For the third time in five years, Sigma Delta Tau has been found responsible for hazing, this time in a case that involved allegations of pledges being made to attend nightly meetings, line up in the dark for quizzes on sorority history and being scolded if they improperly addressed a sister.
A college judicial review board, organized by the Office of Judicial Affairs, “felt, more likely than not, that the allegations did occur,” according to the findings. As a result, the sorority’s registration status is suspended until May 31 and members must create an anti-hazing workshop for campus sororities.
The investigation was spurred by an anonymous phone call from a parent on March 4. The probe, conducted by Public Safety, included written and verbal testimony from Tamika Quick, coordinator of Greek Affairs, and all 18 new members of Sigma Delta Tau.
At a hearing on April 10, the judicial review board found the sorority responsible in a 2-1 vote. The board was advised by Matthew McMahon, assistant director of Judicial Affairs, and included faculty members Mia Serban and Luis Lokuta and one student.
“The Board held the written evidence with more weight than the testimony presented by the students in the hearing and felt, more likely than not, that the allegations did occur,” according to an official report. “The Board considered the sanctions imposed to be proportionate to the nature of the offense.”
Sigma Delta Tau president Samantha Mazza said the organization has no comment on the matter.
The suspension of registration status “consists of the loss of all college privileges given to registered organizations,” the report continues, which includes the ability to recruit members on campus, schedule the use of College facilities and equipment or to request funds from allocations.
After the registration status suspension is lifted, the organization must develop and administer an anti-hazing workshop to be completed by Dec. 1.
“This program must be in compliance with recommendations of, and approved by, the Assistant Director of Student Development and Coordinator for Fraternity and Sorority Life,” the report states. “One hundred percent of active Sigma Delta Tau members must be involved in the planning and implementation of this workshop.”
Hazing expert Hank Nuwer, an author and professor whose academic specialty is in hazing education, said that in cases of recurrent institutionalized hazing, sometimes the only way to break the cycle is for “high status members being opposed to it. They have enough clout to change the mentality.”
Nuwer teaches journalism at Franklin College in Indiana and has written several books on hazing in society.
One method to change the dynamic, according to Nuwer, is to substitute community service as a bonding mechanism. Hazing is often a result of “groupthink,” explained Nuwer, and members “will do anything for camaraderie, including covering up afterwards.”
He added that hazing intervention “has to be from the undergraduate level,” saying that peer-on-peer training is more effective and successful than anything coming from the administration.
The Office of Judicial Affairs defines hazing as “organizing, engaging in, facilitating or promoting any conduct which places or may place another person in danger of bodily injury.”
Spokesperson Anna Farneski said that while she could not comment on specific Judicial Affairs cases, the College “respect[s] the process that has been followed and expect[s] the organization will fulfill the requirements outlined in their sanctions and move forward positively.”
“Regarding recent allegations, the College has zero tolerance for violation of rules that govern Greek life, organizations that typically function appropriately and bring social and civic to our College,” Farneski added. “The recent matter did not require consultation with the local authorities.”
Nuwer explained that there is a distinction between criminal and non-criminal hazing. He stated in cases of non-criminal hazing, he felt that it is appropriate to handle it within the college administration.
In cases of this non-criminal hazing, he stated there is often a mentality of “we didn’t take it too far, I don’t understand why it’s being made such a big deal.” However, “non-criminal hazing is often the tip of the iceberg,” Nuwer said.
The Sigma Delta Tau national organization is currently working with Ramapo’s SDT chapter in light of the case. The national office also conducted their own investigation of the hazing charges.
“It is the policy of our Sigma Delta Tau national organization that hazing is forbidden. Our National Council is working closely with our Ramapo College chapter following allegations of hazing violations this semester,” said Ann Braly, executive director of of Sigma Delta Tau national sorority. “Following the investigation by our national organization, we have found no evidence of policy violation; however, we will take this opportunity to re-educate our members and provide strict oversight on the creation of future new member programs.”
Braly said a national board member has been “assigned to closely oversee the development and implementation of our Gamma Rho chapter’s future new member curriculum” and that the office will be providing the organization with “educational resources, personnel, and new member programming to ensure that our SDT chapter at Ramapo is following all campus and sorority guidelines.”
Next year, Braly added that the chapter will have more adviser oversight and consultant visits as well.
According to Nuwer, most cases of hazing are a result of “one or two members taking it too far because they feel they have the support of the entire group,” because no one stands against them.