"I grew up with a guy who went to school out of state, and in his freshmen year he pledged a fraternity, and the night of his initiation, the pledges were forced to drink entire bottles of hard liquor in under an hour," Sonoma State senior Kim Casanova said. "Which resulted in him having a blood alcohol content of over five times the legal limit for driving. And basically he passed away the next day. Its sad."
Stories like this are all too familiar among college students. Tales of fraternities and other organizations treating their pledges in ways that can embarrass, ridicule or potentially harm them. Hazing can start with minor jokes or pranks that are initiated by active members of an organization, but can quickly escalate to causing mental or physical harm on inductees. Hazing is a legitimate concern coming into a university, and can leave a mark on those directly effected by it or their friends and loved ones.
Casanova said that she believes in the Greek system because it provides opportunities for students, but the issue of hazing within the system is disappointing. "One person, or two people can suggest something and influence the decisions of others and it really reflects on the entire organization," Casanova said. "And not only that but the entire Greek system and that's where all the bad stereotypes come from so its really disappointing and it is also very upsetting that I had to lose a childhood friend."
In conjunction with the InterFraternity Council (IFC), Phi Delta Theta members have taken a step to decrease hazing on the Sonoma State campus and make stories like Casanova's far less common. The fraternity has been tabling to raise awareness of hazing for National Hazing Prevention Week, Sept. 24-28.
"We are just spreading the word that hazing isn't cool. To make sure that if you see hazing or you hear hazing, you take a stand against it and just realize that nobody is better than somebody else," Phi Delta Theta Risk Manager, Julian Jolivette said.
Phi Delta Theta has an anti-hazing oath in place and has chosen to extend this oath to the entire campus. SSU students and faculty are being asked to sign the anti-hazing oath and are being handed information about hazing. The fraternity's goal is to gather 500 signatures. "I think the biggest fear that people have is that if they ever witness hazing and they're in the pledge process they're fearful that they will be removed from the program because they want to stand up," Jolivette said.
Other SSU fraternities and sororities have shown their support by signing the anti-hazing oath and giving Phi Delta Theta support in spreading the word that hazing is not acceptable at Sonoma State.
Phi Delta Theta alumnus, Rudy Porchivina will be on campus addressing the problem of hazing on Sept. 24 at 7:00 p.m. in the Person Theatre. His presentation will focus on college athletics and Greek Life and is free.
UPDATE: The anti-hazing oath has reached its goal of at least 500 signatures.
For more information about National Hazing Prevention Week, visit www.hazingprevention.org
If you witness hazing, please call 707-664-4444 to contact SSU Campus Police or anonymously call 1-888-NOT-HAZE to report signs of hazing.
Written by Sarah Dowling