Allegations of hazing leveled against TKE initiation practices

This article was also co-authored by Derek Thurber with contribution from Rachel Alexander and Josh Goodman.

Several weeks ago, The Pioneer was approached by senior Dan Hart with some of the allegations described below. As a result of his coming forward, we began an investigation into his claims as well as into the policies of the administration, of TKE and of all the Greek groups in regards to initiation. Our goal in printing this article is not to write an exposé on any fraternity’s initiation practices or to damage the reputation of Greek groups on campus. On the contrary, we have attempted to present the facts and opinions expressed to The Pioneer from all sides of this matter. We hope this article will inspire a thoughtful discussion on all the issues presented here, and we encourage you to comment on this story at whitmanpioneer.com or to submit a Letter to the Editor expressing your thoughts.

Credit: Ethan Parrish

On Feb. 18, senior Dan Hart approached Dean of Students Chuck Cleveland as well as The Pioneer with hazing allegations against Tau Kappa Epsilon (TKE). According to Hart, TKE violated Whitman’s Code of Conduct, specifically the college’s hazing policy, during the fraternity’s initiation ceremony of new members last winter.

Hart, a junior at the time, underwent 16 hours of TKE initiation before making the decision to cease participation in the activities and de-initiate from the fraternity.

Hart alleged that the 2010 TKE initiation included restrictions on food and sleep, verbal abuse and required clean-up work: all of which are in violation of Whitman’s hazing policy. He waited a year to come forward over concerns for his personal safety if he made the allegations public.

According to college policy, which is found in the Student Handbook, “[hazing] is any activity of a physical or psychological nature that is degrading or humiliating to another person.”

Associate Dean of Students Clare Carson said the college expanded this hazing policy in 2008, after the administration became aware of hazing incidents occurring as part of a varsity sports team’s initiation process.

In addition to Whitman’s hazing policy, the state of Washington has its own laws against hazing, thus students attending college in state: whether public or private: can be prosecuted under these laws separately from the policies of individual schools.

In the two weeks since the allegations were first brought to Cleveland’s office, the administration has begun a formal investigation into the validity of Hart’s claims. The administration has met with both Hart and the members of the TKE Executive Council.

“The college takes all these kinds of investigations seriously and we have an obligation to investigate. That’s what we’re doing,” said Cleveland.

“When students come forward with allegations, we are always concerned about their personal safety, how they are doing, what kind of support they need,” Cleveland added. “By the same token, we’re also concerned about the well-being of either the individual or the group to whom the allegation is leveled against. We feel that we have an obligation to all students to provide them the support they need to get through difficult issues and times.”

The TKEs initially declined to be interviewed for this article, preferring instead to respond to allegations in a Letter to the Editor which can be found on page seven. Ultimately, current Whitman TKE President, junior David DeVine, responded over e-mail.

Allegations Leveled

The last initiation activity Hart participated in, and the event that ultimately compelled him to de-initiate, took place in the TKE kitchen.

According to Hart, he and his fellow initiates were instructed to prepare breakfast for the active members in accordance with TKE initiation rule number 13: provided to Hart by the TKE Hegemon: that all pledges must “make and serve breakfast”: a task made more difficult by the trash and food that had previously been smeared on the kitchen surfaces.

Hart said that when the pledges cleaned up the trash, it was smeared back on the floor and kitchen surfaces; when they finished cooking the food, it was thrown against the wall. He said this went on for four hours.

“It was senseless and I was terrified and I was scared by what the TKEs were doing. They were purposefully intimidating me into doing what they wanted: to clean this kitchen, which in the first place had no point other than to submit to their actions,” said Hart.

Hart alleged that the TKEs employed verbal abuse to force the new members into labor similar to that in the kitchen, as well as to “dehumanize” new members in an attempt to make explicit the power dynamics between new and active members.

According to rule number five of TKE initiation, all pledges must always “wear hoodwinks but not outside.” Hart explained that a “hoodwink” is a piece of cloth adorned by a number identifying each initiate. Hart’s number was “1876.”

“I despised being called 1876. These are my friends, these are my colleagues, my peers: these are people I look up to. These are people I tutor and they are calling me 1876. It doesn’t get a whole lot more depersonalizing than that,” he said.

In 2007, former Whitman student Daniel Bachhuber also approached the administration with similar concerns. Like Hart, Bachhuber de-initiated from TKE as a result of his dissatisfaction with aspects of TKE initiation. In his three days of initiation, he experienced comparable types of food and sleep deprivation and forced cleaning.

“Initiation wasn’t anything constructive; it was destructive. If we were going to deprive ourselves of sleep but we wanted to do something constructive, we should have built a house for Habitat for Humanity or something like that,” said Bachhuber. “The way I construed the situation is that they were trying to break us down and recast us into this mold of a TKE fraternity member.”

Both Hart and Bachhuber alleged that TKE initiates were forced to take communal showers in freezing cold water. According to rule number nine of initiation, all pledges can only “shower with direction.”

“I’m told that I can’t take a shower because another rule is that pledges can only shower under the direction of an active,” said Hart. “We are all lined up. We are in our underwear; some people are naked, and we are forced to go into the shower.”

According to Cleveland, Bachhuber’s accusations were dealt with at the time by Associate Dean of Students Barbara Maxwell, the Greek advisor.

Maxwell declined to comment specifically on Bachhuber’s allegations, but said that the administration has consistently addressed complaints about conduct violations during initiation.

“When an incident gets brought forward, there’s an investigation, there’s a finding, there’s an outcome,” she said. “One [claim] wasn’t handled any differently than the other one.”

Bachhuber had problems, however, with the way the administration dealt with his claims.

“[Maxwell's] recommendation was to express my grievances with [the fraternity presidents] and she made some sort of promise that things would be cleaned up the next time around, but I didn’t ever see the extent of what that was,” said Bachhuber. “My interpretation of the entire situation is that whoever was involved wanted to sweep the incident under the rug so they could keep on doing what they were doing.”

After de-initiating, Bachhuber struggled to connect with Whitman, especially with his friends in his residence section.

“I lived in 2-West, so everyone I knew was part of a frat house,” said Bachhuber. “To de-initiate was really hard for my social life, not necessarily because anyone made it explicitly so, but because I felt ostracized from the community that developed from [initiation].”

Hart said he did not feel the repercussions of his de-initiation as harshly as Bachhuber. According to Hart, the fact that he was a junior and had already developed a support system at the college was a primary reason for the lessened impact of his de-initiation.

“I already have my friends, whereas a lot of the freshmen are all friends with the TKEs, so they believe they would be socially ostracized,” said Hart. “I had all these other communities that were willing to welcome me.”

Maxwell agreed that the desire to be accepted as part of a group might deter some students from coming forward with allegations of misconduct.

“I think it’s hard [to come forward] if you’ve got an affiliation or attachment to a particular group, whether that’s a fraternity, sorority or an athletic team or another club on campus,” she said. “It’s human nature to want to be affiliated and want to be accepted.”

Interfraternity Council President, and member of Sigma Chi, junior Peter Olson contests the claim that participation in fraternity initiations is influenced by peer pressure.

“Not all the time are people pledging with all their best friends,” said Olson. “Theoretically you could see how that may happen, but at Sig we actively work to have an open channel of communication and really check in with them throughout pledgeship and initiation to make sure they’re comfortable with everything going on and that they’re having a good time.”

Maxwell added that national Greek organizations have been very proactive in developing communication channels for members, including toll-free 800 numbers where misconduct claims can be reported anonymously.

Bachhuber left Whitman in May 2007 after his first year, a decision which he said was influenced by his experiences both during and after initiation.

“I initially took a leave of absence and then I dropped out all together. A good 60 percent [of this decision] was because of initiation. The singular effect of de-initiating destroyed my entire community at Whitman and the community of what Whitman is supposed to be about,” he said.

Official Regulations and Response

According to the national Tau Kappa Epsilon organization, “[TKE] does not condone or tolerate any form of hazing and is committed to a membership education period which instills a sense of responsibility and commitment to the new members.”

Current Whitman TKE President junior David DeVine said Whitman’s TKE chapter upholds all national standards as well as follows all Whitman policies.

“The administration is aware of the details of our initiation. Any issues that may exist will be addressed,” said DeVine in an e-mail.

“Through a shared experience, members learn to trust and depend upon one another. They are much closer friends as a result,” he added.

Hart also said he recognizes the benefits of fraternity membership, which he said prompted his initial decision to rush TKE.

“I genuinely like the TKEs. I am not coming forward now because I have any personal resentment toward any members of TKE. That community can be really good for people,” said Hart. “I think the friend aspect of it is why a lot of people want to initiate.”

According to DeVine, initiates may opt out of any activities they find objectionable, a claim Bachhuber and Hart both found to be true in their own experiences.

“During the initiation week, they’re expected to be committed to the initiation process. They’re expected to participate in everything, but if they feel really uncomfortable with something, they’re given the option to [opt out],” said Olson in regards to Sig initiation.

DeVine said that nothing in TKE initiation would be considered more stressful than the first day of classes for first-year students and that TKE initiation does not involve any illegal activities which could make initiates uncomfortable. Both Hart and Bachhuber also emphasized that the use of alcohol or drugs was not a part of TKE initiation nor was physical contact or abuse. This fact is affirmed by TKE initiation rule number 18 that there is to be “no alcohol or drugs.”

Perceptions and Changes Going Forward

Sophomore Panhellenic President and Delta Gamma member Alex Woodward said that in spite of popular perceptions, initiation is not synonymous with hazing new members.

“People associate hazing and bad things happening [with] initiation, but those aren’t the same and those don’t coincide together. It is interesting that people always ask about that aspect of initiation, because there are really all of these great things that happen that have nothing to do with negative impacts on members,” she said.

Woodward and Olson also emphasized that Greek groups on campus strive to have accountability and provide outlets for members to address concerns with initiation practices. Concurrent with these practices, Maxwell said she supports any student who comes forward, hoping that initiation can be a positive experience for everyone involved.

“[The Greek groups'] intent is to create a strong, cohesive group of people where everyone feels valued and respected,” she said. “I would hope that if people don’t feel like that’s happening that they would come forward and that we could use it as an opportunity to educate the group so that they would then make changes.”

Like Woodward and Maxwell, Hart wants the positive aspects of TKE initiation, and of Greek life in general, to be emphasized. Hart, however, believes that the positives are currently undermined by hazing practices.

“I don’t want hazing to occur in the TKE house,” he said. “I don’t want to take communal showers, I don’t want to be called by a number, I don’t want resources to be wasted in the way they are, I don’t want to be yelled at and intimidated. I would rather see initiation be a true, transformative experience.”

In order to read the official TKE response to this article please see the Letter to the Editor by TKE President junior David DeVine on the Opinion Page.




Filed under: Front Page Slideshow Greek Life News

Responses


Molly Smith Mar 3, 2011 8:00 AM

Our comments policy has changed since many of these comments were published. We have made the decision not to retroactively delete those comments which violated our new policy; however, please read the new policy first before proceeding:

http://whitmanpioneer.com/comment-policy/

–Molly Smith and Derek Thurber, Whitman Pioneer Editors-in-Chief


me Mar 3, 2011 10:45 AM

By speaking up, these two demonstrated something apparently not taught at institutions…. character.


My Mar 3, 2011 13:39 PM

They both had the opportunity to leave and they did. Close bonds are created through tough and stressful environments where individuals are forced to work together. In these types of environments a person’s true character is relieved, in the case of these two men they both realized that the Greek life is not for them. Thus, they left. That said people who willingly go through initiation should not be punished because two people had a problem with their own experience. Where these two men saw fault, others will develop bonds that will be forever and never separated by distance (Graduation, Location, etc.) People will always object, always dislike, but for people who don’t lasting bonds are created.


KAI Mar 3, 2011 14:19 PM

“DeVine said that nothing in TKE initiation would be considered more stressful than the first day of classes for first-year student”

“Hart said that when the pledges cleaned up the trash, it was smeared back on the floor and kitchen surfaces; when they finished cooking the food, it was thrown against the wall. He said this went on for four hours.”

Clearly, this is just a problem of interpretation, right?


Hmm Mar 3, 2011 14:23 PM

@My – the article was not about “bonds,” and whether or not they are created. It is about hazing, which is in direct conflict with Whitman College rules, as well as TKE National rules

And to everyone who reads this – TKE is on probation for 4 years, meaning they will be monitored closely during their initiation during that time.

Why this is not in the article is beyond me – call up Chuck Cleveland and ask.

And why would the college put them on probation?

