Greek life, hazing and IUP

A Civic Project story: Greek life at IUP (II)

The Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house, 220 S. Seventh St., Indiana, Pa. Photo by Chris Hayes  Mason B. Varner, president, Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, from his LinkedIn page

The Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house, 220 S. Seventh St., Indiana, Pa. Photo by Chris Hayes

By Chris Hayes

INDIANA ¬– On the morning of Sept. 22, 2014, Tucker Hipps, a freshman at Clemson University, went on an early-morning run with his Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity brothers, according to greenvilleonline.com. A few hours later, his body was found under a bridge.

More than a year later, the cause of Hipps’ death remains unclear. However, many believe, including Hipps’ own parents, that fraternity hazing had something to do with it.

Hazing, as well as alcohol consumption, has been associated with Greek life for decades, but college hazing deaths are on the rise. According to data from a 2013 Bloomberg study, at least 60 fraternity-related deaths have been reported since 2005, most of which involved alcohol and hazing.

A 2001 study published by the American Psychological Association shows that fraternity members on college campuses “do drink more heavily than their non-Greek peers.” The findings also suggest a so-called “Greek effect” exists among fraternity members – that if some Greek members are binge drinking, then others will too, according to the APA website.

 

THIS YEAR, Indiana University of Pennsylvania has experienced its own fraternity problems.

William R. Scott, an IUP freshman, was charged with raping a female at the IUP Sigma Chi fraternity house on South Seventh Street during an Aug. 28 party, according to The Indiana Gazette. Scott, who was not a member of the fraternity, is no longer enrolled at the university but is seeking re-enrollment.

According to the Office of Student Leadership and Greek Life page on the IUP website, hazing is defined as “any action, situation, activity, or complicity in activity, or any mental or physical requirement or request placed upon any pledge, member, affiliate, or alumnus/a, which causes or has the potential to cause endangerment of the physical, emotional, or mental health or safety of the participant.” A lengthier definition, along with IUP Greek Life’s Anti-Hazing Policy, can be found here.

Mason B. Varner, president of the Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity on campus, said he has never witnessed any cases of hazing within his fraternity. He said his fraternity tries to maintain a higher moral standard.

Mason B. Varner, president, Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, from his LinkedIn page

Mason B. Varner, president, Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, from his LinkedIn page

“I’ve actually never witnessed a hazing in my life,” Varner, an accounting major, wrote in an Oct. 15 text message. “There is a stigma that fraternities haze and that is to build a comrade or team mentality. But really that is accomplished much better in so many healthier activities.”

Varner said Phi Sigma Kappa attempts to acclimate new members in other ways.

“Our main goal is to familiarize them more with what they have joined; the history, legacy and benefits,” he wrote in the text. “We want them not only to buy in, but realize the opportunity for growth. I don’t see that happening through hazing.”

 

IUP STUDENTS may be missing the message.

A Nov. 20-Dec. 6 survey of 1,000 randomly selected IUP undergraduate students showed that both hazing and drinking are serious issues at IUP fraternities. Almost half of respondents said they associate IUP fraternities with drinking, compared to 29 percent of respondents who said they associate IUP fraternities with philanthropy.

Moreover, 68 percent of students said they have heard about hazing instances at IUP fraternities during their college career. (See sidebar on the Qualtrics survey, below.)

However, IUP administrators and Greek officials are either mute or on message about fraternity hazing.

IUP President Michael A. Driscoll declined to respond to a question about the state of IUP fraternities during a Nov. 5 Open Forum in Sutton Hall’s Gorell Recital Hall.

Two IUP students and Interfraternity Council members, Michael T. Van Etten and Vincent D. Hanig, did not respond to a Nov. 19 email asking about hazing and drinking issues with IUP fraternities.

Michelle S. Fryling, IUP executive director of communications and media relations, said fraternities should be careful not to misbehave.

“Fraternities have a lot to lose,” she said during a Nov. 12 interview in her Sutton Hall office.

Elizabeth E. Sarneso, assistant director of student leadership and Greek Life at IUP, said the stigma regarding hazing in fraternities is more of a national problem.

“When there’s nothing making the media, there’s a lot of room for assumptions and generalizations to be made,” Sarneso said in a Nov. 12 interview in Sutton Hall. “I don’t think it’s a negative PR problem. I think sometimes it’s a void of PR. People are attracted to the negativity.”

Asked about cases of excessive drinking and hazing in IUP fraternities, specifically during parties, Sarneso said problems could arise from the party atmosphere.

“Maybe you are a different student by day than you are at night,” she said.

Sarneso said she might not be the first person to know when instances of hazing occur on IUP’s campus.

“I’m certainly accessible,” she said. “It just doesn’t always mean I am in the know about everything.”

However, Sarneso said she believes IUP fraternity members are up front with her when they approach her about cases of misbehavior.

“I don’t think that I’m being lied to,” she said.

Sarneso said she wasn’t sure whether IUP has a reputation for hazing and binge drinking that is worse than other universities’.

“I would say no, but the thing is, no one really knows,” she said. “You can only say what you see here. I don’t know, but I also don’t think.”

 

MEANWHILE, a civil lawsuit filed over the 2014 death of pledge Tucker Hipps added a new witness on Dec. 8, according to South Carolina news report.

The anonymous witness alleged that the Sigma Phi Epsilon pledge was forced onto a narrow railing as part of a hazing tradition that required pledges to jump off a bridge, into a lake and swim ashore. The account said that Hipps fell from the railing, caught it on his arms, tried to climb back up and fell headfirst into the water.

The news account reported that the witness’ story has been challenged.

Chris Hayes, a sophomore Journalism & Public Relations major at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, is from Pittsburgh.

Sidebar: The Qualtrics survey questionnaire, responses

Below is the text of a nine-question survey of Indiana University of Pennsylvania undergraduate students about hazing and drinking at IUP fraternities. The anonymous Nov. 20-Dec. 6 survey was sponsored by the IUP journalism department’s News Reporting class.

The Qualtrics system administered by the IUP Applied Research Lab reported 62 responses from 1,000 students who received the survey, a response rate of 6 percent, with a margin of error of 2.9 percent.

The principal findings of the survey were:

  • 68 percent of respondents said they have heard about instances of hazing in IUP fraternities
  • 77 percent said they have heard about instances of binge drinking in IUP fraternities; 47 percent said they had witnessed it
  • 43 percent said they associate Greek life with sex or sexual assault
  • 50 percent said IUP fraternities and its members have a bad reputation on campus.
  •  

    Complete response data are available on request from the author, Chris Hayes, or the editor, David Loomis.

    The questionnaire follows:

    Christopher Hayes, an Indiana University of Pennsylvania journalism student, is researching IUP Greek Life and public perceptions of it. The following survey asked questions to IUP students about instances of hazing and drinking in IUP fraternities. This survey is being conducted for a reporting project for the News Reporting class taught by IUP journalism professor David Loomis, Ph.D. (doloomis@iup.edu)

    Survey response data may be published in the award-winning online newspaper The HawkEye, published in the IUP Journalism Department. Your responses will be anonymous. Neither your name nor your identity will be revealed, and they will be unknown to the reporter.

    However, if you would be willing to be interviewed about this issue by the reporter, Mr. Hayes, please provide your name and email address at the end of this questionnaire. The survey takes about 5 minutes.

    1. Please specify your gender.
    a. Male
    b. Female
    c. Transgender

    2. What do you associate IUP Greek Life with most?
    a. Hazing
    b. Drinking
    c. Sex/sexual assault
    d. Philanthropy
    e. Other: ___________

    3. Do you believe Greek Life still has a place on IUP’s campus?
    a. Yes
    b. No
    c. Don’t know

    4. Have you ever heard about instances of hazing in an IUP fraternity or sorority?
    a. Yes
    b. No

    5. Have you ever witnessed hazing in an IUP fraternity or sorority?
    a. Yes
    b. No

    6. Have you ever heard about instances of binge drinking in IUP fraternities and sororities?
    a. Yes
    b. No

    7. Have you ever witnessed instances of binge drinking in IUP fraternities or sororities?
    a. Yes
    b. No

    8. Do you associate IUP Greek Life with sex and/or sexual assault?
    a. Yes
    b. No
    c. Don’t know

    9. Do you believe IUP Greek Life and its members have a bad reputation around campus?
    a. Yes
    b. No
    c. Don’t know

    10. If you would like to be interviewed by Mr. Hayes, please enter your name, email address and phone number. (Providing this information will not link you to your responses on this questionnaire.)

    Thank you.

    Sidebar: For more information/To get involved

    For more information on this story, or to get involved in issues involving conflicts between IUP Greek Life, Indiana borough and Indiana University of Pennsylvania, contact the following sources:

    Elizabeth E. Sarneso
    Assistant Director, Student Leadership and Greek Life
    Center for Student Life
    Pratt Hall, Room 303, 201 Pratt Drive
    Indiana University of Pennsylvania
    Indiana, Pa. 15705
    Phone: 724-357-2598 (office)
    Email: esarneso@iup.edu

    Michelle S. Fryling
    Executive Director of Communications and Media Relations
    Communications & Media Relations
    316 Sutton Hall
    Indiana University of Pennsylvania
    Indiana, Pa. 15705
    Phone: 724-357-2302 (office)
    Email: michelle.fryling@iup.edu

    William C. Sutton
    Chief
    Indiana Borough Police Department
    80 North Eighth St. Indiana, Pa. 15701
    Phone: 724-349-2121 (office)
    Email: WSutton@indianaboro.com

    Interfraternity Council
    Panhellenic Association
    Center for Student Life
    Pratt Hall, Room 303
    201 Pratt Drive
    Indiana, PA 15705
    Phone: 724-357-2598
    Email: go-greek@iup.edu
    Web: http://www.iup.edu/page.aspx?pageid=198424
    Web: http://www.iup.edu/greeklife/governing-councils/panhellenic-association/

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