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Hey greeks, hang on to your identity

Illustration by Arnie Bermudez
By Daniel Scarpinato
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Friday September 26, 2003

Greeks at the UA have suffered from a reputation of being a bunch of phony kids for way too long. Level-headed, logically thinking people know that stereotype is fallacious.

But if campus bureaucrats, charged with regulating this community's behavior thanks to an overzealous state law, continue to twist greek leaders' arms, the stereotype of being "phony" will only resonate more with the non-greek populace.

And the reason has nothing to do with how people in greek life dress or talk or where they drink. It doesn't have an ounce to do with how much money their parents make.

We all know those stereotypes are fictional and demeaning, mostly created by students who long for some belonging of their own.

Daniel Scarpinato

No, the bad image comes as the UA is desperately working to reinvent what it means to "go greek." And it's doing so by cracking down on so-called "hazing."

If you haven't followed the hazing violations fraternities have endured over the past couple of semesters, you'd think this was an important fight.

But the definition our Dean of Students Office uses for "hazing" is pretty liberal. Of course, Carol Thompson, associate dean of students, says the UA has almost no choice. Our state law leaves little wiggle room for the UA.

But let's get real, it's come to the point where asking a fraternity brother to pass the peas at the dinner table could land your fraternity on probation.

Delta Tau Delta made its pledges eat ravioli covered with maple syrup. Busted.

Kappa Sigma had its pledges pick up colorful cupcake sprinkles and sort them into piles. Yup, that frat got busted too.

See, most people don't think of cupcake sprinkles when they think of hazing. They think of people tied up and paddled while scrubbing floors and yelling, "Yes, sir!"

Now in fairness, the dean's office seems to think that they'll stop these more serious violations if they rule with an iron fist.

It's funny, because these less serious violations that are getting attention are the result of fraternities getting creative. They're trying to find ways to initiate members without putting them in danger.

No doubt, members of greek life, particularly the presidents and leaders of fraternities, are bursting at the seams. But in reality, they have no choice but to play along as the rulings come down.

What people need to realize is that fraternities and sororities were not created for the sole purpose of "reaching out to the community" or "building leadership qualities" as they like to tout. That's why we have the Red Cross.

People join greek life to have fun, meet new people and feel part of something, plain and simple.

Anyone who thinks otherwise is fooling him- or herself. Testing pledges to make sure they can commit to the organization is a natural, healthy process.

And when it comes to hazing, one can't be so black-and-white.

Marc Viscardi, president of Chain Gang Junior Honorary, said at Wednesday's panel discussion, "There is a difference between capital H' hazing and little h' hazing."

Viscardi hit the nail on the head. How can you possibly categorize scavenger hunts and fraternity history tests with acts that physically or sexually threaten a pledge?

By lumping all of these innocent initiation tools in with serious threats, the entire validity of the hazing crackdown is called into question. The university is trivializing the danger of real hazing.

One of the only brave souls to go on the record with his dissent to the UA's whip-snap at hazing was Drew Baxter, the former president of Pi Kappa Alpha.

"When I first came to this school, the greek life was fun, and everyone wanted to be a part of it. If I were an incoming freshman, I'd be crazy to join a frat now. It wouldn't be any fun," Baxter told Wildcat reporter Aaron Mackey last summer.

Sure, Pike had violations that exceeded combining breakfast with an Italian dinner, but Baxter did a great job of boiling the situation down.

This isn't just about hazing. This is isn't just about watching out for innocent freshmen. No, the university is carefully altering the entire purpose and function of greek life.

Greek leaders should work to save the system's identity, even if it means breaking some ties with the UA and making a few sacrifices.

Daniel Scarpinato is a journalism and political science senior. He can be reached at

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