Because the allegations of hazing are true.

I believe probation is a completely acceptable and fair outcome, as it will give TKE the chance to develop a new method of “bonding” that is not psychologically damaging.


I Mar 3, 2011 14:29 PM

The task must be made difficult, for only the difficult inspires the noble-hearted.

Tke initiation is rough, definitely too rough if all that we hear about it is true. Honestly, though, we should revel in the strength we build from fraternity. I think a lot of good things are taught from fraternity and that making people uncomfortable can be good. People should not have their comfort zone destroyed but pushed. However it is important to recognize that while pushing their comfort zones the Tkes might have gone too far and become carried away with their methods. Change the methods and ask “does this build character?”, “does this degrade?”, “does this inspire teamwork and togetherness?” not “how can we fuck with pledges?” Tke is a good house, a strong group of people. Tke did not truly hurt anyone, so investigate and make sure the house is safe. Just don’t ruin it for everyone because someone found this single bad day upsetting.


Goodisman Mar 3, 2011 14:30 PM

Once when I was walking across Ankeny I stubbed my toe. It hurt. I didn’t know that I might stub my toe if I walked across a grass field. It’s supposed to be pleasant. Stubbing my toe destroyed my community at Whitman and the community of Whitman is supposed to be about.


huh Mar 3, 2011 14:38 PM

Greek life isn’t for everybody. We can all agree on that. Clearly the people who spoke up for this article were not individuals who should be in Greek life–which is why they have decided not to be.
I think it’s beyond evident and clear that the Whitman Greek system is NOTHING LIKE STATE SCHOOL GREEK SYSTEMS. And I feel that this article, in a way, is trying to shove TKE into a category that includes state school frats that have done much much much worse things. And luckily, Whitman’s TKE just doesn’t fit there, and I hope Whitman students are aware enough to realize that.
It sucks that these two people had an unfortunate experience with the Greek system, but those two people had the choice and utilized the choice to withdraw themselves. And I commend them for giving Greek life a try. For them, the ways by which TKE fosters close relationships was not something they particularly agreed with and that is to be respected–but for all the TKE members who stayed through initiation, clearly there is something to say about that as well. Something positive, because otherwise they would utilized their opportunity to withdraw as well.
I’d like to see the Pio do a story about the positive side of Greek life, how the people who have initiated feel and how they think Greek life has bettered them as individuals and their experience at Whitman.
There are two sides to every story, and I certainly hope that the Pioneer does not become a publication that likes to sensationalize just to entertain their readers.


PIO, Get it TOGETHER Mar 3, 2011 15:00 PM

Why are you putting in things from Sig initiation? This is NOT about the Greek system or even particular people of the TKE fraternity, it is about the PROCESS (initiation) of that fraternity. That is incredibly clear by what the two guys who left initiation said that THAT was the problem.

No offense to Peter Olson, but this article does not need his comments. Again, the issue is not the Greek system.

The Pio gets one chance to write a compelling piece and they sugar-coat it in the “politically-correct” niceness that is pervasive at Whitman and stifles any sort of conflict. Every sentence of this is caked with administrative control.

This newspaper lost sight of what the actual subject was – hazing.


what a joke Mar 3, 2011 15:33 PM

YOU THINK THIS IS CONSIDERED HAZING?

haha. Thats great stuff. If WSU or UW saw this article I’m sure that they would laugh beyond their control.

How is this a big deal? Oh no! You had to clean? How terrible!! Oh even worse, you had to take a shower…IN YOUR BOXERS……WITH OTHER PEOPLE?? (it’s like a public pool?!?! HOW HORRIFYING)…..EVEN WORSE YOU HAD TO COOK BREAKFAST???

I feel so bad for them…..not because of the supposedly “horrible” experience they had for not even a day of initiation….but because they think that what they experienced was soooo terrible that they “feared for your safety”…cause in all reality they went through things that they will be going through many more times when they enter the real world.

ie: Cooking breakfast, cleaning the kitchen (probably after cooking breakfast…right?) and going to public pools.

The only difference was they were doing these activities with other people, other FRIENDS, and in doing these things together they probably would have bonded if they took the time to stop bitching and feeling sorry for themselves. I know its possible to have bonded over these things because, well, LOOK–the people who are part of TKE are BEST FRIENDS after initiating.


Maybe it was hazing, maybe it wasn’t. Mar 3, 2011 15:59 PM

Take a moment to stop and think about the TKEs you know. Think about your friends in the house or even just the guy you sat next to in art. Do you really believe that that person or any of the other TKEs would abuse another whitman student out of malice? Do you really believe that Initiation is a pointless mistreatment of pledges?

It is obvious that TKE Initiation pushes pledges comfort zones, but don’t you think that they have a very good reason for doing it. Its established that they don’t force anything upon anyone, and that pledges can say enough if they feel their being pushed too far, so these activities must have some purpose other than abuse.

I think that TKE should be allowed to keep doing what its doing. The rest of us may not understand it, but from what the TKEs I know have told me, what they do works and no one (who actually finishes it) regrets their decision.


zhdfld Mar 3, 2011 16:01 PM

I think the article was very well written, but I do agree with past sentiments that is was somewhat sugar coated in the traditional “Whitman niceness.”I also agree with the statement made that I hope the Pio publishes an article highlighting the positive aspects of greek life.

It must also be acknowledged that Hart did not participate in the full initiation process. I am not saying that this takes from his validity and his claims, but I do believe we need to look at the whole picture. He does not know what happens in the majority of initiation. And he is not part of the brotherhood that is created through this very tough process. People do bond with each other in times of emotional trouble. Right now it is just Hart’s word against TKE’s, but the TKEs probably know a little bit more about the whole process than an individual who experienced a mere 16 hours of it.

Another thing that I resent about this article is the allegations made against varsity athletes. I think it is entirely inappropriate to lump athletes into the Greek system and initiation practices. By targeting the athletes and greek system you are singling out a very particular group of people on campus because most athletes are also members of greek organizations.

I respect all of the opinions and individuals who shared their thoughts in this article, but I think the TKEs have every right to feel singled out and targeted. The individuals who wrote this article and the men who de pledged have never truly been part of the Greek system and know nothing about what it is like to be a member of this group. They have no insider perspective. How do they feel justified in such harsh criticism?


Great article Mar 3, 2011 16:04 PM

Okay, regardless of whatever happens at state schools (hey, if we’d wanted to go to state schools, we could have, right?) I think it has always been well known at Whitman that TKE’s initiation process is a little more intense than the other fraternities. (Coffins much?) Whitman is such an incestuously small community anyway that I am both pleased and impressed that two individuals were willing to come forward with any of this. Granted, one of them did leave Whitman, which I think demonstrates something important about the divisive nature of greek life. Everyone’s entitled to their opinion, but I think it’s great to see the Pio tackling such a contentious issue in what looks so far to be an extremely fair and even-handed way. Way to go.


Great Article…NOT Mar 3, 2011 16:12 PM

Okay, good for the Pio for writing something that was somewhat contentious.

Lets see the Pio grow a backbone and have a staff writer write about the positive side of greek life.

Lets see the Pio have a staff writer write about the positive side of atheltic groups after they write about their initiatiions too.

AND I WANT ALL OF THESE ON THE FRONT PAGE OF THE NEWS PAPER TOO. not hidden on the third page as a 200 word article. I want the same ridiculous amount of time and effort spent to make the TKE house look like shit to be spent discovering info and producing an article that also covers WHY people went greek, and WHY it was positive for them.

lets see the Pio go beyond sensationalizing things.


Pansies Mar 3, 2011 16:22 PM

Also, “Great Article”, what the hell do you know about initiation? That ‘coffin’ rumor has been floating around forever, but it doesn’t mean its true.

Just because a few indies hate greek life and the friendships and community it provides, doesn’t mean they should belittle it and try to destroy something others hold very dear. Especially not with lies and speculation about something they’ve never experienced.


Lissa Mar 3, 2011 16:30 PM

As a Whitman student, I’m first off incredibly proud of the Pio for publishing this. I know that there was pressure from many directions to not publish it, and I think that failing to do so would have been an act of disrespect to Dan Hart, to the accused organization(s), and to the Whitman community in general.

I admit to being an outspoken critic of the greek system, yet I think by taking things like this seriously, we can show respect both for the students making allegations, as well as for the fraternity as an imperfect yet still legitimate organization. If TKE claims that there is nothing wrong with what happens and they shouldn’t have to change how they do things (for ANY reason, including that things ‘aren’t that bad’ or are pretty tame ‘compared to other schools’), then that is a good reason for those of us who dislike the greek system to continue writing them off as a harmful, patriarchial, exclusionary institution. But if TKE can admit that they have made mistakes and want to do things differently, I think they will end up in a better position and with a better reputation than before the incident. I for one would have a lot more respect for them if they could recognize what they did as problematic, rather than writing the allegations off as irrational or ‘not really that bad’.

Dan Hart has shown immense courage in speaking up about these problems, and in doing so he is doing a service not just to himself, but to other previous and potential initiates, to the greek system as an institution, and to the Whitman community as a whole. Nobody/nothing is perfect, and whatever small amount of change and progress we accomplish in our lifetimes is due to people like Dan who aren’t afraid to speak out against the crowd and do what they believe is right. Thanks for being so fucking awesome, Dan!


Jobe Mar 3, 2011 16:31 PM

The most common defense I have heard of initiation consists of two things:
1. They say, “it’s really not that bad, just too hard for those that can’t take it or were not meant for Greek life”.
2. They say, “Breaking down the initiators and giving them a hard time is necessary to creating bonds” (which makes sense).

These two defenses seem to greatly contradict each other. How could you break down the initiators through hard times without it “being that bad”? Any frat members want to try and clear this up?


Response to Jobe Mar 3, 2011 17:35 PM

Hey jobe,
I’m a frat member (not from TKE). I just wanted to give a quick response.
I agree, on the surface that those two points seem to contradict each other.

But I think a better way of putting it is that for all the pledges that are initiating; one of my fellow brothers put it this way, “It sucks at times, when what they do to us pissed us off, but when that happened we got pissed off together and that’s what bonded us over our time during initiation”.

So when they do things that may ‘seem’ bad, Its bad for all of us, and we feel it as a group…as brothers. And in the end, we appreciate the older members that did those things to us. Because it was what they did that made us so much closer as an initiating class—and for that we respect the older class as well. (Though we realized this respect at the very end of initiation…cause youc an’t realize this respect at the beginning or in the middle…because it sucks during that time…and that time is meant to make you bond with the other people going through it with you)

It seems a little backwards, I completely understand, its just something that if it makes sense to you and you are cool with it then greek life is for you. If not, then you are not obligated to go through it or be apart of it and you are free to go about other ways to get close to your friends.

Each way is different and respectable.


disappointed Mar 3, 2011 17:41 PM

@goodisman, that’s unproductive. grow up.

@wwjd?, how can you wish that on another whitman student?

reading comments on this article has been depressing. is our school really that insensitive that we call people “wusses” and “pansies”?

and wouldn’t publishing an article about the positives of greek life and initiation alongside this article be even worse for perpetuating “whitman niceness”?

the article was about discussing the issue of allegations of hazing and what the means for the whitman community. what dan did took guts. we have such a ridiculously small school that doing something like that isn’t easy.

and how can people not see the horrible implications of assigning numbers to people? for as educated as we claim to be, we certainly aren’t that smart or empathetic.


Ellie Gold Mar 3, 2011 17:55 PM

As you may have noticed, some of the comments which had been here have disappeared. Many of them were offensive or included personal attacks. They have been removed.

I will caution you all that the purpose of this article, and this series, is to foster discussion. Many of you are Whitman students (as the web editor, I can see your emails, so I know that many are refusing to use your real ones) and as such, have a personal stake in this discussion. Please refrain from personal attacks, offensive language and other such non-constructive commentary in the future.

Simple rule: BE EXCELLENT TO EACH OTHER.


@Pansies Mar 3, 2011 18:03 PM

What you’re doing is really just creating more division and bullshit between these perceived lines of “greek” and “indie.” There is actually a lot of crossover, and I happen to know that many pio members are greek, so back off. Saying that indies “hate us because of our friendships” is disingenuous and kind of the college equivalent of how the terrorists “hate us for our freedom.” Let’s try to elevate the debate, people.


Alum Mar 3, 2011 18:04 PM

Thank you, Lissa. That was by far the most intelligent response so far.

I have had a lot of feelings about this article over the last few hours. I have been frustrated by the senseless remarks in the comments section, embarrassed that, yet again, a few loud voices are making Whitman look like a place full of insensitive morons, and I have been angry with the Greek system for not handling themselves more maturely. I am going to try to make a few points as calmly and rationally as I can:

1. To those who are angry about this article, please, take a deep breath and think before you respond, like I did. Calling objectors to humiliation “pansies” or saying you “hope large, painful thunderbolts strike dan x2″ is absurdly cruel and judgmental and biased. When individuals stand up and proclaim that they have been victimized, generally there is a loud crowd who wants to silence them (women who claim they have been raped, individuals who suffer from racial or gender or sexual orientation prejudice, etc.) You have just joined that crowd. Congratulations.

2. To those who are angrily demanding that the Pio defends the Greek system: The Greek system has a very LOUD voice at Whitman and across our nation. Greeks are commonly the head of ASWC, they practically control the social life, they contribute incredibly large amounts in alumni donations, etc. Yes, the Pio has, in the past, served as a venue for the Indie perspective, but that is generally because the Indie voice IS the less powerful one. There may be more Indies, but they do not have a united front the way Greek organizations do. They don’t have weekly meetings, they don’t send recruiters into freshman sections, there is no Pan-hel equivalent for Indies. So give it a rest. The Greeks have a voice, and they use it often and WELL to defend themselves. Just like any powerful organization, they can (and should) be challenged every once in a while to keep them in check. If they are as strong and great as they claim, they’ll survive. The two lonely critical voices in this article, however, might not.

3. I would like to point out at this point the potential negative effects of strong group orientation that many people have been defending. Psychological research says several things about groups that form the way Greek systems do. First, when membership to a group is dependent upon who is “man enough” to endure maltreatment or who is collective-oriented enough to be willing to not stand up for their rights, you might be missing out on some awesome people. Second, the people who are willing to go through initiation might have the same personality traits as the people who are willing to be complicit in initiating the next group. Obedience to social norms is what led to abuses at Abu Ghraib and Guantanemo, what led to Nazi’s committing horrible acts. I’m not at ALL equating TKE initiation to these horrific acts, I’m just saying that there are similarities in terms of people harming others because it is what is expected, or to fulfill some higher purpose, or simply to not break with the authority above them.
Third, belonging to an exclusive group DOES make you feel special, but just think for a moment – is that the best way to find self-esteem and a sense of belonging?

4. For those of you claiming that pledges can leave whenever, and that this validates the process, I would like to counter that there are more forces at play here than simple free will. A TKE pledge who feels uncomfortable might easily remain in initiation for many reasons. First, there is the emphasis on masculinity and the negative attitude others might have about their refusal to participate. Seeing as several people have already used derogatory, anti-masculine terms to refer to the Dans, I assume I have no need to prove this point. Second, it is actually somewhat difficult to be Indie when a significant portion of your friends are Greek. Greeks often have closed functions, and I have known several Indies who decide to go Greek simply to feel included in this major part of the school’s social life, especially when close friends are not free to spend time with you because they are obligated to give their social time to an organization (or else face committees to explain why they are not attending functions). Especially as a first year without social networks, dropping out of pledging means a great deal more than quitting a club, it can mean social ostricization, having no friends around or people in your section, having to constantly answer the awkward question, “didn’t you go TKE? why aren’t you anymore?”. Let’s not pretend that quitting a Greek organization is no big deal. It is.

Right on, Dan(s). Don’t let these “pansies”make you regret standing up for what you believe is right. Change is slow, but it takes brave souls like you two who are willing to challenge the status quo.


@disappointed Mar 3, 2011 18:14 PM

I don’t see how publishing an article alongside this one addressing the positive aspects of Greek life would be anything but fair, balanced, and responsible. This gives a very one-sided view of a much more complex issue, and is founded largely on dated and false accusations. Please don’t let the allegations of one person ruin your relationships with, or fuel your hatred for the TKE house and the Greek system in general.


Impressed Mar 3, 2011 18:19 PM

As a non-TKE, I honestly feel like the members of that house have handled this situation incredibly maturely (read their President’s letter to the editor).


mob mentality Mar 3, 2011 18:21 PM

this seems weirdly reminiscent of the stanford prison experiment… the jailers weren’t bad people or intending to cause harm. context changes what we think is right and acceptable.


Gillian Frew Mar 3, 2011 18:22 PM

Big shout-out to the Pio for not only publishing this piece, but having the guts to defend it while inviting input from all sides… and to the web editor for keeping it civil! You guys rock.


In the bond Mar 3, 2011 18:24 PM

Approximately 1,900 Whitties have gone through TKE initiation (Mr. Hart was number 1876), out of which two have complained about their treatment to the administration (0.1%).


@@disappointed Mar 3, 2011 18:26 PM

that post said nothing about hating tkes or the greek system. it was not directed at any particular group

you don’t need to be overly defensive about claims that aren’t made.


FYI Mar 3, 2011 18:34 PM

For those of you complaining about the lack of positive Greek press, this article was posted concurrently:

http://whitmanpioneer.com/news/2011/03/03/faculty-votes-to-approve-alpha-phi-as-whitmans-fourth-sorority/


Dear disappointed, Mar 3, 2011 18:44 PM

I hope you will at least recognize how many Whitman students have gone through fraternity initiations, and how a great many of those students are incredibly accepting, successful, and influential members of the Whitman community. Each member of a Whitman fraternity is just as much a part of Whitman as you or I, and they really are “smart” and “empathetic”, despite your proclamations of their depravity. I believe that antagonizing an integral part of Whitman’s community is in no way “educated”. “Whitman niceness” as you seem to understand it is an unbiased look at the fraternity system–alongside allegations of hazing that paint the fraternity system negatively, why can’t the organizations be lauded for their successes? It only seems fair.


Knowledge and Argumentss Mar 3, 2011 18:50 PM

Lissa, as you admit, you’re a critic of the Greek System. That is perfectly fine. However, just because an article is published on a newspaper does not mean that it is being taken ‘seriously.’ In order to take something like this seriously, take the time to learn about the people you have passed judgement on. Its really easy to find evidence that supports whatever you’re thinking, so please take the tie to understand more than what you currently

Furthermore, you can’t possibly know where the TKE fraternity was, is, or will be before, during, and after this unless you’re part of the group. From what I’ve heard, the reputation of TKE before Dan Hart was not a shady one and I fail to see how their reputation after this will be any different so long as they treat the situation with utmost care. There are reasons why many Whitties decide to join the Greek System as well as why they don’t join. Our job as members of the Whitman community is to educate ourselves in what goes on around campus, so please educate yourself on these matters, otherwise you bring biased arguments with a hidden agenda into a very important and sensitive issue.

And just to improve your arguments:
FACT: ‘Fraternity’ is derived from the Latin word ‘Frater,’ meaning ‘brother’.
FACT: A ‘brother’ is a man or boy in relation to other sons and daughters of his parents.
FACT: ‘Patriarchal’ refers to an organization controlled by men.
CONCLUSION: Of course a fraternity will be patriarchal!


Gillian Frew Mar 3, 2011 18:56 PM

Also just wanted to point out the obvious and say how different this debate would look if commenters were required to leave their real names before posting personal attacks against other students. Come on, guys, let’s all “man up” a little here and stop hiding derogatory remarks behind anonymous screen names.

A fun distraction from greek/indie angst:
http://www.cracked.com/article_16605_the-8-most-obnoxious-internet-commenters.html


@alum Mar 3, 2011 18:59 PM

I would like to address a few of your points.

First: just because you say ” I am in no way equating TKE initiation to these horrific events” does not change the fact that you used them comparatively. You compared TKE initiation to Nazi Germany, Abu Ghraib, rape, and sexual orientation prejudice. Do you really think that is constructive? Do you really think there are that many similarities between TKE initiation and the regime that carried out the holocaust? It was quite diplomatic of you to use your little aforementioned disclaimer, so you could shirk off any criticism of your comparison yet at the same time get people to consider TKE initiation and horrific crimes in the same sentence.

Your supposed psychological research that backs your claims is based entirely on these hyperbolic examples. Think for a second and consider the people you know that are TKEs. Are they capable of ANYTHING near the holocaust or Abu Ghraib?

You also seem to think that there is some sort of overt hypermasculine aspect to TKE initiation. Care to back those claims up? It is easy to cast the fraternity as an overly masculine and oppressive patriarchal institution because of common cultural associations with big school frats through movies like animal house, but do you really have any evidence to support your claims? Who says TKE initiation is about being “man enough” to make it through? Over half your criticisms revolve around perceived masculinity issues. It seems like you are lumping TKE into the common understanding of the way fraternities work, something we pride ourselves on deviating from.

And if you find it so immature to deem someone a pansy, why turn around and use the same language back at the greek system? So the TKE’s are the “pansies” now? It seems like you are playing into the same masculine driven criticism you condemn.

If Dan had personal issues with TKE initiation then so be it, but address those issues, instead of applying stereotypical fraternity archetypes to something you know little about.


@FYI Mar 3, 2011 19:22 PM

I don’t believe the article about Alpha Phi is a particularly positive piece in favor of Greek life considering the huge negative reaction by non-Greeks to bringing a 4th sorority to Whitman. I would love it if the Pio actually did talk to members of fraternities and sororities and wrote about their experiences and what they have gotten out of being in their respective groups.


Ellie Gold Mar 3, 2011 19:24 PM

For those of you unaware of our comments policy (which can be found via the link next to the comments box) I’ll copy it here:

A comment violates the whitmanpioneer.com user policy if it:

contains profane, obscene or offensive language;
contains an advertisement or other spam;
targets or otherwise singles out a Whitman Pioneer staff member;
target or otherwise singles out a Whitman community member;
or if it targets or otherwise singles out an individual or group of individuals who are the subjects of an article.

Such comments will not be published. Furthermore, no personal information about commentors will be distributed, except when in violation of this policy. You are responsible for your own words, and may be held accountable for them.


Umm…? Mar 3, 2011 19:32 PM

Members of the Greek System, specifically TKEs, are being singled out.


@ @alum Mar 3, 2011 19:35 PM

I do apologize for my use of “pansies” in quotes at the end of my comment. My anger at the use of this word got the best of me, and I made a poor choice to use that word ironically in my closing, but I do wish I hadn’t done it. I meant to point out how ridiculous it is to use such a term to refer to anyone, but I realize that poorly-used irony is not helpful. I am sorry.


Ellie Gold Mar 3, 2011 19:42 PM

As you can see, those approved comments which “singled out the TKEs” simultaneously attempted to offer constructive criticism or an analysis of the events. Comments which have not been approved were those which made personal attack or threats against Dan(s), members of the Greek system, or other commenters.

The rule boils down to this: BE EXCELLENT TO EACH OTHER. (And don’t spam.)


Margaux Cameron Mar 3, 2011 19:50 PM

@Alum

Thank you for your comment. As an alum, sorority member, AND 3-year Pio employee, I felt these issues on almost a weekly basis, particularly your second point. I admire you for your well-argued and eloquent comments.


Connor Guy ’10 Mar 3, 2011 20:44 PM

I had a couple of reactions both to this article and to some of the comments posted. I will list them numerically, since that seems to be the way things are done around here:

1. The idea that, in order to be fair, the Pio should should write front page, in-depth articles touting the “positive aspects” of the Greek system is ridiculous. Several commenters, citing that old journalistic axiom, seemed to think that the Pio needs to show “both sides of the story.” Well, let me explain this to you, since you seem to misunderstand it. As I teach my 8th grade journalism class every day, showing both sides of the story means giving everyone a voice in your coverage. Frankly, Molly did a VERY thorough job seeking out all perspectives in this story and giving each of them a reasonable chance to speak out or defend themselves. And that’s all she needed to do. “Showing both sides of the story”does NOT mean giving up precious space in your publication to run articles that are essentially advertisements for special interest groups like fraternities. To print such articles would not make the Pio more objective, but less. The type of articles that these commenters want to see, I’m sure, are congratulatory, sugar-coated, fluff pieces that do little more than “get the word out” about how awesome Greek life is. Now, even if Greek life truly is awesome (and I’m not saying it isn’t — like everyone, I have many friends who have cherished the experience) this does not mean that the Pio has an obligation, much less a responsibility to write about it.

2. To those commenters who deplore this article for being too sugar-coated, and smothered by Whitman niceties, your concerns are legitimate, but consider this: Whitman has about as many students as my high school. It is a small and tight-knit community. That’s part of what makes it great. But that’s also what makes the job of reporting on it a damn hard one. As a journalist, your work is inherently going to piss people off. That’s what it should do. It reveals things that others want to keep hidden. At Whitman, these are people who you have to see every day in the library, in Reid and on Ankeny. It’s an up close and personal environment, and I’m sure it’s not fun to constantly deal with irate readers who feel that this or that special interest was cast too negatively.

3. Finally, I have to say I’m disappointed to learn that I went to college with people who would sooner call their colleagues “pansies”and deplore them for speaking up about their feelings of exclusion and humiliation than actually confront the issue, and be willing to at least examine the possibility that the system may have loose ends that allow for abuse. Seriously, if that’s your attitude, then I would venture as far as to say that Whitman is not the place for you.


Another Alum Mar 3, 2011 20:48 PM

Whitman Greek Community,
As an alum and someone who was deeply changed for the better due to my Greek experience, I urge you not to widen the divide that can exist on our campus. Use this opportunity to show your peers that you ARE compassionate, loving, inclusive human beings. Prove that you have the Whitman spirit to listen, disagree, even argue, but to do it without condemning anyone else’s view points or experiences. Remember that stereotypes exist, that it’s clear even “open-minded” Whitties will judge you for them (and are actively doing so now), and that you now have to work twice as hard to prove that you are the exception to that rule. Whitman was wonderful for me because I had a Greek community to support me, and a network outside of that that loved me, taught me, and nourished my spirit without giving second thought to what letters I wore.

Indy Community,
So many of my friends at Whitman thought I was the exception to the rule in the Greek system but I know now that we ALL were the exceptions. That didn’t mean we are exempt from mistakes, clearly. Keep asking questions, not just of the Greek system, but of everything. It is so easy to criticize the Greeks because of the reputation we carry, but every group faces these issues of hazing, exclusion, or degradation.


Alex Ponnaz Mar 3, 2011 20:57 PM

Hey all!

Firstly, I would like to congratulate Margaux, Gillian, and Connor for being the only ones here to use their names and have their voices heard without a needless cloak of anonymity. It is unbecoming of us as Whitties to throw the stone then hide the hand.

It’s true that at Whitman the issue of greek life is very polarizing. Because of that, I know very few people who take a truly objective stance on the issue…generally, greeks love to unconditionally besmirch those who they perceive as slandering them (even when such criticisms are completely valid), while conversely many indies I know make it a pastime to perpetuate silly stereotypes of greek life wholly unbecoming of critical thinking Whitman prides itself in fostering.

Let’s not forget about the purpose of this article. Dan was brave to publicly admit what he went through, especially in a campus environment with a (needlessly, imo) deep greek vs. indie divide. To him, his experience initiating TKE it was too much, and everyone should respect his opinion.
TKE is now in the hot seat, and I have no doubt that they’ll constructively work this out among themselves. Let’s try our best to keep this story from degenerating into a morass which would split Whitman further…but maybe that’s just wishful thinking!!

Here’s my two cents… if fraternities on campus don’t want their initiation practices to be revealed and publicly criticized, maybe they should have put more forethought into what activities they and their pledges do on I week.


Alex Ponnaz Mar 3, 2011 20:59 PM

And for the record, props to Molly Smith for writing an evenhanded article which I now see is grossly misinterpreted by many on campus.


justin Mar 3, 2011 22:49 PM

It’s true that Dan only went through a small portion of initiation, so his scope is relatively limited, and he doesn’t know as much about it as initiated tke members. However, he felt traumatized by his brief experience, and he is trying to prevent trauma to others. Dan had the best intentions in mind, and for that he deserves respect.


indygreek Mar 3, 2011 22:50 PM

Guys, this is not an “us” vs. “them” situation. I’m indy with a ton of friends in (and out of) the Greek system and I love them all dearly.

The point of this article was not to take a jab at fraternities and sororities on campus, and the point of this comments section is not to defend Greek or indy life to anyone.

The point is that someone felt victimized, said something about it, and now people are taking a closer look at initiation practices. Is that a bad thing? It’s crucial to question ourselves every once in awhile. Even if nothing ultimately changes, it’s healthy and mature to step back and see things from a new perspective, and understand that different people see and feel things, well, differently.

I think it would have been silly for the Pio to not publish this article given that someone came to them with this information. I do not think that the article had a skewed opinion.

“The individuals who wrote this article and the men who de pledged have never truly been part of the Greek system and know nothing about what it is like to be a member of this group. They have no insider perspective. How do they feel justified in such harsh criticism?”
–In journalism, “insider perspective” is obtained by interviewing people on all sides of an issue, which is what the authors did. We heard from the two Dans, the TKE pres, a member of Sig, and Chuck Cleveland. I would really like to see the article Greek members would have written given the same information. <–anyone up to the challenge? I'm truly curious.


Booch Mar 3, 2011 23:29 PM

I’m not sure I feel super qualified to talk about whether the specific TKE practices mentioned in the article were hazing. Context is a hell of a thing, and right-of-passage rituals that can sound pretty stupid and pointless when recounted after the fact can sometimes take on a completely different meaning when experienced in person. Getting your ass kicked by a bully you stood up to, for example, is a pretty awful thing when talked about clinically, but I’m sure I speak for more than myself when I say that going through it as a kid can shape you in some positive ways. Macho bullshit? Yeah probably… but you don’t get to be a tired cliche without having a kernel of truth in you.

That being said, I feel like the real issue here is that there is a real danger that the reaction to these incidents, the way that school policy is being interpreted and exercised, risks creating a precedent going forward that reaches a little too far. Specifically, it was noted that “restrictions on food and sleep, verbal abuse and required clean-up work” are violations of Whitman’s hazing policy.

Now, I don’t have a handbook in front of me, so I’m less than certain that that specific language is in the school’s policy… but that sort of shift towards general catch-all language is exactly the sort of imprecise and reactive rule drafting that can allow a regulation to reach far beyond its proper bounds.

Apart from “verbal abuse” (which can be a little hard to draw a bright line around in any event), the rest of those are all normal elements of a healthy home environment, the sort of structure that help kids grow up proper. But it doesn’t stop at the home… School, work, participation in just about any structured activity whatsoever is going to go hand in hand with expectations and requirements about what you can, can’t, and must do to participate, as well as when and where to do them.

For all the bad press some of them get in critical race/gender/etc classes, norms are a pretty useful thing in general: they’re what make people people, and while you might point to a particular expectation as undesirable or to a particular person who feels limited or diminished by what is expected of them, to categorically say that greek institutions CANNOT present their members with expectations of behavior and regulations of conduct defeats the entire purpose and nature of a fraternity. A community without boundaries is no community at all; an organization with no rules is nothing but a mob of individuals.

Language prohibiting “restrictions” is simply too vague to properly encapsulate the sort of behavior Whitman should actually be trying to discourage. You might respond, “oh shaddup, Booch, obviously we aren’t trying to cut the balls off of fraternities completely, we just want to be able to stop hazing without leaving loopholes for shady houes!” But over-broad policies that can easily be brought to bear by the administration to potentially render ANY conduct found objectionable by an individual to be an instance of hazing run the risk of not only being patently unjust to fraternities, but provide so little guidance that they cannot possibly hope to influence greek decision making in a constructive way. Such malleable rules are not rules at all, and will more often than not either be too restrictive or not restrictive enough on greek behavior to accomplish anything other than resentment of or disregard for school oversight.

Do we have a problem with sleep deprivation? Ok, state that expectation explicitly, with a minimum hour per day requirement; a blanket ban on “sleep restrictions” casts a ridiculous shadow on even reasonable bedtimes and wake up calls for a group of students who need to be learning to rely on and share space with each other. Do we have a problem with starving pledges or feeding them dangerous or disgusting things? Fine, write it up that way; a wide net cast to envelop all restrictions on food selection presents a logistical impossibility for any closed-house initiation with limited funds. Do we not want pledges cleaning things? Well, I’m actually not sure there IS a way to write that up that makes sense, as it’s a bit of a stupid restriction. House chores are an important part of structured community living, and they’re going to have to happen pretty much constantly in a frat house. Whether you were responsible for the mess or not, whether you agree with why it was caused or not, a shared home must be kept clean. That doesn’t stop after initiation, nor I can attest after graduation for that matter.

It’s easy to come up with a lot of hypothetical horrible treatments that we might want to save students from, but a lot harder to draft specific language that circumscribes those activities without being so broad as to effectively make all fraternity life fit the hazing description. That sucks… but in the end, we have to live with it, and decide to err either on the side of the odd student feeling uncomfortable and leaving a fraternity he might otherwise have joined, or neutering the greek system with such broad-sweeping restrictions that no one could possibly feel uncomfortable, and in the process destroy much of what makes greek life special and formative.

Is the Whitman hazing policy to vague right now as written? Again, I don’t know, I don’t have it in front of me. But as our understanding of hazing and our reactions to it evolve, please keep in mind that MORE restriction does not imply a BETTER rule. There is no perfect regulation that’s going to prevent anyone from ever feeling uncomfortable during initiation ever again; do not allow anecdotes of individual disappointments persuade you unduly that that necessarily means that the greek system as a whole must be “fixed” with more rules.


TWG Mar 3, 2011 23:31 PM

Personal inventory: I’m an indie who had no interest in joining the Greek system and honestly don’t really understand why a campus this small needs a Greek system. That being said, I think the Greek system at Whitman is usually a positive force on campus (y’all raise so much money for great causes, after all), I have great Greek friends and I don’t think the Indie/Greek divide gets in the way of these friendships.

I can only speak for myself here, but I’d like to clear a few things up. I don’t hate the Greek system or anyone in it (at least not for being Greek) and I don’t get the impression from my indie friends that they hate Greeks either. Whenever I hear about someone hating the Greeks, it’s always Greek members talking about how indies hate the Greek system (Unless it’s people in Jewett complaining about TKEs yelling at them to wake up. Seriously, what’s up with “Wake up Jewett”?). I don’t think we do hate you (or vice versa). We go to your parties, we become friends, we date, we participate in class discussion and projects together, we live together etc. I don’t think there’s hate in any of these interactions and I think it’d be pretty visible if there was a huge gulf between the two groups.

That’s in general, of course. I’m sure some indies do hate the Greek system and I think it’s somewhat apparent from this thread that some Greek members aren’t so hot on indies either. But in general I think we get along pretty well. I’d also like to mention that most of us don’t think of ourselves as “indies” but just students. We didn’t join the Greek system but I don’t think most of us define our identity based on that fact, at least not on a regular basis.

Telling both sides of the story is good advice, but let’s remember what the story is here: allegations that some parts of TKE initiation broke Whitman’s hazing policy. Conor got it exactly right, this article does a pretty good job of telling all sides of this particular story. The story is not “the Greek system is good/bad” That would be an opinion, not a news story. The Pio does print news stories that show the Greek system in a good light, but they are all because of some newsworthy event, like Mr. Whitman. I doubt the news section doesn’t print articles on that basis of whether or not they make Greek look bad; they print them based on whether they are news or not.

The issue raised from the article is whether the TKEs broke Whitman’s hazing policy. Did they? Maybe, maybe not. I think the article presented this issue in a pretty fair manner. If you disagree with the Whitman policy on hazing, then take that up with the administration. That’s not the story here.


Jackson Maberry Mar 3, 2011 23:40 PM

Its a shame that folks have been negatively affected by the actions of others. I’m positive that TKE didn’t mean any harm, but even situations of innocuous genesis can have detrimental effects. This kind of thing is worth talking about in any case.

That said, I’m consistently disappointed by the style of the Pio writers and staff. I can’t help but feel there was a more impartial tone in which to write the article, and perhaps with less of what some before me have termed “whitman niceness” or over-cautious reluctance to use words with an edge.

In truth, the thing that bothers me the most is the web censorship. Yeah, a lot of stupid, even callous comments were posted in response to the piece, but this is the Internet. If the Pio staff was really committed to an open-ended discussion on the matter, they would be willing to wade through the chaff posts and let everyone’s comments stand. We have to read your self-congratulatory mutual masturbation but don’t get to read the offensively funny jackass posts?

Lame.


Connor Guy ’10 Mar 4, 2011 0:27 AM

@Jackson

No, the Pioneer’s comments policy exists for a reason. Any reasonable news Web site removes comments that threaten people, especially specific people. There’s a difference between censorship and stopping hateful, threatening posts. Props to Ellie for her handling of the situation.


