UPDATE: the purported pledge in the photo has notified us that this is all a misunderstanding. He is holding a light reflector used for professional photography; the photo is a test shot. We’ve posted his full email after the jump, and sincerely apologize for this misrepresentation. (Hazard of the gossip trade, folks.)
Given how freaked out everyone is about campus bullying, you’d think the brothers of Cornell’s well-heeled Sigma Phi fraternity would know better than to engage in an astonishingly tasteless form of frat hazing. You’d also think they’d know better than to photograph said hazing, and then allow the snapshot to leak into cyberspace. But lo and behold, the brothers of Sigma Phi are not as smart as you think.
IvyGate received several tipoffs this morning about the photo below, which it seems was taken during Cornell’s Hell Week this past spring:
(Image removed at the request of the copyright holder)
The pledge, left, is a current sophomore whose name we’ve redacted, and the brother is a senior.
Perhaps we’re just misguided–maybe this isn’t an ill-conceived and derogatory nod to colonial assholishness. But it sure looks that way, doesn’t it?
The Sigma Phi hazing process is apparently notorious for unpleasantness. According to one of our sources, the hazing also involved locking pledges in the frat’s in-house squash courts for hours without food or drink, and forcing them to sit naked on ice blocks until their gonads turned to ice pops. It’s not clear if white students were also obliged to stand around half-naked holding makeshift shields or mirrors or sun reflectors or whatever it is they’re making him hold. There was only one black pledge, and you’re looking at him. (Update: new info suggests that our initial head count was wrong here. We’re still not convinced that Sig Phi is a scion of diversity, though.)
So far neither party in the photo has responded to requests for comment, but we’ll keep this story updated if and when they do. In the meantime, what say you? Is it cruel and demeaning, or just innocently stupid?
Update: we received this email from the pledge in response to a request for comment. While we’re hastily backpedaling, we might as well add that we thoroughly appreciate the tone of this email, and remain skeptical about the “no hazing” business.
First and foremost, I would like to assure you that any racially offensive interpretations of the photograph are vastly inaccurate. Also, the Sigma Phi society does not condone hazing and as such, the “Sigma Phi hazing process” which you refer to several times in your email does not exist. The rumors about the content of the photograph are just that, rumors. I am more than happy to put them to rest.
This past summer, I remained on campus for the first summer session to take classes along with several other brothers in the house. One afternoon, a representative of Cornell University requested a picture of my brother, Eric Stern (seen sitting in the chair). Another brother in the house volunteered to take the picture and came to my room requesting a helping hand. I had just awoken from a nap and did not bother to dress myself before walking downstairs to our living room where the photo was taken. The photographer asked me to hold the light reflector that can be seen in the photograph – a trick used by experienced photographers to highlight the subject of their work. The image that has been questioned was actually a test shot taken by the photographer to get a sense of the lighting in the room.
I would like to stress that this image was not intended to have any racial undertones and its unfortunate that people choose to interpret it that way. The Sigma Phi Society is one of the more diverse houses on campus – racially, religiously, financially, etc… During my time as a rush and now as a brother in the house, I did/have not felt racially targeted in any way. If you are looking for a story surrounding a racial injustice, I can confidently say that there is nothing to be found here. In addition, my decision to assist my brothers in taking this photograph was not influenced by any pledging protocol – I was already a brother in this house when this photo was taken. Again, I appreciate your concern in this matter but the rumors surrounding this photograph are unfounded and inaccurate.
Consider us humbled. This is why you can’t believe everything you read on CollegeACB.