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EDITORIAL: CMU Greek Life calling attention to hazing culture, offering solutions show positive step in right direction

A sheet that reads, “Hazing is NOT Sisterhood” hangs from the Phi Mu sorority house during National Hazing Prevention Week on Sept. 26, 2014 on Main Street.

Greek Life culture on American college campuses is almost as pervasive as school pride.

Greek fraternities and sororities are a conglomeration of many aspects of student life — philanthropy, volunteerism, camaraderie. For some, going Greek will be the highlight of his or her college experience,. It's finding a group of like-minded men or women who share a sense of fun and values.

For others, Greek Life has been a terrible experience because of hazing, alcohol abuse and bullying. 

We can't pretend those things haven't happened at Central Michigan University. They have happened here, too.

This week Greek Life has taken steps toward calling out instances of malpractice within their own community through a Hazing Prevention Week. These events — including a panel discussion about hazing incidents that have happened at CMU and a vigil to honor those across the country who died due to hazing — have been a staple on campus for a handful of years now.

We applaud Greeks for localizing a national issue on a peer-to-peer level. We are happy to see Greek Life continue this tradition of education and guidance. 

Damon Brown, director of Student Activities and Involvement, said the anti-hazing initiative started three years ago when Katrina Crawford, former director of fraternity and sorority life, came to campus. Her goal was to bring about "better student education on hazing," Brown said, and to "make them more aware" of what constituted as hazing and teach them how to stop it.

While Crawford has left the university, the culture she left behind is stronger. 

Continued education means we can prevent issues like the one that happened last year. Former student Andrew Seely was hazed by underground fraternity Alpha Chi Rho. Peanut butter was smeared on Seely's face, which triggered a severe allergic reaction. The incident brought world-wide attention to CMU in the most negative way. 

The fraternity had been kicked off campus in 2010 due to issues with hazing, according to a 2016 interview with Director of Student Conduct Tom Idema about the incident. The irony here is while Alpha Chi Rho hadn't been a recognized fraternity at the time of incident, it was vying to be recolonized. 

Claims were made immediately following the hazing: Seely's fraternity brothers didn't know of his allergy, it was just a joke, people from the outside didn't understand and had the story wrong. People were overreacting. 

But it didn't matter to those people from the outside. The incident went national. News outlets like the Detroit Free Press and New York Times picked up the story. It was the worst case scenario for CMU, who then had to play damage control due to the actions of several students that went viral and ended in a trip to the hospital.

When we don't keep incidents of hazing in check, we end up with circumstances like Seely. Or worse — sometimes they don't get to tell their story after hazing. Journalist and researcher Hank Nuwer, who deals specifically with incidents of hazing in his writings, estimates that at least at least one death a year from 1959 to 2017 can be attributed to hazing.

By discussing these issues, we as a campus community can show incoming students what the standard is at CMU — a campus that does not tolerate the harassment and hazing of its students. 

While that effort might start with Greek Life, it doesn't end with them. It comes down to every student to call out harassment and hazing when they see it be it in their fraternity, sorority, club, sports team or so on. 

We are tied to each other by more than clubs or communities — we're all on the same campus as students who came here to succeed.