When Geoffrey Cousins joined a fraternity three years ago, he knew he was in for intensive pledging, but was willing to pay the price for brotherhood. Cousins, who went through several grueling weeks as a pledge, said the period is an integral part of the black Greek system. But students joining black Greek organizations this year may have a radically different experience. The national black Greek organizations are discussing whether to abolish traditional pledge rituals, and have already agreed to ban "pledging," at least in name. Over the years, the pledging practices of several black Greek organizations have come under fire because of deaths and injuries that have occurred during hazing. Pledges have traditionally been forced to undergo mental and physical abuse on their way to membership. The pledging process at the University has been tempered in the last decade. Members of black fraternities and sororities here said they agree that some aspects of pledging still need to change, but the process is essential to the black Greek experience. (***EDS NOTE: CORRECTION - Cousins is Pres. of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity - Alpha Kappa Alpha is sorority) "I understand and realize there is definitely a need for change from the present system," said Cousins, who is now president of the Alpha Kappa Alpha fraternity. "But I don't feel the changes need to be so drastic as proposed." Black Greeks began deliberations about the pledging process after the National Black Panhellenic Council called on fraternities and sororities to abolish the system last February. The fate of pledging was left up to the national chapters of each organization. Each of the groups this summer decided to abolish pledging, but are still determining what will take its place. Several members said yesterday that they expect the organizations to set standards within the next few weeks. As nationals continue to debate, black fraternities and sororities on campus are still in the dark as to what will become of first-year programs and do not even know what they will do this year. Cousins, a College senior, said yesterday that he does not think his fraternity will completely phase out the pledging process. He predicted that changes will be made to standardize pledging processes in chapters around the country, adding that he thinks each campus branch will have its "own personal flair." And despite Black Panhellenic Council members' affirmation last spring that the groups would comply with their call to abolish pledging, some members said overturning pledging will not be that easy. Delta Sigma Theta President Ronnette Addison, a Drexel University senior, said yesterday that the citywide sorority's national chapter decided to continue the controversial pledging process, but is "developing and instituting" a new program to begin this fall. Sorority members do not yet know the details of the new system. The last major hazing accident in a black Greek organization at the University occurred in 1977 when an Omega Psi Phi pledge died of heart failure during a pledge event after being beaten by a paddle several times. The pledge, who was a College sophomore, was reportedly punched in the chest and made to do other strenuous activities causing his already weak heart to give out. Several accidents have occurred on other campuses since the 1977 incident, and black Greeks across campus said no occurence at the University had anything to do with the recent changes. They said controversy over pledging in black sororities and fraternities has been brewing for over a decade. Alpha Phi Alpha President Cousins said he thinks the pledging system could be salvaged if fraternities and sororities learned to oversee their members during pledging. "The problem would not happen if each chapter watched its members and disciplined them if they got out of line," he said. "We need harsher treatment for individuals who make the entire organization look bad." Alpha Kappa Alpha President Simone Frier said yesterday that her sorority pledging process already has a system of checks and does not need to be altered in any way. "We have a written pledge process to follow," the College senior said. "It prevents individual members from going astray from the designated program." Frier added that Alpha Kappa Alpha members never resort to hazing in their pledging processes. Black InterGreek Council Vice President Melissa Peterson said yesterday the changes to the pledge process will not harm the black Greek system because fraternities and sororities will continue to attract new members despite the changing pledge system. "The changes are important, but they're not as critical as people think," Wharton junior Peterson said. "Black Greeks will just keep getting stronger anyway."Comments powered by Disqus
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