Students defend, question Greek life

By Kaye Burnet | The Duquesne Duke

With racist chants and photos of naked, unconscious women putting fraternities at Penn State and Oklahoma University in the national spotlight, members of Duquesne’s sororities and fraternities are defending Greek life, while others on campus call its value into question.

On March 17, police announced a criminal investigation of the Pennsylvania State University Kappa Delta Rho fraternity chapter for allegedly posting pictures of nude, unconscious women on its private Facebook page. Just a week earlier, the University of Oklahoma suspended its Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter after a video surfaced showing members singing racist chants.

Katie O’Toole, Duquesne junior and president of Duquesne’s Delta Zeta chapter, said these incidents distract people from all of the good things fraternities and sororities do.

“It’s frustrating that one person or group of people who drink too much or haze could ruin it for everybody, across the country,” O’Toole said.

However, campus Greek life has had its share of recent trouble. Duquesne temporarily suspended its Alpha Tau Omega fraternity chapter last spring for hazing and underage drinking. ATO’s national organization indefinitely withdrew the chapter’s charter over the summer, according to Rebecca Jamrozik Mickler, director of the University’s Office of Greek Life.

Two sources who asked not to be named for fear of getting themselves or their Greek organizations in trouble admitted hazing is still a problem on campus. They talked about being blindfolded and interrogated and participating in pledging “scavenger hunts” in the South Side streets, among other initiation acts banned under Duquesne’s anti-hazing policy.

Marissa Gero, Duquesne senior and president of Alpha Sigma Tau, said pledging can be a stressful process for sorority candidates, but that her organization does not haze. AST pledges must pass quizzes and exams on information about the sorority’s values and history.

“People can get anxious about that,” Gero said. She added that no one has failed the tests during her time with AST.

Many pledges are told by their organizations not to speak to outsiders about what happens during their initiation period. Joseph Brunner, treasurer for Tau Kappa Epsilon, said this secrecy preserves the traditions of his fraternity and “builds brotherhood.”

“It’s about having a close bond, people can be who they really are behind closed doors,” Brunner said.

However, Duquesne Zeta Tau Alpha member Meghan Frost said she thinks secrecy could contribute to hazing or suspicions of hazing. She said ZTA does not haze, but that it’s hard to dispel rumors.

Jamrozik Mickler said Duquesne organizes a mandatory “Greek 101” program for new recruits to teach them how to recognize and report hazing and other problems.

“The Office of Greek Life has an open door policy and that any student, Greek or non-affiliated, can contact our office to report alleged hazing,” Jamrozik Mickler said.

O’Toole pointed toward philanthropy and networking as two positive outcomes of Greek organizations. According to O’Toole, DZ raises between $3,000 and $4,000 annually for its three philanthropies: the Painted Turtle Camp for terminally ill and disabled children, the Starkey Hearing Foundation and speech and hearing pathology.

As for networking, O’Toole said Duquesne’s Greek life “basically runs the campus” because sororities and fraternities host many public events and partner with other organizations, such as athletics.

“Through Greek life, you really get to experience college life to the fullest,” Frost said.

Jamrozik Mickler said fraternity and sorority events raise between $100 and $8,000 for charity per event. According to Jamrozik Mickler, the Alpha Sigma Tau sorority’s Miss Duquesne Pageant raised $8,800 in November to benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation.