Cornell University President Wants to End Fraternity Pledging

In an opinion letter in The New York Times, Cornell University president David Skorton demands an end to pledging, which he calls a "guise" for hazing. According to Skorton, pledging is not, as some fraternities purport, a way for students to prepare for membership, but "is often the vehicle for demeaning activities that cause psychological harm and physical danger." The impetus for this action, says Skorton, is a student death in February believed to be the result of fraternity hazing. Skorton is calling on the Greek community to offer solutions:

"Yesterday, I directed student leaders of Cornell's Greek chapters to develop a system of member recruitment and initiation that does not involve 'pledging' - the performance of demeaning or dangerous acts as a condition of membership."

As for any sound, persuasive argument, Skorton address the skeptic's question:

"Why not ban fraternities and sororities altogether, as some universities have done? Over a quarter of Cornell undergraduates (3,822 of 13,935 students) are involved in fraternities or sororities. The Greek system is part of our university's history and culture, and we should maintain it because at its best, it can foster friendship, community service and leadership."

Cornell Campus

Discussion Starters:

  • Do you agree with President Skorton that the line between hazing and pledging is blurred? Why or why not?
  • What do you consider to be the most persuasive argument in his letter? Least?
  • What would convince fraternities to abide by this request? In other words, what is the best way to persuade fraternities to change?