Reaction to pledging ban

By Mark McGowan

The recent pledging ban by two national fraternities has left Larry Bolles, director of NIU’s Judicial Office, with mixed feelings.

“My immediate reaction is that I’m overjoyed,” Bolles said. “Realistically, though, I have mixed feelings. How do you enforce it?”

“We got rid of hazing 40 years ago. Twenty years ago they wanted it to cease and desist forever, and it’s been the worst it’s ever been in the last four or five years.”

Bolles’ reactions come after announcements by the Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity and Zeta Beta Tau fraternity that both will put an end to pledging this fall.

“It’ll be a first,” he said. “How do you get undergrads to (stop pledging)? (Fraternity members) will say ‘Yeah, sure’ and tell you that (pledging) doesn’t exist. Hazing has not let up.”

Bolles said one of two things will happen regarding a ban on pledging. Fraternities could find a way to get around it or actually stop the pledge process.

The number of lawsuits has been “unreal,” Bolles said. “It’s become a financial matter. They’re hitting them (the fraternities) in the pocketbook.”

Bolles said he is afraid that pledging has become too strong of a tradition in fraternity life. “It will take some serious re-educating.”

Many recent hazing incidents on the NIU campus were performed by out-of-town visitors and not local NIU students, Bolles said. “We’ll have to phase it out,” he said. “Right now, it’s like rites of passage.”

The judicial office has suspended and expelled students who have taken part in hazing, indicating that the office does not take the process lightly. And, Bolles said, “The incidents have decreased (since the expulsions).”

The Student Judicial Code defines hazing as “an act or activity by an organization or group (or a member of either) in which a member or prospective member may be subjected to an activity which may cause or create a risk to one’s physical or mental health.”

This includes fear, intimidation, embarrassment, physical exhaustion, harm, mental fatigue, mutilation and harassment, among other things.

The code also states, “The university of the hazing recipient may charge an individual and/or the officers of a recognized organization with responsibility for the hazing act(s), both on or off campus.”

“We do hold officers responsible for hazing incidents,” Bolles said. “They can’t say they were out of town when (the hazing) happened. They’ve got to say ‘I’ve got a meeting in the judicial office.'”

“It’s a great, but unfortunate, move,” he said. “Pledging is at the root of hazing.”