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Newsletter > November 2012 > "Alabama Suspends All Pledging"
Alabama Suspends All Pledging
Daniel McCarthy, Manley Burke
According to a statement from the University of Alabama, due to numerous calls to the University’s hazing hotline, the University “has ended all IFC pledgeship activities as of 1 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 18.” At a press conference announcing the decision, Mark Nelson, the University’s vice president for student affairs, stated, “Pledgeship is over for this year. Those that can initiate new members are asked to do so now.”
According to reports, hazing allegations were made against at least 10 fraternity chapters on campus. Following investigations, many of the chapters were cleared of wrongdoing. However, several chapters were found to have engaged in hazing activities. Several organizations were disciplined by the University, including one chapter that had its Student Organization Seating for the rest of the football season revoked and another chapter that had all pledge programs and social activities suspended indefinitely. At least two national organizations suspended their chapters, pending further internal investigations.
Most of the hazing allegations included reports of chapters requiring pledges to do strenuous exercises, such as “bows and toes.” The Rush Chair for one chapter was quoted in the Tuscaloosa News on the report, “Everyone exercises. I exercise, football players do exercises. For that to be considered hazing is absurd….”
It is unclear where this headed. However, as a public institution, students at the University are protected by the First Amendment. While the University has the right to regulate Greek organizations and a duty to ensure the safety of its students, it does not have the right to violate the freedom of association rights of its students. Anything more than a short suspension of pledging activities could be seen as a violation of the freedom of association on campus.
In the meantime, quotes from students such as the one above must be avoided. This is another example of why chapters must be prepared to address media attention following newsworthy events.
Look for updates in Fraternal Law as this case develops.