Hazing committee outlines recommendations

The Committee on Hazing and Initiations will release its final report today, putting forth a series of recommendations aimed at preventing hazing practices and re-evaluating Yale’s current definition of hazing.

According to a copy of the report obtained by the News Wednesday, the committee recommended that the expansion of the University’s hazing policies include student accountability for initiation practices and hazing and the effects on witnesses and third parties. The report also proposes new criteria for evaluating an organization’s compliance to the new policies, and advocates the creation of an Inter-Fraternity and Sorority Council.

The existence of both registered and unregistered student groups at Yale presented the committee with a “real conundrum,” Silliman College master and committee chair Judith Krauss NUR ’70 said in an email Wednesday night.

“But it seemed to the Committee that any organization that relies exclusively or nearly so on Yale undergraduates for its membership ought to at least be held accountable for its initiation practices and for some type of basic communication with Yale College,” Krauss said, adding later that the idea still requires “a lot of fleshing out.”

Yale College Dean Mary Miller appointed the committee in January to examine initiation practices within registered and unregistered undergraduate organizations, in response to the Delta Kappa Epsilon pledge chant controversy last fall, in which inductees shouted inflammatory remarks on Old Campus as part of an initiation ritual.

The report compiles a semester’s worth of discussions among committee members and examination into the University’s hazing policies. The committee reviewed hazing policies and resources at peer schools such as Cornell University, and looked into relevant state law on hazing as well as assessing existing guidelines and educational materials used by student groups.

Among the regulations outlined in the report, the committee recommends that registered and unregistered student groups should provide the Yale College Dean’s Office with contact information for all officers and advisors and complete a non-hazing attestation form. The committee also the discussed the idea of an “in good standing criteria” for all student organizations, which could be defined as having a clear disciplinary record and participation in anti-hazing and sexual harassment orientation. Organizations not in good standing would be prohibited from recruiting new members, although Krauss said she did not know whether Yale could take this kind of action.

Miller said Monday she would want every student group with exclusively Yale membership to be officially registered as a University organization, including fraternities, sororities and senior societies.

“Registered organizations can be regulated,” Miller said. “We have not had the ability in the undergraduate regulations to govern the behavior of organizations. This would introduce the governance of organizations.”

But this idea was not included in the final report, Krauss said, because the only recommendations presented were the ones with a “reasonable” chance of implementation.

One of the proposals the committee put forward was the creation of an inter-fraternity and sorority council. The new council would monitor Greek life initiations, promote community service efforts and provide a forum for the discussion and establishment of “best practices” among fraternities and sororities. The report also recommends the formation of a fund for undergraduate organizations to encourage positive initiation practices such as team-building activities and leadership workshops, and the development of new advisor roles and expansion of pre-existing ones to assist hazing prevention and education.

The committee consulted local and national news reports of hazing in making their recommendations, rather than conducting interviews and focus groups with campus student groups. This kind of information should be compiled by students, the report advised, with the aim of developing an educational website on hazing. Krauss added that interviewing students would have likely yielded little information.

“We didn’t want to be viewed as an extension of the disciplinary arm of Yale College. That wasn’t our charge and we didn’t want to get tangled up in ongoing investigations,” Krauss said. “We weren’t conducting an ‘investigation.’”

In addition to the experience of committee members, Krauss said public incidents such as the DKE episode and recent allegations of harassment during a pre-tap naked party held by the Pundits, a senior prank society, underscore the existence of hazing on campus. As such, she added, the committee chose to focus their efforts on ways to prevent future incidents.

There are over 300 registered undergraduate student organizations in Yale College, according to the report, along with an unknown number of unregistered groups.

David Burt contributed reporting.

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