Pending investigations underway, call for culture shift from CSI, OSFL
Since November 2019, three Greek organizations on the UC Davis campus lost their recognition with the Office of Sorority and Fraternity Life (OSFL) and their Registered Student Organization status after incidents involving hazing — a record number since 2005. Sigma Mu Delta, Delta Sigma Pi and Zeta Psi were placed on the Revocation of Registration for at least five years.
Aside from these three organizations, three other organizations – Theta Tau, Alpha Epsilon Pi and Sigma Lambda Beta – are pending an investigation with the Office of Student Support and Judicial Affairs (OSSJA) due to misconduct.
None of the Greek organizations mentioned above responded to a request for comment before this article went to press.
“My pledge process was mentally and physically draining as well as time consuming,” a recent pledge of one of the revoked organizations said. “If we didn’t follow conduct, we would get some sort of physical punishment — push-ups, sit-ups, planks, squats. We also had to memorize a load of information and recite or else we would get yelled at along with some sort of physical punishment.”
This pledge also explained that although they were given time for academics, they were usually kept out past midnight while pledging.
“The entire process was basically rigged so that the pledges would have to endure a lot of physical and mental strain,” the pledge said.
Another pledge from a different revoked organization recounted coming home with scrapes on their knuckles from push-ups and ingesting an unknown concoction of mixed drinks for not following conduct.
OSFL hosts mandatory prevention education sessions for members of Greek life — such as alcohol risk and reduction, social justice essentials, hazing and sexual violence and assault — in an effort to prevent these kinds of issues.
Director of the Center of Student Involvement Kristin Dees and OSFL Assistant Director Valerie Lamarre-Laurent maintain that they reiterate university expectations during prevention education for new and current Greek life members, at quarterly meetings with each chapter president and at community meetings.
“Prevention education introduces new members to the culture that we would hope and expect the chapters on this campus to adhere to and follow,” Dees said. “If you don’t see that [expectation] followed, the bystander and upstander intervention really speaks to different ways on how to share information.”
Over the course of the year, the groups are required to have a total of 80% of their members attend prevention education sessions and misconduct training. If a chapter does not meet the requirement, a warning is issued and the group has a short period during Fall Quarter to fulfill the requirement or face registration revocation. So far, all fraternities and sororities have fulfilled the requirement.
In regards to hazing reports, Dees and Lamarre-Laurent explained that their roles focus on prevention efforts, while OSSJA oversees disciplinary action. Students are able to report incidents of hazing that will be reviewed and investigated by OSSJA, according to the OSFL website.
“The university provides organizations, including Greek letter organizations, with written notice about alleged violations and an opportunity to respond,” said Donald Dudley, the director of OSSJA. “The length of the process prior to making a decision can depend on the information that OSSJA gathers and reviews. I won’t comment on any particular cases, however, since this is the first year in which OSSJA has reassumed responsibility for RSO conduct. We are determining how to best manage these investigations into our caseload.”
Nathan Kushner, president of the Interfraternity Council (IFC) at UC Davis, said that the IFC follows policies against hazing.
“IFC here at UC Davis has a very strict policy against hazing adhering to UC Davis student organization policies and the North American Interfraternity Conference (NIC) guidelines,” Kushner said via email. “Any reports of hazing I have received or will receive are sent directly to Student Judicial Affairs. My board does not personally handle any hazing conduct, we simply respect and enforce all sanctions handed out by [OSSJA].
Members of some Greek organizations that are currently under investigation mentioned the lack of transparency and communication from OSFL and OSSJA during investigations.
“There has been practically no communication on OSFL’s end as well as [OS]SJA’s end, so we’re kind of in the dark,” said an executive board member of one of the Greek organizations about the investigation process. “Some of the allegations are baseless and sort of unjustified. I can understand why they’re not making everything transparent to protect those who have made allegations, but I feel like it’s a ‘guilty until proven innocent’ kind of thing which is really frustrating.”
In the midst of the misconduct investigations, some members expressed that their pledging process taught them time management and helped them to bond with other pledges.
“I would not consider anything I did a form of misconduct, because we were allowed to drop out of the process at any time without question,” a recent pledge said. “We all knew what we signed up for and we were all prepared to go through with that process.”
Dees noted, however, that the Greek community nationwide needs a culture shift.
“I think Davis is a piece of that larger community and anytime you are trying to shift and change a culture that has embedded traditions that need to be changed, everyone would love it to go faster than what is reality,” Dees said. “It’s going to take time and we wish it would go much faster, but we are doing the proactive and preventive education that we have set in place and we are excited to see some of the results of those as time goes on.”
Dees also highlighted that the prevention education program was introduced three-and-a-half years ago by OSFL as a requirement process for the Greek community.
“I think the recent suspensions are part of the problem, but I also think part of it is that folks are aware of the policies that are being violated which is why things are coming up as opposed to not realizing that there are issues,” Lamarre-Laurent said. “The more that we do education, the more folks are aware of what should and should not be happening.That’s pretty on target with what happens when you are doing increased education around high-risk behavior.”
Written by: Graschelle Fariñas Hipolito — firstname.lastname@example.org