Students to Lead University Past Hazing

By Dave Greber

August 30, 2012 Updated Aug 30, 2012 at 9:52 AM EDT

Vestal, NY (WBNG Binghamton) Six months has passed since Greek life at Binghamton University came to a necessary halt in the wake of what university administrators called a significant amount of complaints over hazing at fraternities and sororities.

They knew then, sweeping changes were imminent.

But it will be students, and not administrators, leading that charge of change.

"We took on this position," said Samantha Vulpis, president of the Panhellenic Council. "We all care so much that, to find out that all this just blew up and all of our chapters were put in limbo, and we were on the news for these horrible things, it was literally, heartbreaking."

Action News obtained from the university through a public records request hundreds of reports of hazing last spring.

Among some of the most disconcerting, a sorority pledge exposed to something called "ice tombs," forced alcohol consumption and verbal and emotional abuse.

A resident assistant reported to police a young woman showed up at her door one night, drenched in beer and shivering.

In another report, parents told police their son showed weight loss, extreme mood changes, isolation from his family and friends, all as a result of pledging.

"We're at a prime place here and at a prime moment that we have students invested in the success of the system," said BU Dean of Students April Thompson.

Students like Zachary Stein and Vulpis who will be taking the lead to right a ship lost in a sea of midnight runs, sleep deprivation, alcohol and abuse.

"Real change is going to have to come from the students themselves," said BU Vice President of Student Affairs Brian Rose. "It's not something that can be directed from the top down. We're going to need to engage them, we're going to need to try and cultivate in them a sense of values around a positive Greek experience, from top to bottom."

"These are student-developed programs, student-initiated programs," added Thompson. "The students are taking ownership for their own organizations. We're looking for them for internal accountability procedures."

"If we can build up some trust among everybody and everyone wants to listen to each other and the school, the Greek community is going to be what it should be," said Stein, President of the Interfratrenity Council. "And that's a respectable community of upstanding, smart people that work hard to uphold their traditions and their grades and their friends throughout college and hopefully, later on in life."

Among additional changes this year will be a new intake and recruitment process, which will start a month later to allow for added education for the Greek community.

But more than anything, students will see an essential component young leaders said was missing last spring, in an essential part of college life: Communication and trust.