Cornell’s Greek community can expect some pretty radical changes in the coming weeks and months. That’s the word from President David Skorton, who took to the pages of the New York Times today to outline, in broad strokes, his plan for a hazing-free Cornell:
Yesterday, I directed student leaders of Cornell’s Greek chapters to develop a system of member recruitment and initiation that does not involve “pledging” — the performance of demeaning or dangerous acts as a condition of membership. While fraternity and sorority chapters will be invited to suggest alternatives for inducting new members, I will not approve proposals that directly or indirectly encourage hazing and other risky behavior. National fraternities and sororities should end pledging across all campuses; Cornell students can help lead the way.
The move was all but inevitable after Cornell sophomore, and SAE brother, George Desdunes died after a night of reverse-hazing, back in February. That story has (rightfully) been a persistent black mark on the university over the past half-year, as a months-long police investigation resulted in the May indictment of four SAE pledges; followed shortly thereafter by a $25-million wrongful-death lawsuit against the fraternity, filed by Desdunes’ mother. The university had already planned on overhauling regulations for Greek organizations, and it became clear almost immediately after Desdunes’ death that those efforts would be redoubled.
We’ll keep the comment to a minimum for now, except to say that Skorton’s sentiments are all well and good, but ending decades-long, institutionalized practices is a bit more difficult than telling the Grey Lady, “It shall be so.” It will be interesting to see what substance comes out of Skorton’s initiative.