The University of South Carolina plans to pursue ending pledging at its fraternities and sororities.
USC held a summit last month with national fraternity and sorority leaders to introduce a plan that would eliminate the months-long, sometimes abusive induction period for Greek organizations.
The goal now is to get the school’s fraternities and sororities behind the plan, which could be enacted as early as the 2017-18 school year, USC spokesman Wes Hickman said.
Ending pledge terms would steer Greek organizations back to their founding principles and create a “constructive environment” for personal, professional and leadership development, Hickman said.
“How can we best rebrand the fraternity experience into something that’s positive? We know that there are negative behaviors associated with pledgeship: hazing; servitude, which is a form of hazing; alcohol and drug use,” Hickman said.
But USC Fraternity Council president Joe Stuhrenberg doubts the effectiveness of the plan. He called the idea “administrative overreach,” adding the school should leave decisions about pledging to chapters’ national offices.
“The idea that a decree from USC’s administration will be a catalyst to the disappearance of deeply ingrained problems, like hazing and personal servitude, is nothing more than wishful thinking,” Stuhrenberg said. “These risky behaviors – and others like them – will simply move underground, leaving all stakeholders with even bigger issues at hand.”
MC Lombardo, president of USC’s Sorority Council, referred questions to Hickman.
Hickman said the hope is students would abide by “state, local and university policy.” USC still could allow a one-week period between rush and formal initiation for new members to receive chapter-specific education, he said.
The proposal follows a series of misconduct allegations against USC fraternities.
Eight USC fraternities were hit with sanctions for misconduct violations during the 2015-16 school year, the most since nine were penalized in 2011-12, according to school records. The violations ranged from alcohol violations to possession of drug paraphernalia and hazing – plus starting a fire.
Last spring, a pledge died from alcohol poisoning.
USC could join a growing list of schools to crack down on Greek organizations after misconduct violations.
Dartmouth College and Baruch College in New York City banned Greek life pledging last year, and some schools have shut down their Greek systems altogether. In 2014, Clemson University briefly suspended activities for its 24 fraternities after the death of a fraternity pledge.
Some fraternities, including the national chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon, have banned pledging activities.
But Stuhrenberg, an SAE member, says he doesn’t expect USC to eliminate pledging. He said he only heard of the idea from a reporter earlier this week and has not yet discussed it at length with USC administrators.
“To me, the whole thing does not seem very well thought out.”