UVA lawsuit raises question of what counts as hazing
- The University of Virginia's (UVA) chapter of Sigma Lambda Upsilon is suing the college in federal court, alleging it restricted its freedom to associate on campus by suspending the group and determining the sorority's requirement that members study 25 hours per week violated an anti-hazing policy, The Washington Post reported.
- The university maintains there were more serious infractions, such as requirements members attend 10- to 12-hour info sessions on weekends, during which there were several two- to three-hour periods of standing. Emails shared with The Post indicate some members felt emotional distress while others felt supported by the sorority.
- UVA suspended the chapter for the spring 2018 semester. Sigma Lambda Upsilon, which is a Latina sorority, claimed in its September lawsuit that UVA "does not impose a less-than-25-study-hour rule on any other ethnic group." The group's attorney also said the college's claims were exaggerated.
The lawsuit comes at a time when Greek life is in the spotlight. The focus has tended to be on fraternities, where hazing resulted in four student deaths in 2017 alone, drawing attention to the issue on a national scale.
Sororities have faced similar scrutiny, however, if less of it. Last month, the mother of Jordan Hankins, a women's basketball player at Northwestern University who took her own life in 2017, sued the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority claiming hazing caused mental health issues that led to her daughter's death.
In August, East Carolina University suspended the Alpha Phi sorority for three years as part of a crackdown on misbehavior in the Greek system, which the university documents publicly. It did not disclose the nature of the Alpha Phi hazing.
Penn State last spring upheld a decision from the Alpha Chi Omega national organization to suspend the chapter on its campus for three years, also due to hazing.
It is one of several universities doing more to keep Greek life on campus in check. In October, Pennsylvania enacted a law requiring secondary and postsecondary institutions to implement anti-hazing and reporting policies and procedures, and strengthening penalties. It also adds a felony charge for aggravated hazing if serious injury or death occur. The law is named for Timothy Piazza, a Penn State student who died in 2017 as a result of injuries sustained from falls after drinking excessively at a fraternity pledge event.
The law also required colleges in the state to report documented instances of hazing over the last five years. Going forward, such reports will be required twice a year.
- The Washington Post What constitutes hazing