When a Hazing Goes Very Wrong
IN the early-morning hours of that Friday in February 2011, at around 3 a.m., George Desdunes and another Cornell
sophomore were sitting on a couch blindfolded, their wrists and ankles bound with zip ties and duct tape.
They had been kidnapped and driven to a town house somewhere on campus, one of the annual hazing rites of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity. This particular ritual worked in reverse of most hazing. It was the freshman pledges who kidnapped older students.
The two S.A.E. brothers were asked trivia questions about the fraternity. If they gave a wrong answer they were supposed to drink a shot of vodka. As George Desdunes’s roommate would later tell the police, “The purpose is to tie up the brother and get him drunk.” ....HAZING is common on American campuses. A 2008 University of Maine study concluded that 55 percent of students who join fraternities, sororities, sports teams or other student groups experience it. On Wednesday night, officials at Binghamton University of the State University of New York, citing “an alarmingly high number of serious hazing complaints this spring,” halted all recruiting and pledging for the rest of the semester while it investigates. Binghamton has more than 50 fraternity and sorority chapters. ....As a condition of that settlement, S.A.E. officials agreed to post on their Web site every case in which a local chapter was put on probation, suspended or expelled by universities from 2007 to 2011. In five years, disciplinary action has been taken against nearly 80 of S.A.E.’s 223 chapters. A spokesman for S.A.E., Brandon Weghorst, declined to comment for this article, citing continuing litigation. (In the spirit of full disclosure: one of my sons belonged to an S.A.E. chapter for two years, and enjoyed his experience.) ...