College warns against hazing

MOORHEAD - A Concordia College sorority involved in a lawsuit stemming from a 1993 hazing incident was warned that its recent pledge week activities could be considered hazing.

MOORHEAD - A Concordia College sorority involved in a lawsuit stemming from a 1993 hazing incident was warned that its recent pledge week activities could be considered hazing.

In addition, concerns about the group's plans prompted a North Dakota State University student leader to caution fraternities there not to condone a pledge activity scheduled by Concordia's Lambda Delta Sigma group.

The specifics of what happened during the group's pledge week, held last week, are unclear, but it is documented that their adviser cautioned against three of the planned activities.

Describing what, if any, hazing activities the group participated in is challenging because the president and pledge captains of Lambda Delta Sigma did not respond to messages seeking comment and Concordia officials directed all media inquiries to a spokesman.

Nathalie Miller, Concordia's adviser to LDS, wrote in an Oct. 1 e-mail obtained by The Forum that some of the events for pledge week could make students uncomfortable and may violate Concordia's hazing policy.


"I would advise you all to think critically about the rest of the week's events and activities, and consider how these activities can be uncomfortable for the pledges - and even more uncomfortable for them to say they do not want to partake," wrote Miller, assistant director of student leadership and service.

The activities she advised against included an "Alka-Seltzer ceremony," which required pledges to close their eyes while "big sisters" poured club soda in their mouths. One member planned to take pictures as the pledges "spit it out."

Other events Miller advised against included:

- "Pledges are to sing in the back seats of cars with heads down and no talking.

- "We will then dress the girls up and make them dance for us."

Miller wrote that those activities could violate Concordia's hazing policy, which includes prohibitions about subjecting students to humiliation, forcing or coercing them to consume food or drink, and personal servitude.

"I simply do not want to see LDS be put in a position of not being recognized by the college or, even worse, be part of a lawsuit regarding hazing," Miller wrote. "... Traditions are not worth having if they are potentially harmful to your organization overall."

Miller would not answer questions about the e-mail, referring all inquiries to Concordia spokesman Roger Degerman.


Degerman said Concordia has no indication that the group violated the college's hazing policy. He would not respond to questions about whether the events described in the e-mail took place.

The Forum requested to interview Concordia President Pam Jolicoeur, but was told Degerman would handle all media inquiries.

Concordia considers LDS a society, not a sorority. Degerman said the primary difference is that LDS is not affiliated with a national organization. The group also does not have its own house.

In 2000, Concordia settled a lawsuit involving LDS after a student claimed she suffered a permanent foot injury during a hazing ritual seven years earlier. The student said in the lawsuit that during a 1993 incident, her feet became frostbitten after she was forced to walk outdoors in subzero temperatures.

NDSU being cautious

Kristen Aas, an NDSU student who oversees the university's sororities as president of the Pan-Hellenic Council, said she heard last week from a Concordia friend who had concerns about the LDS pledge week activities.

Aas's friend at Concordia was not part of the activities, but knows two LDS members.

Aas said her friend was upset after hearing that pledges were required to wear trash bags and eat spaghetti without using utensils or their hands.


Aas said it was her understanding that LDS pledges were going to be required to dance for NDSU fraternities later in the week.

Aas said even though her information was secondhand, she took the call seriously and suggested to fraternities that they not condone the LDS pledge activity.

"I was not at any events, I do not know what happened exactly, but my main concern was for the safety of students," Aas said.

Doug Wosick, president of the Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity at NDSU, said while he doesn't know any specifics about activities at LDS, his chapter is being cautious about associating with the Concordia group so the fraternity is not caught up in a hazing incident.

"If we allow them to do something like that here, it's not going to be good for us either," Wosick said. "We definitely don't condone it here at NDSU. They should be a lot more careful themselves, LDS."

However, other fraternity presidents said they would need more information about what happened at LDS before they would discontinue associating with the group.

In addition to warning Greek groups at NDSU, Aas also reported her concern to Amy Graff, NDSU's associate director for student activities.

Graff then relayed that to Miller at Concordia. Graff said she passed on the information out of concern for students.


Wanting to belong

Tracy Maxwell, executive director for, said even if students consent to activities, it is still considered hazing.

"New members to organizations go along with these things every day because of group-think mentality," Maxwell said. "They are new to a school and an organization and they really want to belong."

Maxwell said the activities described in Miller's e-mail to LDS are "clearly hazing."

Local organizations like LDS that don't have a national affiliation often have a more difficult time getting away from old traditions that are now considered hazing, Maxwell said.

"Often they have alumni who went through this kind of thing and want to see it continue," she said.

National organizations of sororities and fraternities have cracked down on hazing and have strict policies, Maxwell said.

At NDSU, the national organizations of the fraternities and sororities have tougher rules than the university. For example, the sorority Aas belongs to prevents members from turning off the lights during meals.


A national study published this year said that 55 percent of college students involved in clubs, teams and organizations experience hazing.

"There's a lot more hazing that happens that we don't ever hear about," Maxwell said. "Sadly, usually we don't hear about it until it reaches the extreme."

In that same study, 5 percent of students who identified their experiences as hazing reported it to college officials.

"It shows we have a lot of education to do," Maxwell said.

From Concordia's hazing policy:

Concordia interprets hazing as any willful act done by one or more individuals, whether physical, mental, emotional or psychological, that subjects another person, voluntarily or involuntarily, to anything that may abuse, mistreat, degrade, humiliate, harass, ridicule, intimidate or endanger him or her, or that may in any fashion compromise his or her inherent dignity as a person.

Such activities and situations include, but are not limited to:

- Physical punishment, contact, exercise or sleep deprivation that causes excessive fatigue and/or physical and psychological shock


- Coerced or forced consumption of food, drink, alcohol, tobacco or illegal drugs

- Coerced or forced transporting of individuals

- Public humiliation, ridicule, indecent exposure or ordeal

- Coercing or forcing illegal acts

- Coercing or forcing acts that are immoral or unethical

- Blocking an individual's academic, athletic, health or personal success

- Personal servitude

- Mental harassment

- Sexual harassment

- Deception

- Threat of social exclusion

- Any activity that involves the use of alcohol or any controlled substance in violation of Concordia's Alcohol and Other Drug Policy

- Any activity that is not in accordance with Concordia's established policies.

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