, such as lawsuits, negative publicity, and as stated previously, injuries and deaths amongst those who were willing to participate in the pledging act.
Josh Hartley, a junior at the University of Southern California, who is a fraternity member of Phi Gamma Delta, had mentioned how he truly felt about eliminating pledging in the article. He felt as if it takes a way the sense of commitment – when a pledge is being made, “the roots are planted”. Those who are most committed in the pledging process are most likely the most committed as a brother. Hartley had brought up another interesting point; without the pledge commitment, it turns the organization into a drinking club. There is an enormous amount of alcohol related injuries and death rate amongst college student as is. The real question that stands is that if it is really possible to completely eliminate the pledging process. Many alumni cherish this tradition, such as Hartley.
An example was brought to the reader’s attention in this article; in 2012, a freshman at Sigma Alpha Epsilon’s Arizona State University went missing after a night of drinking with his friends. He was found dead in the lake by the campus. Due to this incident, the fraternity was suspended. Another example mentioned was another freshman of the fraternity, from the University of Idaho, was found dead underneath a bridge after a Sigma Alpha Epsilon party.
I believe those incidents were described vaguely within this article. The one key aspect that could be questioned was if these two freshmen had been participating in a pledging act or participating in the consumption of alcohol.
Another interesting incident brought to my attention while reading this article was that there was another death of a Sigma Alpha Epsilon member, who was a sophomore at Cornell. This article was posted on March 11, 2014, but a correction to the article was made the following day, March 12, 2014, mentioning how the death of the fraternity member, George Desdunes, was not due to being a participant in a pledging act. He had actually passed away from a direct from of hazing, which involved “being bounded, blindfolded, and forced to drink”.
Although many people feel as if pledging is a horrid act to take a part in, is it really the pledging that is the main factor in lawsuits, injuries, and deaths of those who are making commitments to fraternities? Eliminating pledging does not necessarily mean eliminating alcohol consumption within a fraternity. Eliminating pledging also does not necessarily mean eliminating hazing within a fraternity. It may be a step in the right direction, but only time can tell…

Jenna Tuttolomondo

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