Cornell Ends Pledging

The president of Cornell University, David Skorton, has taken a radical step in dealing with the Greek system: he’s banning pledging altogether. According to a piece in the Cornell Chronicle:

“We must end the current system of pledging, often perpetuated through traditions handed down over generations, because it fosters hazing and other activities based on humiliation or risky behavior that often pose psychological harm and immediate physical danger to those involved,” Skorton said.

The ban will be implemented during the 2012-13 academic year, said Kent L. Hubbell, the Robert W. and Elizabeth C. Staley Dean of Students. The president has directed the student leaders of Cornell’s Greek chapters to develop a system of member recruitment and initiation that does not involve pledging, as it now exists. Chapters found in violation of the new policy will face loss of recognition.

This comes in the aftermath of yet another campus death. Last winter, 19-year-old George Desdunes, who was pledging Cornell’s Sigma Alpha Epsilon, died in the chapter house after allegedly being forced to drink until he passed out. His mother sued SAE for $25 million.

How, exactly, students would join fraternities and sororities without pledging, a roughly semester-long process where students join themselves to a particular house, remains unclear. But the Greek system at Cornell will surely find a way. They have to; fraternities and sororities rely on new members and their dues to keep to chapters open. They need students to keep the Greek system operating.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer