Every August, groups of parents prepare to take their daughters to college with hopes for their success, prayers for their safety, and fears for their well-being. In most cases, their fears are unfounded and the proud parents see their daughters flourish in college. But what happens when those fears are justified and their daughter finds herself the victim of sorority hazing? Once on campus, young women often find themselves looking for acceptance from groups women who identify themselves by a combination of Greek letters; wear various color combinations; project chants and are bonded by sisterhood, scholarship, and community service. In other words: Sororities.
The membership requirements of each sorority vary and are available to the public on the organization’s websites. Unfortunately, far too often, there are some “requirements” and “activities” that are not authorized by the national organizations, local chapters, colleges, or universities. These unofficial requirements and acts may be considered a form of hazing.
Forms of Sorority Hazing
HazingPresention.org describes acts of hazing as:
- Forced activities to prove a new initiate’s worthiness to join the organization;
- Forced or required alcohol consumption;
- Forced or required food consumption;
- Sleep deprivation;
- Physical labor;
- Menial tasks;
- Paddling, beatings or other physical acts;
- Required acts for established members, also known as “runs”; and
- Illegal activities
Please understand that hazing can be in many forms. Whether your daughter has experienced any acts previously listed or has been forced to participate in something not listed, it can still be considered hazing. If you believe your daughter is being hazed, the best practice is to talk to her and encourage her to report what happened. No matter the situation, these acts are not required to become a member in any of the amazing sororities throughout the United States.If you are unsure of the laws in your state, you should research to be aware. In Illinois hazing is defined as:(a)A person commits hazing when she knowingly requires the performance of any act by a student or other person in a school, college, university, or other educational institution of this State, for purpose of induction or admission into any group, organization, or society associated or connected with that institution, if: (1)the act is not sanctioned or authorized by that educational institution; and (2)the act results in bodily harm to any person. (720 ILCS 5/12C-50)
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Signs of Sorority Hazing
Google can easily inform you about the horror stories but identifying whether your daughter is the victim of hazing may not be that easy to determine, especially if your daughter does not feel comfortable expressing the issue. Signs of hazing can look like the following:
- Sudden change in behavior or attitude after joining the organization;
- Sudden decrease in communication with friends and family;
- Physical and psychological exhaustion;
- Unexplained weight loss;
- Unexplained injuries or illness;
- Change in sleeping or eating habits;
- Withdrawal from normal activities;
- Increase in secrecy and unwillingness to share details.
If you notice any of the above signs in your daughter, you should report your concerns to an official with the organization and/or your daughter’s school.
How to Report Acts of Hazing
It is important to talk to your daughter and use your parental instinct to determine whether your daughter is being hazed. If your parental intuition will not rest, it is better to report your suspicions to individuals who can assist, instead of leaving those concerns unresolved.Notify any of the following individuals of any suspicion or actual knowledge of hazing:
- Greek Life Adviser of the University and/or College;
- Organization’s Chapter President;
- Organization’s Chapter Advisers;
- National Executive Board of the Organization;
- Dean of Student Life at the University and College;
- President of the University and/or College
All of these individuals have a duty to ensure the continued safety of your daughter while she is affiliated with their organization, university, or college. They must report hazing and failure to do so may result in criminal arrest and a Class B misdemeanor. 750 5/12C-50.1.
- 55% of college students involved in clubs, teams, and organizations have experienced hazing;
- More than 1 in 5 report that they have experienced hazing personally;
- In 95% of cases where students identified their experience as hazing, they did not report the events to campus officials; and
- 36% of students say they would not report hazing because “there was no one to tell”
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Legal Remedies for Sorority Hazing in Illinois
Illinois provides criminal and civil remedies for hazing. In Illinois, an individual may be criminally charged with hazing if the hazing results in great bodily harm or death. The sentence may vary from a Class A misdemeanor to a Class 4 felony.Illinois also provides a civil remedy for those affected by hazing and those who perpetuate the hazing culture.In order to bring a civil lawsuit against an individual, organization, or university for your daughter’s hazing:
- First, it must be established that duty of care was owed to your daughter by the students, organization, and college/university;
- Second, the duty owed to your daughter was breached; and
- Third, the breach directly caused harm to your daughter.
For example, a mother brought a wrongful death lawsuit in the Northern District of Illinois, United States District Court against the national sorority, two regional chapters, and nine individuals for which her daughter joined as a member. It was alleged that the hazing incidents that occurred during the daughter’s pledging process caused the daughter severe anxiety and depression, which resulted in her unfortunate suicide. This lawsuit is still pending.If you believe your daughter has been the victim of sorority hazing please call our office at 313-223-1700 to discuss the specifics. Your daughter does have legal remedies under Illinois law. Our consultations are free and confidential.
Prevalence of Sorority Hazing
According to a report published by The Campus Lantern on the prevalence of hazing, 70% of sorority members experienced hazing at some point during their interactions with Greek life. This means that most sorority members experience some type of hazing at some point. The fact that it is prevalent does not mean that it is acceptable or legal. On most college campuses, hazing is against the rules.
History of Sorority Hazing
Sorority hazing has its roots in Ancient Greece. In 387 B.C., students at Plato’s Academy were subjected to mild oppression and torment called “pennalism”. This early form of hazing continued through the middle ages to the early 19th century, when it became nearly synonymous with university life. The first college student was expelled for hazing from Harvard University in 1684. The practice of hazing became more dangerous after the Vietnam War when alcohol use in hazing and Greek life became more common.
Long-Term Impacts of Sorority Hazing
There are many long-term impacts that stem from sorority hazing. This includes:
- Trust issues
- Lower self-esteem
- Decreased Self-efficacy
- Trouble forming relationships
- hazingprevention.org – A website filled with resources and a guide to state laws regarding hazing
- University of Chicago Policy on Hazing
- University of Illinois Rules of Conduct
- Southern Illinois University: How to Report Hazing
- Northern Illinois University Student Code of Conduct
- Western Illinois University Policy on Hazing