90.9 WBUR - Boston's NPR news station
Top Stories:
PLEDGE NOW
Here and Now with Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson
Public radio's live
midday news program
With sponsorship from
Mathworks - Accelerating the pace of engineering and science
Accelerating the pace
of engineering and science
Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Cornell University’s Promise: End Pledging As We Know It

(Flickr/ASurroca)

At Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, students, administrators and alumni are engaged in a process to change the way students pledge fraternities and sororities.

The university president, David Skorton, promised to change the system in a New York Times op-ed last year, after sophomore George Desdunes died in a fraternity house.

Desdunes was involved in a hazing episode that included mock kidnapping and coerced drinking.

Four Cornell students are facing charges and Desdunes’ family has filed a $25 million wrongful death suit against the fraternity, Sigma Alpha Epsilon.

SAE’s national office argued in a defense brief filed earlier this year that Desdunes died because of his own “culpable conduct.”

But Skorton wrote in the NY Times that:

“This tragedy convinced me that it was time — long past time — to remedy practices of the fraternity system that continue to foster hazing, which has persisted at Cornell, as on college campuses across the country, in violation of state law and university policy.”

The university has already taken steps to prevent fraternities from using alcohol as a recruiting tool, by banning pledges from attending any fraternity parties with alcohol. Only after they become members are they able to attend those parties. And the university says, the fraternities are only allowed to serve students 21-years of age and older.

A committee is considering several options, like replacing the current pledging process with outward bound activities or group community service projects.

That may be a hard sell for students used to alcohol-infused parties.

But Tim Marchell, Cornell University director of mental health initiatives, said students want to change, they just need some help.

“I hear them begin to recognize, the discrepancy between their stated values, their personal values and what they find themselves doing,” said Marchell. “That gives me some hope we can really make headway.”

Guests:

  • Travis Apgar, Cornell University associate dean of students
  • Tim Marchell, Cornell University director of mental health initiatives

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
Robin and Jeremy

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

April 16 8 Comments

Oklahoma City Bombing Juror Looks Back

Mike Leeper was Juror No. 5 in Timothy McVeigh's trial for the 1995 terror attack that killed 168 people.

April 15 Comment

‘Institutional Memory’ Of U.S. Senate To Retire

Donald Ritchie has spent nearly 40 years keeping track of Senate lore and delivering weekly historical minutes to Senate lawmakers.

April 15 Comment

Watson Can Win ‘Jeopardy!’ But Can It Cook?

IBM has created a new cooking app called Chef Watson. Eliza Strickland threw a dinner party to find out if it works.

April 14 122 Comments

Turkish Professor Concludes There Was An Armenian Genocide

While Turkey denies the killings were genocide, a Turkish professor explains how she arrived at the opposite conclusion.