Its difficult to pinpoint the exact moment when the University of Central Florida decided that the behavior of its Greek student organizations was out of control after all, UCF fraternities and sororities have been caught breaking the rules on dozens of occasions in only the last couple of years.
A recent Sigma Chi photo posted on Facebook, however, sticks out as one of the tipping points. The picture showed a new frat member, or pledge, consuming alcohol as part of an alleged hazing incident, and included the caption, Forcing a pledge to chug while two others puke in misery. The two vomiting students were also pictured, with one holding his head above a trash can.
UCF administrators last month suspended that fraternity, and soon after made national headlines by suspending most Greek activities altogether. Under the suspension, Greek organizations charitable events can continue, but just about all else (socials, new member education efforts, and initiation ceremonies) is banned for now.
Were asking some hard questions, said Maribeth Ehasz, vice president of student development and enrollment services. We are very concerned about alcohol being central to many activities, especially new member activities.
The universitys growing footprint is one reason its action is so significant: UCF now boasts nearly 60,000 students, making it the largest state university in Florida and the second-largest in the United States. More than 6,300 of its students come from Miami-Dade or Broward counties.
Other schools across the country have also moved to rein in Greek organizations. At Cornell (where a student died of alcohol poisoning), fraternities have been ordered to have live-in advisers. Yale strengthened its alcohol misuse penalties (and overhauled school sexual assault reporting policies) after a video surfaced on YouTube of fraternity brothers jokingly chanting No means yes! and other crudities.
Of course, Greek student groups arent the only realm where hazing can occur. Florida A&M University is still recovering from the widely publicized hazing death of drum major Robert Champion in 2011. Champions bandmates in the prestigious Marching 100 took turns punching and striking the 26-year-old student as part of a hazing ritual.
A coroner determined that Champion died from medical complications associated with blunt force trauma. FAMUs president and band director lost their jobs as a result of the tragedy, and other state institutions (including UCF) took notice.
Hazing expert Hank Nuwer, who has written four books on the issue, maintains a Hazing Deaths website that lists all the fatal cases occurring at U.S. colleges from year to year. Each year for more than four decades at least one student has died.
Hazing typically happens in Greek organizations or on college athletic teams, Nuwer said, with Greek student groups representing the majority of cases. Within Greek life, fraternities are more likely to haze than sororities.
In recent years, Nuwer said progress has been made in educating students on the risks of hazing, but there is still no easy way to stop it. Nuwer was skeptical of UCFs strategy, which he said is vulnerable to a student lawsuit, and may simply drive Greek activities underground.