Hazing News

It’s not only a SUNY thing: but unrecognized frats have killed at Oneonta, Albany, Geneseo, Plattsburgh

SUNY rogue frat deaths trending. Enough already and enough already was more than a quarter-century ago in SUNY schools.  Great Time story. Moderator (And need we mention a pledge died at SUNY Binghamton from alcohol-related fall at a recognized Greek chapter)?

Here is another from Daily Star: Underground Greek organizations at the State University College at Oneonta have been a longtime problem and are difficult to track as they come and go, Oneonta Police Chief Douglas Brenner said Tuesday.

Freshman student Daniel Michaels died Saturday from a combination of drugs and alcohol shortly after he was found unconscious in a home that members of unrecognized fraternity Alpha Pi moved into this fall.

Brenner said police are investigating whether Michaels was at a welcome party for new pledges at a different location when he ingested the drugs and alcohol, and said hazing is not considered a factor at this point.

Unrecognized Greek groups often use the letters of national organizations but are not affiliated with them or the college and don’t give the names of their members to the school. Some continue to operate after schools strip their official status. SUNY Oneonta’s website says that hazing has been a problem with unrecognized groups, and advises that students who rush them do so “at their own risk of academic failure or difficulty and physical and emotional hazing.”

Brenner said there are four or five such groups that police are aware of this year, and a sophomore student in an unrecognized sorority who spoke on a condition of anonymity said there are about 10 total. She said that although they are often stigmatized by students, many act similarly to official fraternities and sororities and mingle with them, also participating in fund raising and volunteer activities.

She said her sorority was kicked off the campus years ago but continued under a new name and currently has about 40 members. They had the option to go through the recognition process again but chose not to, partially to save money on dues, she said.

Students interviewed by The Daily Star said that they have heard stories of hazing in both official and unofficial fraternities and sororities, but that it was more common in unofficial Greek life where they are more likely to get away with it. Rumored hazing rituals included crawling through snow or standing outside for hours in freezing weather, swallowing goldfish, and at one unofficial sorority, being forced to strip naked in front of fraternity members.

Both official and unrecognized Greek groups regularly move from house to house on year-long leases, according to a former student. Few official fraternities display their letters outside because they don’t own the property. Landlord Peter Clark confirmed that his brother owns the house Alpha Pi members moved into this fall, and said that the company has a rule against renting to fraternities but students lie.

The older homes many students rent in the city can be a barrier to becoming a recognized Greek group; they may not meet the fire codes necessary to be a designated fraternity or sorority house.

Greek life advisor Angie Eichler said that the school encourages incoming students to join recognized groups during orientation, and that parents are sent a letter about Greek life every semester. Unrecognized Greek groups were invited to an open meeting last year to discuss the process for being verified, which two have since completed, she said.

An alcohol and drug committee at SUNY Oneonta educates students with an alcohol-awareness week and safe-spring-break campaigns, according to the school’s website. The committee also sponsors a survey every two years to identify attitudes and patterns of alcohol and drug use.

Erin Jerome, staff writer,

By Hank Nuwer

Journalist Hank Nuwer is the Alaska author of Hazing: Destroying Young Lives; Broken Pledges: The Deadly Rite of Hazing, High School Hazing, Wrongs of Passage and The Hazing Reader. In April of 2024, the Alaska Press Club awarded him first place in the Best Columnist division and Best Humorist, second place.

He has written articles or columns on hazing for the Sunday Times of India, Toronto Globe & Mail, Harper's Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, The Chronicle of Higher Education and the New York Times Sunday Magazine. His current book is Hazing: Destroying Young Lives from Indiana University Press. He is married to Malgorzata Wroblewska Nuwer of Warsaw, Poland and Fairbanks, Alaska. Nuwer is a former columnist for the Greenville (Ohio)Early Bird and former managing editor of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner in Alaska.
Nuwer was named the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists columnist of the year in 2021 for his “After Darke” column in the Early Bird. He also won third place for the column in 2022 from the Indiana chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. He and his wife Gosia, recently of Union City, Ind., have owned 20 acres in Alaska for many years. “The move is a sort-of coming home for us,” said Nuwer. As a journalist, he’s written about the Alaskan Iditarod sled-dog race and other Alaska topics. Read his musings in his blog at Real Alaska Daily-- and in his weekly column "Far from Randolph" in the Winchester Star-Gazette of Randolph County, Indiana.

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