The Kappa Kappa Gamma Sorority has been banned until 2017 from having a chapter on the University of Connecticut campus. It has been asked to vacate its on-campus house before the end of this month, by the end of this spring semester.
The revocation of the sorority’s campus operating charter came after a pledge had to be hospitalized after consuming excessive amounts of alcohol during a hazing incident at a fraternity’s off-campus house.
The University’s Director of Student Affairs has also cited two other aspects of the hazing that led to the revocation of the sorority’s charter.
Pledges were apparently compelled to behave “like animals,” though none of the news reports that I have managed to find and have read have specified what that element of the hazing specifically involved.
The pledges were also apparently asked to lie on the floor and wiggle as if they were bacon strips that were starting to sizzle. The pledges have described this part of the hazing as “humiliating,” and I will take their word for it.
Regardless of the impact on the pledges, individually or collectively, the university has adopted and widely publicized a zero-tolerance policy toward hazing.
The sorority did announce that it might appeal the revocation of its operating charter on the basis that the hazing occurred outside of the sorority house at an event that was not in any way sanctioned by the sorority’s leadership or membership. In effect, the sorority might argue, the entire chapter is being penalized for the impulsive behavior of several of its members.
Unfortunately for the case that the Kappa Kappa Gamma chapter is trying to make, what happened during that sorority hazing incident did not occur in isolation. This spring, four other fraternities and sororities at the University of Connecticut have been put on “suspension” until other complaints about hazing could be investigated and adjudicated.
Another sorority that, like Kappa Kappa Gamma, may be banned for hazing is Delta Zeta. In a sort of reversal of what happened to the Kappa Kappa Gamma pledges at the off-campus fraternity house, fraternity pledges who visited the Delta Zeta sorority house were reportedly forced “to consume alcohol, to eat dog treats, to paint their bodies, to wear women’s thong underwear, and to take shots of alcohol off each other’s bodies, among other things.” That’s what the University reported in suspending that sorority’s charter while the complaints against it were being formally reviewed.
Writing about that hazing incident for New York magazine, Maggie Lange has asked, “’Among other things’!? Other things that were less fit for a formal-suspension letter than consuming dog treats while wearing thongs?” (And I can’t help but wonder if this demeaning treatment is related to, or similar to, the “acting like animals” element of the complaint against Kappa Kappa Gamma. If so, was someone willing to be specific about this element of the demeaning treatment of fraternity pledges but not for sorority pledges? And if so, what kind of strangely turned sexism is at work in that decision?)
In any case, I have to admit that, at least in the context of that sort of unimaginatively demeaning hazing, the “sizzling like bacon” might seem almost whimsical, or at least brainlessly goofy.
On the other hand, even allowing that sort of concession seems tantamount to minimizing the humiliation that the sorority pledges have asserted that they felt. And anyone who has ever witnessed any hazing knows, viscerally as well as intellectually, that all hazing is, at bottom, pointlessly ridiculous cruelty which, especially in combination with excessive drinking, seems to bring out the sadistic streak that just about everyone has somewhere within them, whether just beneath the surface or in some deep recess. There are all too many tragic incidents that have illustrated just how quickly it can all get way out of hand.
So, as I thought about all of this, I began to wonder why I had laughed out loud when I was initially reading this story.
Perhaps, I just have a cruel streak about which I ought to be deeply ashamed.
Or to cast that reflexive response in a somewhat less self-denigrating light, perhaps, my laughter was just an existential response to the general absurdity of the human condition—to yet another illustration of the absurdity of much human behavior.
Or, perhaps, it was the fact that the Detroit Free Press ran this image with the story:
There wasn’t any sense of whimsy–never mind any sense of metaphor—in that editorial decision.