“Do away with all proof…”
Published: Tuesday, March 13, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, March 13, 2012 16:03
After seven hazing allegations in four years across the country, the national office of Sigma Sigma Rho, Inc. was concerned – not with how to eliminate hazing but with how to cover it up. In a nationwide email sent to every chapter in February last year, the nation board issued a memo instructing how chapters should seek to do away with all proof of hazing – under threat of penalization.
Rather than condemning hazing, a practice officially shunned by the organization, the email detailed how chapter members should eliminate a paper trails that could be linked back to the organization – belying a contradiction some Greek organizations appear to have with what they say on paper and what they do in practice.
Further, the memo advises “pledge mistresses,” or those charged with membership recruitment, to avoid electronic messaging, as that might leave incriminating evidence
If caught in the act, the memo suggests that sisters use a pre-prepared, made-up excuse to justify their actions to throw off suspicious university officials or police officers and limit what they could be charged with. “If ever faced with a scenario where a cop begins questioning your activities, always follow what they say, give IDs if they ask and NEVER (sic) discuss the organization you belong to,” the email reads. “Think quick, and always have a local chapter/colony plan of the story you can tell anyone of authority in the case something like this happens.”
The email goes further to solicit help from the national office if facing problems with “preparation,” even saying that the national executive board will penalize sisters and/or chapters for breaking the rules laid out to suppress evidence. “It is better to be safe and prepare yourself with STORIES (sic) for quick thinking purposes, than to be sorry with a scenario that turns for the worse because you were not prepared,” according to the email.
The local chapter of Sigma Sigma Rho was placed on a new member recruitment suspension as of Jan. 13 – when the assistant dean of students, Pamela Anthony, said the organization’s “new member policies condone practices that are in direct conflict with Georgia State University’s Hazing Policy and constitute violations of criminal law as hazing is a crime in the state of Georgia.”
Evidence sent to the university include photos of non-GSU sorority members committing hazing rituals, specifically where recruits were forced to kneel and have pounds of flour and other materials poured on them. Other examples of hazing activity include a structured merit/demerit system, forced entries into pledge books and mandatory physical exercises as punishment measures.
As of press time, the national office was not prepared to comment. Attempts to conceal or prevent certain information from being leaked are not confined to Sigma Sigma Rho, however. In regards to one of The Signal’s recent Open Records requests, the national president of Zeta Tau Alpha, Keeley Riddle, sent a letter to the Dean of Students and University Legal on Feb. 3 requesting prior review of all relevant documents requested.
However, boththe university Office of Legal Affairs and the Office of the Dean of Students refused to comply with her request, according to emails they have released. Riddle did not respond with a statement despite repeated attempts for comment.
Secrecy, anonymous letters and lack of evidence
Due to the secretive nature of many Greek organizations, verification of events and activities not formally sanctioned by the university can be daunting. Pledges often must sign confidentiality agreements as a precondition of joining Greek organizations and are frequently sworn to secrecy – putting tremendous pressure on them to not speak out.