Gillian Frew Mar 4, 2011 0:42 AM

@Jackson Maberry

You may consider removing offensive material and personal attacks from online articles censorship, and I suppose you have a right to that opinion, but I would suggest that you take a look at any major publication with an online presence. This is totally common practice. If you want to read hate mail, I’m sure the blogosphere has a lot of unfiltered material to offer you. And yeah, a few Pio alums have posted praise here, but I would like to point out that none of the comments attached to any of those names belong to a current Pio staff member. When I worked at the Pio, I edited online articles; I never posted comments. In fact, I rarely comment on online articles now, so bear with me. My major points of contention with you comment are your categorization of what seem to have been extremely hurtful and damaging personal attacks as simply “funny jackass posts”and your implication that Pio staff writers are commenting one way or the other on this article, when there is zero evidence of any Pio involvement in the comments section other than web moderation. Thanks.


Olivia Jones @Jackson Mar 4, 2011 0:48 AM

Jackson dearest, I disagree. The Pioneer is an organization that has to be responsible not only for the comments stated in this article, but also those in other articles. They are perfectly right to stand by their universal criteria for comments.
I believe the most worthwhile thing that has come from this article so forth is the discussion happening on this message board, and as such I appreciate the missives from both sides of the debate, but I do stand by my assertion that it is within the Pio’s rights and their responsibilities to keep the comments section within their regulations. Besides why can’t we have a discussion without profanity, obscenity, or personal attacks?


CP Mar 4, 2011 1:27 AM

As a parent reading the article, I have the following perspective. If the hazing was not so bad, why did the TKE president deny that it occurred in his letter to the editor? His letter did not attempt to defend the practices as consistent with college rules and necessary for the bonding that TKE members experience thereafter. I read a flat out denial combined with mild aspersions cast at the young men who had the courage to complain about hazing at TKE. Therefore, the allegations describe behavior that apparently TKE does not want to admit to, a position which suggests that if the behavior has been occurring, Mr. DeVine knows that it violates either the letter or the spirit of the college rules.

Mr. DeVine’s failue to embrace the need for such hazing tends to undercut the arguments of those who praise the usefulness of such conduct, or who minimize it in comparison to public universities. He is certainly not standing behind it or fighting for the right to submit future Whitties to similar torment. Surely, the majority of the Whitman community does not want Whitman fraternities or sororities behaving like the worst of those at other institutions.

Of course, there remains the question of whether the conduct actually occurred. One complaint of hazing might be a disgruntled student unhappy with college life generally. However, a second independent and corroborating complaint by an unrelated student makes Mr. DeVine’s outright denial seem very questionable. I cannot think of any plausible reason for Mr. Hart to fabricate his accusations, while Mr. DeVile’s reasons for fabricating a denial are obvious.

Therefore, with two essentially identical complaints over the last few years, I fear that Mr. DeVine’s denial is a deception that speaks poorly of him, and of TKE since he is their president. Sadly, there is something quite presidential in lying about misconduct occuring during one’s term.

Frat boys cannot be trusted to haze in a “responsible manner” because, well, they are boys who lack frontal cortex development. The college has rules constraining hazing for a good reason; i.e., safety. What sort of bad things can happen when hazing by aggressive teenagers goes too far? Injury, illness, and death have occurred from excessive hazing across the country. At a minimum, a fight could easily start if a pledge strenuously objects to the sleep deprivation and humilation heeped upon him during “hell week.”

Excessive hazing is an abuse of power. How is it consistent with the values of Whitman for older students to submit younger ones to abuse, humiliation, and intimidation? How is it consistent with the ideals of a liberal arts education to encourage blind obedience to an abusive hierarchy?

Fraternities do not bond through combat like the military, or through pulling together for a common goal like a sports team or a debate team. Bonding through artificially imposed hardships carried out by peers rather than an enemy or an opponent is a strange concept, and seems to be merely an excuse for boys and girls to behave badly. Bonding through good works would seem a much more laudible approach than bonding through sadism, or through petty harassment.

If TKE cannot follow the sensible college rules, the fraternity should face significant consequences. On the other hand, those fraternities and sororities that follow the rules should not be tarnished by the aberrant conduct of TKE.

As a parent, I appreciate the article for exposing a potential problem. I hope that the administration will take the appropriate steps to rein TKE in and to avoid such hazing in the future.

One easy step would be to state explicitly that the conduct of the ilk described by the whistleblowers violates school policy, and that penalties will be imposed for any violations of that type reported from this year’s initiation or reported in future years. Although, as pointed out above, Mr. DeVine already appears to know that the conduct alleged is inappropriate, Whitman should not leave any doubt or ambiguity as to whether the conduct complained of will be tolerated by the administration.


Beautifully Articulated Mar 4, 2011 3:00 AM

AMEN, Booch!


Javen Mar 4, 2011 3:08 AM

Am I to conclude that 4 hours of kitchen duty and cold showers are a regular part of Greek life, and that anyone who dislikes either of these is clearly not cut out for Greek life, nor are they welcome? What is building character if it’s not standing up for what you believe in?

Are there not more effective team building experiences that do not require humiliation, sleep loss, and wastefulness? I feel like some initiation routines are designed to inflate what it means to be a member: because you have put forth the time, effort, and potentially humiliation for initiation, you are less likely to leave the fraternity. Perhaps this assists bonding and creates loyalty. Perhaps it just discourages the idea of leaving a fraternity once joined.


Yet another alum Mar 4, 2011 10:43 AM

I am a recent alum, was a member of the Greek system, and had an incredibly positive experience with my fraternity. Since I’m hundreds of miles away from Walla Walla, the only way I can participate in the discussion is via this article and conversations with friends. I wish I could do more.

Greek members: the Pio didn’t do anything wrong by reporting this article. The purpose of the campus newspaper is to report on newsworthy events in the campus community–and as the bounty of comments on this article shows, this is certainly one of those.

Here’s my suggestion to you all who are still on campus: don’t carry this debate out over the Pio website, email, listservs, or whatever. The people involved in this story are, after all, your friends, peers, and colleagues. Unlike us alums, you have the opportunity to talk to them in person, a far more valuable experience than shouting from behind the shroud of a keyboard and screen.

Indies, talk to your Greek friends to see why their experience is so positive. Greek organizations are not homogenous, and you will find every possible perspective and personality in each house. Greek members, talk to non-Greek students to find out what their problems with the Greek system are. Many Indie students have legitimate concerns about the perceived “cliquish” nature of Greek organizations. Both perspectives have their merit, and should be considered.

Minor crises like this can be an opportunity for the community as a whole to come together and understand each other better. Use it as an opportunity to get to know each other better, not divide each other further.


TO CP Mar 4, 2011 11:09 AM

As a parent and adult I would expect you to be a little less eager to make such disparaging comments about a group of people you don’t know and their conduct in a situation which you have no knowledge of besides a biased piece of journalism. Your an adult, try acting the part…

That said, I will clarify one thing for you. David DeVine’s (it was really mature of you to call him DeVile) letter may be construed as defensive but the fact of the matter is that TKE does not want to become engrossed in the mud slinging that has developed out of this. They don’t feel a need to justify a ‘broken system’ because the truth is there is nothing wrong with initiation. Harts claims were exaggerated or false and DeVine said so. What I can’t understand is how people can see his denial as incriminating. What happened to our conception of innocent until proven guilty?

Honestly we need to give the guys some credit. TKE has been very open towards working with the administration. Yes they tried to keep this news from going public, but not out of fear of repercussions, it was done because one individual’s private issues are best resolved Privately. All that this ‘Article’ ‘Exposes’ is a desire to drag a respectable and outstanding group of men through the mud.


Sam Chasan Mar 4, 2011 11:30 AM

As an alumn of Whitman and the TKE house initiation, I can say with complete confidence that the nearly 2000 members of the Alphe-Theta chapter of TKE who have experienced the entirety of initiation, from both sides, look back on it as a wholly positive experience.

Do not misundersand me when I use the word “positive.” One can be unhappy or frustrated with their current experience, but that same experience can be positive so long as benefits that person in the end – by imparting wisdom, developing bonds, or providing understanding and the like. The central question here is if the ends justify the means. And if you have not experienced TKE initiation, as a whole, then you are in no way qualified to reflect on its virtues – and this goes for Dan Bachhuber and Dan Hardt as well – sorry.

While they certainly were exposed to trials they saw as flawed, demeaning, negative, mean, cruel, etc. They also missed out on the culmination of initiation; the series of events that unites the pledge class to themselves and to the house as a whole. I have never in my life felt such senses of commitment, connection, belongingness, community, brotherhood and sheer joy than the moment when my initiation was complete. It was surreal. I had endured and defeated the most difficult task of my young life, and I was about to celebrate my and my pledge class’ success with the group of men strong enough to test me in a ways I could never have fathomed.

I say strong because initiation requires intense commitment by the active members. To those who wish to simplify, and view as negative the initiation practices of TKE, are doing a disservice to themselves. Take a second to look at the men you denigrate: they are your PEERS!! They are your WHITMAN classmates, teammates, group and club mates, ASWC representatives, and so on. Intelligent men. Compassionate men. They are men of character. Initiation is a carefully organized and executed series of events, orchestrated as it is to draw out intense emotions not often seen in our monotonous daily lives. It is unfortunate that those who walk out on initiation believe those emotions are categorically wrong.

For what is connection without disconnect? Harmony without chaos? Love without hatred? For many in the Whitman community, suffering the indignity of inhumanity is an unknown feeling. For that we are fortunate, yet also handicapped. Like an immunization – where one is exposed to non-lethal doses of viruses in order to develop antibodies – a small taste of powerlessness is all that’s needed for one to develop a vehement hatred for those perpetrating gross governmental overreaches a la Nazi Germany and Abu Ghraib, as well as an intense connection to those unfortunate souls bear the brunt of violent, unjust, force. And that is all initiates experience – a loss of power. At no point is the safety of any pledge during initiation in question. That is clear.

So ask yourself again: what is hazing? Is hazing an action? Is it an effect? Is it an experience? The definition of hazing is quite vague, intentionally, and it hinges on intent. I can say with complete confidence again that initiation is executed by the active members of TKE with the utmost respect, esteem, and love for the pledge class. We’ve all experience initiation, and we know it is hard. We truly want each entering pledge to finish, because we know they can, and it saddens us every time someone leaves. It is made absolutely clear to the pledge class by the Hegemons’ that TKE initiation will not be easy. If it were easy or predictable, it would be entirely meaningless.

Again, initiation is a heavily considered art; the TKE house pours over minutiae unlike any over group I have ever belonged to – and a process as involved, difficult, constructive, and draining as initiation is no exception. Again, trust your peers as fellow rational, compassionate, capable, adults who mean only to foster positive growth in their organization, the Whitman community, and the world at large. Case in point – how well has the TKE house held its tongue through this!! Solid work gentlemen.

Rest assured, Dan and Dan, and others before and after them may find initiation to downright wrong, and their opinion needs to be considered like any others. However, the TKEs at Whitman now and in the past know initiation to be a supremely positive formative experience, even if they do not say so to the Pioneer.


Student Mar 4, 2011 12:06 PM

@CP
I am not in the greek system, I see where you are coming from and recognize your concern, but I do think you need to recognize the dangers of getting your information solely from this article, not knowing people/tke’s on campus, and not having a full picture of the situation. I really recommend that next time you make yourself more familiar with a situation before choosing to judge a student (DeVine) and a fraternity based on an article. It really makes you sound immature.


Price Hardman Mar 4, 2011 12:17 PM

CP (which I assume stands for “Concerned Parent”),

As sincere as your concerns may be, perhaps nothing could make your argument less compelling than reducing TKE initiation to a mindless power trip by teenage apes with underdeveloped prefrontal cortexes. If you peruse the comments preceding yours (or asked around the Whitman community), you’ll find that the TKEs are not the club-wielding knuckle-draggers your glib appraisal makes them out to be. Rather, they are the occupants of the Dean’s list, they are the current and previous two ASWC presidents, they are class senators; more often than not, they are the people who the Whitman community is most proud to call their best. I suggest you pay campus a visit and familiarize yourself with the people on it, particularly the TKEs, before you make big sweeping statements about things with which you aren’t very familiar.


Oh Whitman Bubble Mar 4, 2011 12:36 PM

I forgot what it was like to think you are the center of the world. Everyone knows about the Whitman bubble and how it shelters from so many things going on on the outside. What too many people seem to forget is that the rest of the world has few relations with the time spent at Whitman. This is why it is such a special experience.

I have seen too many posts that relate this article to incidents occurring in the real world. Acts that have gained national attention due to their depravity and hate. Do Whitties really have such a need to feel a part of this that they are trying to make their own national incident? Do Whitties truly believe that an unjust and awful system has been brewing right beneath their and the faculties noses; a dreadful secret that they just now are unearthing? Child please. The levels of ignorance on this issue are astounding.

This really is a problem of our society. There is sense of entitlement that too many have come to embrace. Whitman students are probably worse than many others. All our life many of us have been raised in sheltered, rich, and pampered circumstances. Is being told to clean a dirty kitchen, or being yelled at really such a shock to our systems that it can gravitate us to neutering an entire system? It is this reactionary response that I am sure many of you would decry as a downfall of the political right. Is the word “hazing” going to be used in the same way that “deathpanels” were used? Some of you trying to compare the actions in the TKE house to real world events maybe you need to look at yourself and compare what you are doing to real world events as well.

It could be argued that the TKE house is the most successful fraternity on campus. Has anyone thought why this is? Could it maybe be because they have the most “intense” initiation, and why would this cause their members to be so devoted to their house? “It is because they are being brainwashed!” I’m sure some of you would respond, to which I would go back to my ignorance point. You really think once the process is over initiates can’t look back and see what was done to them and make a conscious decision if it was a good or a bad thing? Everyone who gets into Whitman is on pretty equal mental footing, believing that as a non-Greek your ability to decide what is best for the Greek system is essentially the same as the History department looking at the Economics department and saying, “You aren’t doing a good enough job at getting your students the proper education, let us show you how.” Basically the exclusivity of the organization is what makes it close knit. No one is going to value something that is given for free as much as something that has to be earned, and if someone feels like they have put forth more to earn something they will value it more. Is at most 5 days of “hate” (put in quotes because that is the perception, not the fact) worth decades of love and brotherhood? Looks like easy math to me, even for you History majors…

The main problem with TKE right now is that they are too open. They want too many people to be a part of their group, and while this does create for a fairly diverse group, it can create situations where the processes that lead up to initiation are insufficient to prepare the pledge for the process. The reason why these 2 pledges didn’t go through the process was because they weren’t prepared to make a sacrifice to become part of a community. A pledge has to enter the process knowing that it is going to be tough, and also know that it is something he wants. Initiation is not something that comes up and someone says, “I guess I can fit that in my schedule.” To use a different example: you couldn’t take a non-athlete at the beginning to the basketball season and put them on the team and expect them not to quit. It takes time, preparation, and a specific mental attitude to go through 2 a days. The same is true for Initiation. The fault is not in the actual event of initiation, but in events that come beforehand that stress what it means to enter into “the Bond.” TKE needs to do a better job of stressing these events to weed out (for lack of a better term) those that don’t want to make the commitment because joining TKE should never be about maintaining a clique of friends, it is about joining something bigger than that and truly expanding your experiences to things that maybe you wouldn’t do if you weren’t part of something bigger. Joining any Greek organization puts more stress on the things Whitman promotes, like diversity and life experiences, when it could be much easier to get lost in academic work and lose out on what could be a eye opening college experience.


Zach Simonson Mar 4, 2011 12:40 PM

Hi Friends,

Indie guy checking in here. I’d like to point out that the Whitman student community is NOT currently talking about the proposed changes to class scheduling (7-10pm could now be prime time for distribution and core major requirement classes, don’tcha know. For majors that, like theatre, require student involvement during the evening, it would be crippling) because we’re talking about someone getting pissed off and walking out of TKE initiation less than 24 hours in. That’s not a news story, it’s a story that goes around a freshman dorm for 10 minutes before people get tired of it.

There are occurrences in all four houses that occur during initiation that could be considered “hazing” if you look at it in just the right way and maybe squint a little bit. That’s because “hazing” is an extraordinarily flexible word, one that can mean something acceptable or something unacceptable depending on the level of intensity you’re talking about. Making the pledge class clean the house for a week could be considered “hazing,” and so could beating you with a ping pong paddle, but they’re not the same thing. What matters is that they (the four frats) have found a level of intensity that works for them, and makes sure that all of them (initiated and uninitiated brothers) have a fun experience that they can look back on and be happy they did. Dan clearly didn’t agree with what the TKE house was doing, but at least he was only there for 16 hours before he figured it out and left (and given that TKE initiation starts in the late evening, he was probably only awake for 6). That’s how these things go. TKE isn’t hurting for brothers who want to sign up initiate with them. (though this article js a pretty good example of how Marginally Rational Whitman Groupthink Biases start. Which would take some of the heat off Beta, I guess).

Alums and Parents, I urge you not to worry about this. We feel less important if we don’t argue over some BS every once in a while.


CP Mar 4, 2011 13:10 PM

Some consideration of what TKE is allegedly doing seems to be in order. I doubt that anyone objects to pledges cleaning up the kitchen at the direction of fraternity members.

However, pouring filth in an area just so a pledge can clean it up, and then dirtying it again so the pledge has to clean it again, and repeating that multiple times while subjecting the pledge to verbal abuse, is inappropriate hazing which can verge on torture, depending on how often it recurs. Indeed, the movie “Cool Hand Luke” shows how that technique can be used to torture someone.

That tactic does not teach pledges how to keep the house in order, it teaches them to blindly follow authority. More perversely, it teaches them to turn a blind eye to rule breaking by those in power in order to achieve the goal of acceptance into the fraternity, hardly a positive message. I doubt Whitman wants its students to learn a message of obedience to power however poorly exercised.

I further doubt anyone objects to subjecting a pledge to cold showers. However, a group shower shared between half dressed or naked pledges as alleged in the article is not the same thing. It is an obvious invasion of privacy and personal space with sexual overtones, and unlikely to fulfill the accepted purpose of a shower – to become clean.

Keeping pledges dirty, cold, and sleep deprived is bound to increase their odds of becoming sick as their immune systems are depressed and their exposure to bacteria and viruses is increased. Moreover, this is another form of blind obediance to authority that should hardly be encouraged.

Sleep deprivation is unquestionably a form of torture. I assume that pledges continue to have academic responsibilities, including papers or exams during “hell week.” I also assume that some pledges may be athletes who have games or practices for their teams during “hell week.” Depriving students and student athletes of sleep that might effect their performance in class or on the field should be unacceptable to the college. The decision on how much sleep pledges should have during hell week should not be left to the “judgment” of fraternities.

Whitman costs a lot of money to attend, and I assume that the faculty and administration consider every week of every semester to be valuable. To have a week of a student’s life during a semester either completely wasted, or significantly degraded, because of sleep deprivation imposed on pledges by fraternity members is an appalling waste of limited academic and athletic time, and the student’s money (or college’s money if the student is on scholarship).

Assigning numbers to pledges rather than using a name is a classic strategy of dehumanization calculated to allow more abusive conduct to occur. It is far easier to abuse No. 1875 than your buddy, Joe. Role playing as abusers and the abused in order to gain admittance to a social society is anachronistic and perverse.

Nonetheless, if TKE believes that an abusive right of passage is important to the process of joining TKE, then they should spell out what abuse is in store for their pledges before the process begins, as should all fraternities and sororities. To balance the hardship with the benefit, TKE can also state their reasons why they believe their pledges should go through their more strenuous right of passage. If such openness were required, then fraternities and sororities could be held accountable should they deviate in any substantial way from the program they outline to new pledges.

Whether a deviation from the program outlined is substantial need not be spelled out precisely, but left subject to a “reasonableness” standard as applied by the appropriate trier of fact. Clearly, the fraternities or sororities should understand that they are at risk if they treat pledges worse than they advertise because deviating from established protocol would nullify the informed consent to hazing.

Informed consent by pledges to such abuse would giveTKE a solid defense to its critics. While the argument of close bonding through humiliation by one’s peers seems like a hard sell, prior posts suggest that some people believe that is what occurs. Perhaps pledges will flock to the toughest initiation to prove their mettle. On the other hand, informed consent might negatively impact TKE’s recruiting for new members when presumably intelligent pledges (they are at Whitman after all) can see the path to TKE and compare it to less abusive fraternities on campus.

Thus, clarity about the process would solve the problem in two ways. First, pledges who choose to accept clearly delineated hazing cannot complain if they voluntarily and knowingly submit themselves to it. Second, fraternities with onerous hazing practices may not compete well in the market for new pledges. If not, then they are likely to modify their practices to keep membership levels up.

Allowing unsupervised youth on power trips to abuse younger students in secret, and in ways that would be completely unacceptable in any context other than rushing for the Greek system, with social pressure to conform on the side of the fraternities, seems like a very bad idea. The analogy to Abu Graib is not that far fetched, as those were also young people in positions of power who used sleep deprivation and nudity to humiliate and torture those numbered persons in their charge. No one was watching them closely either.

As to the argument that bright young men of Whitman would not go too far, the bright young men of a fraternity at Columbia were recently arrested for selling heroin. A sense of entitlement, freedom, and power can lead young men and women very far astray.

The allegations against TKE are a black eye to the college. The college markets itself as a bastion of intellectual rigor and learning, not as a clone of Animal House. While the latter environment may appeal to some, it is inconsistent with the message and branding of the college.

I suspect that the majority of parents currently considering the expense of Whitman, and competitive alternatives to it, would not be impressed with TKE’s hazing, or its president’s response to the article. With kudos to The Pioneer staff and to Mr. Hart, however, they may be impressed by the article exposing the problem and a measured administrative response to it.

Someone suggested that TKE was already on probation. If so, Mr. Hart’s revelations must be taken very seriously. As I suggested above, TKE ought to be able to mitigate the administrative response if they admit the conduct and take responsibility for their actions. If they do not, and the actions are proven, then the fraternity and its leadership should face very severe consequences for both the violations and the efforts to conceal them.


TWG Mar 4, 2011 14:56 PM

I’d just like to point out that the pio article that ran in the print edition included definitions of hazing from both Whitman’s policy and Washington State law. So when commentators keep saying that what allegedly happened either might have been hazing, or absolutely wasn’t hazing, I’d advise them to remember that for administrative purposes this school has a working definition. The ambiguities of language will undoubtedly give rise to some disagreement, but my reading of the policy is that what allegedly happened would be a violation of Whitman’s policy. I’d like to see some of these responses take the text of the policy into account when they deny that hazing could have occurred.


hmm… Mar 4, 2011 15:27 PM

Mr. or Ms. CP just posted something that “targets or otherwise singles out a Whitman community member AND
targets or otherwise singles out an individual or group of individuals who are the subjects of an article.” I may lack frontal cortex development, but please Pio, practice what you preach.


Ian Coleman Mar 4, 2011 15:31 PM

Do your job Pio moderators.

Take down CP’s personal attacks on the character of the TKE president. How does the comment that Frat boys “lack frontal cortex development” add to the discussion? This comment is clearly in the same realm as the disgusting attacks on Hart’s character–remove it as well.

If you cannot commit to moderating this discussion constantly, it should not be up.


ami Mar 4, 2011 16:29 PM

I don’t think it’s fair that a group should require the individual looking to join the group to do anything humiliating or degrading, even if it is in the interest of creating bonds. Why should togetherness come at the expense of personal happiness/comfort/self-respect?
Then again I guess if you don’t consider initiation to be humiliating or degrading, but maybe merely “difficult,” then it’s not a big deal.

But are the people who complete initiation those who don’t consider the tasks degrading, or those who are willing to do the tasks despite their degrading nature? Either way, I don’t think it’s a question that should have to be asked. There must be better ways of creating group bonds aside from conducting trials of willingness.


Dangermouse Mar 4, 2011 18:20 PM

In a time where thousands of people in Libya have been murdered by government forces simply because they had the gall to protest for a non-tyrannical system of government, it is certainly telling that the crisis du jour at whitman college concerns the ungodly act of being forced to clean the kitchen more than once. And lo, communal showers with cold water! Truly, these TKE members represent a viscous font of evil.

Hopefully Barbera Maxwell and the Whitman Administration will wade deep into the treacherous darkness of fraternity initiation to swiftly bring the hammer of justice to bear upon those cruel enough to force human beings to shower together in their underpants.



@CP Mar 4, 2011 22:38 PM

As a 20 year old Asian male with an underdeveloped prefrontal cortex, and dyslexia, with mild anxiety issues and depression. Your comment hurts me, and my already low self esteem. I hope your comment makes you feel better about yourself and your child’s safety at whitman.


Molly Smith Mar 4, 2011 23:23 PM

Dear Whitman community members, parents, alumni and other readers,

Over the course of the last 36 hours since The Pioneer first published this article, comments have come pouring into the website. While this has in most ways been very fantastic, spurring a thoughtful and interesting debate on both positive and negative feelings towards the Greek system, The Pioneer, this article, Whitman’s policies, and towards many other things, it has also spurred the worst in some individuals.

We will be the first to admit that The Pioneer has been caught somewhat unprepared not only for the sheer amount of comments submitted, but also for the content and the quality of those comments. We are students; we are learning. We do not claim at any point to know the right policy in dealing with the comments on such a divisive article. For this reason, comments were temporarily suspended earlier this afternoon to give us a chance to assess our comment policy and decide how to deal with offensive and inappropriate comments while remaining objective.

Effective immediately, no comments will be accepted without a valid email address. You may be contacted by a Pioneer staff member to verify your identity. This change in policy will be added to our Code of Ethics which already explicitly detailed the objective guidelines by which we approve comments.

Furthermore, we will be amending the policies which banned “targeting” Whitman Pioneer staff members or Whitman community members, as the intentions of those rules as written were unclear. The specific amended policy will now read:

A comment is unacceptable if it:
— targets or otherwise singles out an individual or group of individuals who are the subjects of an article, a Whitman Pioneer staff member or a Whitman community member for a personal attack. A personal attack is that which maliciously targets the character of or signifies an intent to harm an individual or group of individuals.

Currently, we have received over 110 comments on this article alone, of which 61 have, as of this moment, been approved. Some of those comments not approved have been blatantly offensive; others have actively threatened individuals in this article or staff members on The Pioneer, including Dan Hart, Daniel Bachhuber and David DeVine. No comments have been censored because of any bias that some believe The Pioneer has in this, or any other, matter. The Pioneer strives at all times to provide the most fair and unbiased reporting of all issues. We have no interest in censoring comments for any reason other than those objective measures explicitly spelled out in our Code of Ethics.

This is the official policy of The Pioneer as decided and enforced by the Editors-in-Chief. Any concerns with this policy or problems over comments that have not been approved should be directed to editors@whitmanpioneer.com.

We actively encourage these comments to continue to be posted. It is your right to agree or disagree with any part of this article, with the administration’s policies, with other people’s beliefs, or with anything else. The Pioneer wishes to provide a space here for these opinions to be expressed in an appropriate, secure and above all respectful manner. We encourage you to think about your comments before you post. Think about the fact that Dan Hart, Daniel Bachhuber, David DeVine and others are current or former Whitman Students. Think about how the Greek system is a valued part of the Whitman experience for many people. Think about how it would feel if someone who disagreed with you threatened physical harm against you.

Think about what a Whitman education means to you. Think about what you are writing before you post.

Thank you for keeping this discussion civil and thoughtful as we go forward.

-Derek Thurber and Molly Smith

Editors-in-Chief, Whitman Pioneer


Lissa, @Knowledge and Argumentss Mar 5, 2011 1:09 AM

You write, in response to my ‘argument’:

“And just to improve your arguments:
FACT: ‘Fraternity’ is derived from the Latin word ‘Frater,’ meaning ‘brother’.
FACT: A ‘brother’ is a man or boy in relation to other sons and daughters of his parents.
FACT: ‘Patriarchal’ refers to an organization controlled by men.
CONCLUSION: Of course a fraternity will be patriarchal!”

I’m not sure why you feel the need to point this out to me. I understand the definition of the word patriarchal. And yes, it is one of the main reasons why I am critical of the Greek system (as I am critical of most things in U.S. society, which are generally run by men, white folks, the upper class, or some combination of the three, and as a result have a tendency to ostracize and ignore the experiences, voices, and needs of minority groups). This includes organizations which I very much believe in and choose to participate in. Just because I believe in something, or see it as a positive thing for me and hopefully others, it does not make it ‘perfect’ or exempt from criticism, nor does it make it exempt from accountability toward others who may have different opinions or experiences. I am not singling out the TKEs just because they are a fraternity, I expect all people and groups of people to be critically conscious about and accountable for their beliefs and actions.

I used the term patriarchal not because I wanted to point out that a fraternity is composed of men, but because there are many arguments out there in the world (not just in my mind) about the nature of patriarchy and patriarchal structures in societal as a whole, and the implications of that both for male-identified, female-identified, and gender non-conforming folks. A patriarchal institution does not simply mean that it is run by men, but that privileges a societal ideal of masculinity, and in doing so it oppresses and dominates women and gender non-conforming people.

For me, the structure of initiation in the fraternities is both indicative of and a mechanism of reinforcing male privilege in society. I’m not going to argue with you or anyone about this, because I understand that there are some people in the world (male, female, or otherwise) who do not believe that such a thing as male privilege exists. It is not my job to try to convince those people that it is a very real experience for the rest of us. There are plenty of facts to support the existence of male privilege in society, and therefore on college campuses, and with the Greek system, and people can choose to accept or reject those facts as significant.

People have said it’s not hazing because “you can just leave, and these people did”, but no one has the option of opting out of initiation but still participating in Greek life. The consequence of failing to submit and accept the ‘norms’ of Greek life, is that you don’t get to be a part of the club. There is no other way in. Obviously this is not just a ‘personal issue that Dan had with initiation’, because otherwise it would be theoretically okay for him to not participate in initiation, but still become a TKE. The fact that initiation occurs through hyper-masculine performances of intimidation, aggression, and eventual forced submission says something about the nature of the ‘bonds’ created within a fraternity, and also about the relationship that initiated members will have with the rest of the campus, particularly with non-male folks on campus.

You are completely right that I don’t know about the experience of being in a fraternity, or how great it is to be a TKE. I’m sure it is great for most of their members, otherwise they wouldn’t be so committed to its survival, and defensive of it in cases like this where a harsh criticism is put out for public debate. But anyway, I do have my own experiences as a woman in a society dominated by men and masculine privilege, and also as a female college student on a campus where a large portion of the social life revolves around women (mostly under the age of 21, who have limited access to alcohol through other means) going into the men’s frat houses and getting inebriated with the alcohol the men provide them, for free. Many people see this as a common, unproblematic occurance. Other people feel extremely uncomfortable and vulnerable in a situation like this (and the typical retort: “don’t go to frat parties” is an unsatisfying response, because there is at the same time so much social pressure to go to frat parties, get drunk, hook up, etc.)

So, I do have my own experiences with frat houses and TKE, they are just not the same experiences that male members of TKEs have had with frat houses and the TKEs. Funny how life work: different individuals each have our own, different, sometimes contradictory experiences. And I do believe that all are equally valid. No one is criticizing the TKEs or the Greek system for seeking out friendships and community. I do the same thing in my own life, and I fully support that aspect of the Greek system.

But when someone speaks up and says: the way you are going about doing things is harmful and oppressive to me and others in our community, the organizing group has the choice to take note and try to make changes, or to deny that any harm has been done, and claim that everything should stay the way it is now. I am hopeful that the TKEs, other fraternities, and other organizations on Whitman campus that are dominated by men and masculine privilege (and I am stating a fact here, not making an accusation) can be grateful to the people who spoke up and use their constructive criticisms as a learning opportunity, but from what I have seen so far that is not looking like it will be the case. So it goes…?


Dangermouse Mar 5, 2011 8:44 AM

Who says masculinity isn’t feminine?

Useless categories of gender are useless. The previous poster’s reckless use of gendered language does as much to advance the violence that underwrites the law of the father as getting drunk at a frat party.

Gender is not something you find in your pants. Your experience as a woman proves nothing other than the need to adopt a queer temporality.


Thoughts on TKE initiation at Whitman | Andrew Spittle Mar 5, 2011 11:26 AM

[...] on TKE initiation at Whitman. Go read that. Then read this. Much respect to Daniel for publishing that and for being interviewed by the [...]


Arianna Cortesi Mar 5, 2011 12:34 PM

Lissa, thank you. You said many of the things I wanted to bring up, especially this: “But when someone speaks up and says: the way you are going about doing things is harmful and oppressive to me and others in our community, the organizing group has the choice to take note and try to make changes, or to deny that any harm has been done…”

For me, this is the core of the argument. This is a chance to either examine the way things are currently done and make some changes, or decide that two people are just collateral damage in the situation. I hope the TKEs choose the former.

Thanks to everyone who’s trying to make this a productive discussion.


dhavanvengadasalam Mar 5, 2011 14:28 PM

Why is cp allowed to characterize all men participating in the greek system by insulting them stating that they “are boys who lack frontal cortex development.” The editor’s comment states comments insulting parties are censored; however, cp’s is not, and many more that demonstrate no threat, malice, or disrespect are censored. Any comment that is the least bit critical of the pioneer is immediately removed. Why? Do we need to sugar cake our comments to protect your image? There is more censoring of worthy comments than there should be. When someone asks the pio to “practice what you preach” or “commit to moderating this discussion constantly” their comments are censored? How are they malicious? Let’s stop the picking and choosing.


Lissa Mar 5, 2011 16:35 PM

Useless dismissal of constructed gender categories (in a world where almost every social experience is somehow related to constructed gender categories) is useless.

My use of gendered language is only ‘reckless’ to those who have refused to acknowledge this as an issue that is intimately tied to gender and masculinity, instead confining it to a discussion of whether it should be labeled ‘hazing’ or whether it is a problem that individuals may have experienced ‘anxiety’ during initiation.

Thanks for playing, though.


Alum Parent Mar 5, 2011 17:43 PM

Some — although not all — of those commenting are missing a key point. Whether you agree or disagree that what happens at TKE initiation is positive or negative, hazing or not hazing… YOU DON’T GET TO DECIDE! TKE as an orgnaization doesn’t get to decide what is or isn’t hazing. Individual TKE members don’t get to decide what is or is not hazing. Other students don’t get to decide what is or is not hazing.

The Whitman administration has an anti-hazing policy, and it has SOLE responsibility for determining what hazing is and whether it occurs. If the college (or the State of Washington) decides that something is hazing — even if you think it isn’t — it is. Period.

If the College or the State say it’s hazing, It’s hazing — even if 998 out of 1000 people who experienced it thought it was bond- and character building. If you do it anyway, you’re violating the policy and are subject to the consequences.

Don’t confuse having an opinion with the reality of the hazing policy and how incidence of hazing is determined. If you have concerns about the how the policy is interpreted, seek clarification. If you disagree with the policy, try to get it changed it through proper channels.


Ellie Gold Mar 5, 2011 19:18 PM

To all who are accusing the Pioneer of doing a poor job moderating this thread:

I approved CP’s comment because it does not attack a specific person, nor does it attack a group of people. CP’s comment presents facts and uses those to build an argument. If there are logical fallacies or reductive assertions in that argument, I urge you to discuss those, keeping in mind that criticism of an argument can be done in such a way that is does not insult the person who made that argument.

Attacking someone’s argument – their words as written, rather than their characters – is not a personal attack. It is criticism. It is the same thing your professors do when they hand you back a paper with comments on it; the only difference in this case is that this criticism may concern an issue you care about personally. A personal attack, however, involves threats against a person’s life or, less severely, disparaging comments about one’s character. Comments like these have been held in moderation, and trust me: there are ones attacking Hart, Bachhuber and DeVine equally, calling them liars, cowards and worse. It seems that anger knows no social affiliation.



Rachel Mar 6, 2011 0:15 AM

Just to clear this up – prefrontal cortex underdevelopment in young adults is not cruel mischaracterization. It is scientific research. Myelination increases and brain development increases in the areas that we use to made decisions and foresee consequences up through the age of 25. I don’t think CP was trying to paint a portrait of “underdeveloped apes”, but rather to point out a concern of leaving the execution of a messy and tricky initiation process to the hands (and minds) of individuals who aren’t yet fully developed in these areas. I’m not making any “argument” here, just hoping to help clarify. Here is a quick blurb: http://hrweb.mit.edu/worklife/youngadult/brain.html#cortex


CP Mar 6, 2011 1:10 AM

Please allow me to clarify my comments about young men in fraternities, comments which seem to have drawn the ire of young men in fraternities, and perhaps others. Based on observations, experience, and reading the newspapers, I believe that many young men in high school and college exercise poor judgment because they lack experience and are immature. The poor judgment and immaturity of young men is often manifested in reckless driving, binge drinking, drinking and driving, substance abuse, sexual impropriety, and inappropriate verbal or physical aggression.

Certainly, some young people have better judgment and greater native intelligence than some older people will ever have, and some older people frequently exercise very poor judgment as shown by our politicians and moneyed elites, but generally people mature with age and experience. No doubt exceptions to the general rule abound. Perhaps every single member of TKE personifies the exception, but I doubt it.

I do not doubt that the young men of TKE are generally talented, intelligent, and well-meaning. Youth has many virtues and the young men of TKE probably exemplify most of them. Nonetheless, experience and maturity are virtues rarely associated with youth, and the TKE members on campus are unquestionably very young – from 18 to 22 years old for the most part.

The young and brilliant consistently undervalue experience which is why they often do not heed their parents’ advice and disdain authority, such as Washington state laws and Whitman policies and those who would enforce them. They honestly believe that they know better because they are present and others are observing from afar. They sincerely believe that the rules should not apply to them because they “know what they are doing” and conceive of themselves as responsible and intelligent people.

Experience in life is an advantage most of the time. Typically, adults want their legal affairs handled by experienced attorneys, their medical care handled by experienced physicians, etc. Veteran guile often remains unappreciated until possessed. Would you rather fly with a new pilot just out of flight school or with Captain Sullenberger? Most people would choose Sully because of his wealth of experience.

Obviously, inexperienced young men and women are not necessarily bad people, just inexperienced. They typically intend no malice and err from carelessness or lack of judgment. The general hope of parents in sending their progeny to college is that with age, knowledge, experience, and exposure to caring adults who may become mentors, the young will mature and reach their potential in adulthood. College is meant to be a time of intellectual and personal growth at a formative period of life.

There are studies about brain development that indicate that the parts of the brain that influence judgment develop last – sometimes not until the mid-twenties. Auto insurance rates for teenage boys and young men in their early twenties is higher than that for older drivers because statistics show the former group has more accidents, despite superior reflexes, vision, etc. They lack experience which influences their judgment. Having once been a young man, this observation applied to me as well, so it is not intended to insult anyone.

Unfortunately, when young men are given discretion to abuse other young men, even for a purpose that the vast majority of people believe will ultimately prove beneficial, experience suggests to most adults that casualties are inevitable. The risk involved in hazing applies to the Greek system generally, not the particular young men at the Whitman chapter of TKE. However, in this instance, a news article has singled TKE out for initiation practices that violate Whitman policy. The article illustrates the fact that some percentage of fraternity members will cross lines related to hazing, just as some young men will drive irresponsibly.

When people exercise poor judgment, they put others at risk. Rather than relying entirely on the judgment of the young when they arrive at college, free of parental constraints often for the first time, adults put policies in place that young men and women are required to follow, or face consequences for their defiance. The reasons for the rules pertaining to hazing are obvious, or at least they are to most adults with some experience in the world. Whether the existing rules go too far in interfering with the cathartic experience sought by TKE initiates can perhaps be debated, but not the need for some rules to protect pledges from abusive hazing.

Thus, when I refer to “frat boys,” I am referring to those who lack the judgment to follow the rules set in place by adults to prevent the overzealous among them from harming their peers, whether or not anyone has truly been harmed yet. I am also referring to those who might be inclined to value the status of their house over their own personal integrity when it comes to addressing the veracity of the charges leveled against TKE. For me, the derogatory connotation of the term “frat boy” relates to immaturity and irresponsibility, which are not necessarily permanent character flaws and often a product of youth that may be outgrown.

Regardless of GPA, charitable works, social presence on campus and the many other undisputed good deeds of the TKE fraternity, breaking Whitman policy and Washington law regarding hazing is, in my view, immature and irresponsible, and so is casting false aspersions on those who have come forward to complain about it. TKE may do wonderful things on campus and their members may be the brightest lights on campus, but that does not immunize them from criticism for breaking the rules and then dissembling in response to the revelation.

The only reason I have specifically referred to Mr. DeVine, whom I do not know but suspect is, in most respects, a fine fellow, is that he signed the letter on behalf of TKE categorically denying the allegations by Mr. Hart. Further, Mr. DeVine was quoted to the effect that the stress of initiation is no worse than the stress of the first day of class at Whitman, which seems quite a stretch. Mr. DeVine’s statements certainly cannot be reconciled with those of Mr. Hart, so one of them is lying.

I view Mr. Hart as the victim here, not TKE. TKE faces censure or sanction because of the conduct of its members, not because of Mr. Hart’s report of it unless Mr. Hart has falsified his report.

For the reasons I have expressed before, I find it very difficult to believe Mr. Hart would come forward with a completely fabricated report, and seriously doubt the veracity of TKE’s flat denial of all of the allegations printed in “The Pioneer.” My suspicion is greatly heightened by the defense of abusive tactics for the cathartic experience that will follow, if initiation is completed, posted by current or former members of TKE.

Therefore, I view TKE’s position on the allegations as an unprincipled attack on the character of the victim, a tactic which angers me. I find the various posts congratulating TKE on its supposed “restraint” in responding to the allegations to be misguided and disturbing.

In any event, I do apologize to Mr. DeVine for my typo in a previous post that misspelled his name. I suspect that he has found himself unexpectedly in a difficult position and hope that he will find the right way to extricate himself and TKE from it.


to ellie Mar 6, 2011 3:43 AM

how is “practice what you preach” a personal attack?


To CP Mar 6, 2011 13:08 PM

Where in Mr Devine’s statement did he categorically deny all accusations or call it a completely fabricated report? He wrote that response before the article was published, and, having heard many of Mr. Hart’s complaints, knew that some of them were exaggerated or false, which they were. That is a statement of fact, NOT an attack on Dan’s character. Through this entire situation, TKE has NEVER made a personal threat or called Dan’s character into question.

I agree with what others have said when they called into question your level of familiarity with what’s going on here. Your words demonstrate a concern for your child (fair and admirable to say the least), but your accusations fail to hold much weight in my mind because, well, you really don’t know what has happened from both sides of the story, and your facts are grounded in an overt bias against and even “anger” towards the “perpetrating” party.


Distraction Mar 6, 2011 17:47 PM

The majority of the comments posted thus far are irrelevant to the specific matter at hand. In many ways this comment section has now overshadowed the initial story, which only serves the purpose of creating greater controversary. Whether or not hazing took place during TKE initiation is a matter to be decided between TKE, Dan Hart and the administration.

While this has served as an interesting forum for students and parents to discuss personal ideologies, social politics and opinions, none of this is relevant to the specific issue. Proving that boys are immature or that frats are patriarchal does not matter in this context. It has already been established that the majority of respondants have never been a TKE nor have they ever gone through TKE initiation and as such have no background to be discussing an event of supposed hazing.

I would also like to discourage any discussion of “frats” or “sororities” in general. This story is about the 2010 TKE initiation and is not pertinent to any other Greek group. Let’s limit any drama by allowing the administration to handle this accusation of hazing in a manner that is appropriate and reasonable.


CP @ Distraction Mar 6, 2011 21:52 PM

Distraction, I am not sure that you have thought this through. If you are correct, then I suppose then that no one who has not been in combat can have an opinion about the current wars. Actually, if you cannot derive a valid opinion from a written account, what would be the point of reading about anything absent personal experience in the subject? History must be completely irrelevant because we were not there when it happened, we just read about it later.

If no one should dare voice an opinion about a matter with which they have no personal involvement, then no one should weigh in on death row inmates in Texas unless you are related to the inmates, their victims, or the attorneys and court staff involved in the prosecution. The requirement of personal experience to hold or voice an opinion would certainly narrow the range of political causes one could advocate for or against.

I am not sure why it is so important to avoid controversy on a liberal arts college campus filled with intelligent young adults and a carring faculty and administration. Dynamic and controversial events are what can truly provide teachable moments if people do not lose control of their emotions.

Socrates would not be welcome on your forum? I suppose the Athenians did sentence him to death – precedent for the current Greek chorus advocating silence perhaps? Socrates’ fate does show that there are risks associated with being a gadfly.

I am confident that the Greek system at Whitman is strong enough to weather criticism. I also suspect that Mr. Hart is too or he would not have had the fortitude to come forward in the first place. If people act in good faith, more communication tends to solve problems better than less.

I have been educated by other posters about TKE’s role on campus and the value of the initiation process for those who complete it. That information prompted me to acknowledge those points and modulate my criticism, though not abandon it, in subsequent posts. In short, I respectfully disagree.


CP Mar 6, 2011 23:04 PM

This is the quote I am referring from the letter signed by Mr. DeVine:

“Earlier this week a list of complaints about TKE initiation were brought to the attention of the men of Tau Kappa Epsilon, the administration and The Pioneer. The specific allegations are largely unfounded and falsified.”

Saying that “the specific charges” are “falsified” is tantamount to saying that the bringer of the charges has lied about them, that they are fabrications. There is the weasily modifier “largely,” but I believe that a fair reading of the letter is that TKE denies all material parts of the allegations. To the extent that it is less than a complete denial, it is barely so and suggests only that some trivial components of the charges not worth enumerating might be true.

That so called “statement of fact” has the effect of an indirect attack on Mr. Hart’s character for honesty. If you deny the veracity of someone’s statement, you are essentially saying that they have lied.

If TKE members want to risk being struck by lightening by asserting that Mr. Hart’s complaints regarding repetitive cleaning of parts of the house for hours, accompanied by verbal abuse, sleep deprivation (the degree of which can be argued), and communal cold showers with naked or near naked pledges, are materially false, then that rests with their consciences. If they are denying some other complaints that were made are in fact false, then they should be specific and not issue what is in effect a blanket denial. Perhaps a clarifying letter is in order.

If it is not clear by now, I am more offended by the blanket denial of all charges than the substance of the charges themselves. While pledges have a right to rely on Whitman’s policies in undergoing initiation, and a fraternity’s violation of those rules is a breach of trust, one can argue in good faith about the severity of the reported violations, the benefit of going through the entire initiation process, and therefore the good faith of TKE members conducting the initiation. I don’t agree with the process, but reasonable minds can differ.

On the other hand, falsely accusing a whistleblower of lying is an injustice in my opinion. Injustice angers me, so I will admit that bias. I wish that more people shared that bias with me. While this injustice pales in comparison to other injustices in the world, that fact offers no reason to ignore the one at hand.

A part of my job is to represent an employer in appeals from the firing of employees. The employee conduct that typically seals the termination is dishonesty in trying to evade responsibility for the original charges. Outside the Whitman bubble, people lose their livelihoods if caught in lies about their conduct. Admitting wrongdoing with true contrition has actually lessened penalties to save a few jobs. Real world consequences are another reason why I take such evasions occuring in the Whitman bubble very seriously.


Allegations of hazing leveled against TKE initiation practices « fraternaltruth Mar 9, 2011 4:03 AM

[...] The Pioneer – Whitman College On Feb. 18, [a student] approached Dean of Students Chuck Cleveland as well as The Pioneer with hazing allegations against Tau Kappa Epsilon (TKE). According to [the student], TKE violated Whitman’s Code of Conduct, specifically the college’s hazing policy, during the fraternity’s initiation ceremony of new members last winter. [...]


Kevin Klein Mar 11, 2011 5:54 AM

dude are you guys kidding me?


slacker Apr 29, 2011 7:55 AM

Good post , I’m going to spend more time reading about this subject


FYG dodgeballer Nov 30, 2011 0:07 AM

I mean, it’s really a mixed bag here. Initiation aint a walk in the park, ya dig. So he pointlessly cooked some food, only for it to be smeared on the floor and walls repeatedly for 4 hrs or so. I hear about schools that force their pledges to imbibe as much as the members feel is appropriate, which not only physically harms them but could very well kill them. That said, I don’t want to overshadow what went on here. Clearly the pledge didn’t feel like he gained anything from this exercise. I’m sure many others feel quite the opposite. During those hours of remaking and re-preparing the food, only for it to be wasted, bonding relationships can be built in a way unparalleled by many activities in life. At face value, it’s dumb and pointless (not to mention environmentally unfriendly). Believe it or not, there are some kids who go into initiation yearning to form those tight bonds and friendships displayed by many frat houses on campus (cant really speak for those outside of Whitman). We can all feel a certain way about the methods in which the pledges attain these lifelong connections, but the great feeling of comradery and brotherhood gained by the pledge is unquestionable (where safety isn’t an issue). Like I said, there isn’t a clear cut answer to this situation. You may think I was or underwent initiation and have become a member of a frat, but you would be wrong. I’m an indy, and I realized the frat life wasn’t for me after getting a taste of it. I’m glad the former pledge had the courage to not only walk away but to feel comfortable enough to share his experience. That speaks volumes about the school, but more so about the campus atmosphere and community. Hopefully, I’ve opened some of those closed viewpoints siding solely with the former pledge or the fraternity to realize both parties really do have valid points. Let’s not overlook the fact that most schools wouldn’t even look into a situation lacking physical harm and danger such as this. It’s great to have these conversations, but don’t lose sight of perspective!
GO SWEETS!!


A Aug 2, 2013 17:17 PM

This is hilarious. God the Pio is worthless.


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