There have been three reported incidents of hazing this semester so far, rising from zero reports last year.
The office of Fraternity and Sorority Life accredits this to an increase in student accountability rather than increased hazing activity. As formal initiation moves closer, DePauw Fraternity and Sorority Life are proactively combatting hazing through education to ensure a safe transition into the Greek community for all new members.
Dean Harwood has served as the director of Fraternity and Sorority Life at DePauw for the past year and a half. The department has been working to reduce hazing within Greek houses by working closely with chapters and reviewing their new member programs. Their focus in recent years is to educate new members on what hazing is.
Harwood believes hazing education is a contributing factor to the increased reports. “I think that students are more comfortable sharing that information with us as a changing generational thing,” Harwood said. The ability to fully address these incidents is limited. Many student reports are anonymous, making the cases difficult to review and investigate. Anonymous sources and reports make it difficult to verify facts, which is why Harwood stresses a proactive and intensive new member education.
Harwood sent an email to fraternity presidents and advisors earlier this semester addressing the three hazing incidents and the formal investigative process.
The email cites specific examples of hazing, including alcohol, illegal activity, forced participation, or degrading treatment. New members should have a scheduled program of educational activities designed to orient them into the fraternity and learn its history and traditions.
Response to reported incidents varies depending on the circumstances. The office of Fraternity and Sorority Life works closely with Community Standards and DePauw Police to ensure a full investigation is carried out. It’s typical to talk to individuals that may be involved and notify the chapter’s national leadership and advisers about the allegations.
Information and ledes found through the investigation are shared with Community Standards, who makes a determination if there is enough evidence for charges. Community Standards make charges based on university policy. Each national organization has its process, so investigative steps are unique to the situation and the chapter.
DePauw’s process of reviewing hazing is similar to the way other universities investigate reports. “We [DePauw Administration] are very aggressive. I think in many ways we are more aggressive than other places in doing what we can to find what’s going on. It’s not easy to find information but we try to look under every rock. I’ve seen other places who do less of that,” Harwood said.
Every Greek organization provides a unique sample program for new member education. These programs are important to Fraternity and Sorority Life to understand the history and significance of their national organization. They range in transparency, with some being published online and others remaining secret.
“I’m not aware of serious issues, but there may be things that are inappropriate or minor issues that we just don’t hear about,” Harwood said. “Within that, it’s pretty clear that we [DePauw Administration] can only really scratch the surface because people want to keep quiet.”
Harwood says that student reports are a critical part of solving the problem. “Tackling the issue of hazing can’t be done without the help of the students.” Harwood said. “Talk to your friends, and if you have real concerns, report it. Anonymous reports provide some help, but they’re really hard to use. Instead, consider filing a confidential report where you can sit down and talk and write out the details.”