Hazing News

Washington University update

Punished chapter throws party on suspension. What is an appropriate punishment in view of this party?

Editorial below is from the campus newspaper: It is well done.

On Sept. 14, 2017, Washington University’s chapter of Phi Delta Theta joined the ever-growing list of fraternity chapters that have been suspended after investigations into injuries or deaths related to illegal hazing activities. The suspension was originally announced as temporary but indefinite. Indefinite, as in without a clear end date. Indefinite, as in it’s not over yet.

But this past weekend, dozens of Washington University students attended a Mardi Gras party hosted at the Phi Delt house—a clear violation of the suspension, which prohibits the hosting of chapter meetings, activities and philanthropic events. Multiple sources confirmed to Student Life that party buses had been used to take trips off campus and pregame events had been hosted at the house, all under the Phi Delt name.

The Phi Delt members’ indisputable disregard for the relatively simple rules laid out for them represents a further demonstration of their lack of respect and overall unacceptable conduct.

For a fraternity, a suspension is kind of like a trial period to prelude a second chance. The Phi Delt members’ indisputable disregard for the relatively simple rules laid out for them represents a further demonstration of their lack of respect and overall unacceptable conduct. Phi Delt’s presence on campus isn’t one of classic fraternity boy rebelliousness; the things that they have done are quite literally crimes. Hazing, aside from being a deplorable and humiliating act, is illegal in the state of Missouri.

However, this burden not only lies on members and leaders of Phi Delt, but on the University administration. Student Life has confirmed that multiple sources submitted photos and videos of the violations to administrators, to which there has been no official, tangible University response. The lack of transparency and communication to students about the status of Greek life organizations is concerning, and it has safety implications for the ill-informed. Students not members of Greek organizations—and often those who are members, too—are left without a reliable, credible source and with only the rumor mill.

Part of Wash. U.’s job is to protect its students. Because the recent parties at the Phi Delt house were (knowingly) in violation of the suspension, they were unregistered. And because fraternity members can get into further trouble for hosting or participating in events at all, normal safety precautions go out the window. Sick or injured students are at best reluctant and at worst refuse to call Emergency Support Team or the Washington University Police Department. Furthermore, the unregistered parties are under the table and open door, meaning anyone (including nervous and naive freshmen) can attend them without the supervision of a designated sober contact.

A general sense of inaction on behalf of University officials, even after multiple reports of violations, represents their lack of resolve to commit to their own punishment. If the rules aren’t going to be enforced, why bother following them in the first place? Do we have to wait for someone to get badly hurt before meaningful action is taken?

In the words of a former Phi Delt in a comment on Student Life’s original coverage of the suspension, it’s “time to pay…[and] get some class.”

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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