Anonymous letter calls for overhaul of greek life

An email claiming to be sent on behalf of fraternity and sorority pledges at The University of Alabama warned Greek Affairs director Kathleen Gillan last month that pledgeship should be reformed or unwanted national attention could fall on the Capstone.

The email was sent to Gillan Sept. 16 from the address and was signed “Concerned Parents of Freshman Students.”

The authors asked administrators to end the pledgeship process by Oct. 1, restricting the current pledge timeline. On Sept. 26, Intrafraternity Council President Drew Smyth said pledgeship would be temporarily suspended for a week, starting Oct. 1 and ending Oct. 8.

Copied recipients of the email included UA President Guy Bailey, State Superintendent of Education Thomas Rice, UA System Chancellor Robert E. Witt, Vice Chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs Dr. Charles Ray Nash and UA Trustee John England Jr.

“We represent a group of freshman men and women that are the subject of physical hazing, sleep deprivation and excessive alcohol consumption that is occurring under your stewardship of the program,” the authors stated in the email. “The time requirement of these young men and women at the houses is too much and contributes to the aforementioned abuses that are occurring.

“I would like to remind you that in our country and world today, it takes very little for something to go ‘viral,’ and the greek situation is close to explosion at UA. We are writing you because we wish for our children to be successful and stay at UA without enduring the current ‘insanity’ of greek life pledgeship.”

Dean of Students Tim Hebson responded Monday afternoon by saying the letter had nothing to do with the weeklong suspension of pledgeship last week.

“That letter had absolutely zero bearing at all,” Hebson said. “That letter doesn’t mention any specific high-risk behavior that would make us say that we have to suspend pledgeship because of behavior issues.”

An anonymous author, again using the “crimsonpledge” address, forwarded the email to The Crimson White on Monday.

In the emailed statement accompanying the letter, the author said the original email was forwarded to The Crimson White because “due to the significant hospitalizations and other infractions, it would appear a weekly suspension is insufficient in order to correct the pledge process.”

Hebson denied any such hospitalizations related to the pledgeship process.

“We’ve had very few alcohol poisonings at all on the whole campus. A few is too many, but there’s not been one fraternity pledge that’s gone to the hospital for hazOVERSET FOLLOWS:ing or anything like that,” Hebson said. “There’s a lot of false information out there. I’ve had some mothers call me, too, but once they hear the facts, they’re fine.”

The authors of the email mention the new national focus on hazing as reasoning to overhaul the greek life system at UA.

“Nationally, too much lip service has been given to the perceived reigning in of greek life abuses and unfortunately, The University of Alabama’s program is running amuck and may become the focus of national scrutiny,” the authors stated in the email.

The authors threatened to contact national media outlets such as The New York Times and organizations such as the Alabama Alcohol Beverage Control Board and Mothers Against Drunk Driving if changes were not made in a two-week time frame. The Crimson White, along with three New York Times email accounts, received the email today.

Hebson said anonymous letters were not uncommon and had no effect on administrative action.

“We get letters all the time, and usually they mention specific incidents if there’s a problem, and that one didn’t mention any specific incidents,” Hebson said. “You can’t respond to anonymous letters. It could be written by anyone.

“If I acted on every time I got a letter based on false information, I would be acting all the time. We only act on what’s factual.”

Hebson again said pledgeship was suspended to allow freshman to rest before midterms and fall break.

“It’s fall break, and we’re going to do it every year from now on,” Hebson said. “We had students who said, ‘Hey I’m going home on Monday or Tuesday’ and we figured it was easier to give everybody the whole week off instead.”

Contrary to the allegations made in the email, Hebson said he was proud of the state of the greek community this year.

“I feel really, really good about where we are,” Hebson concluded. “The University is moving in a very positive direction.”

After The Crimson White received the letter Monday afternoon, several attempts were made to reach Gillan, who did not return the calls by time of print.

  • Eric Jay Kollwitz

    Define “positive direction”

  • VoiceOfReason

    If you don’t want to go through pledgeship or agree with it, then don’t
    join a Fraternity/Sorority. Don’t try to change something for everyone
    just because you don’t agree with it.

    • Wanderer

      I don’t agree with most speed limits, but I never tried to have them
      removed or changed. That’s because I understand them and why theyre
      necessary, There’s a lot I don’t agree with that I would never take up
      arms against to try and change.

      Heres the difference with Greek pledgeship:

      1.) What is being done to and by these freshmen and sophomores is illegal.

      2.) It’s personally dangerous to them. If you can’t see that on your
      own, ask the Pike that sued last year for having his skull cracked when
      his bros dropped him, unconscious, on a sidewalk. Ask the Sigma Chi who
      was beaten by a football player. Ask any of the kids who’ve gone to DCH
      because of alcohol poisoning.

      3.) The current pledgeship process and everything that goes along with
      it is a insult to a university that’s growing in prestige and population
      every year. You want to watch an 18 year old kid puke all over the
      place after some over compensating older brother makes him guzzle
      whiskey, that’s fine, but take that childish behavior off UA’s campus.
      Some students here actually matured past the age of 13 and don’t want to
      continue to see our school’s image dirtied by the sexism, racism and
      other antiquated bullshit that is running rampant in our current Greek

      • greek is optional

        Being greek is a choice, and students have the option to walk away and leave it. If they cant handle it then it’s not for them, then that is fine. The pledgeship process gets easier every year because of the strict administrative watch. They have done a great job. Some people do not like the greek system, that’s expected. But, don’t dwell on the stuff you only read in the hews paper. There are plenty of awful fights and alcohol hospitalizations for non greeks, they just are not written about.

        • Brad Erthal

          If what they are doing is illegal, and a lot of it is, and they are doing it on university property, which they are, the school can get sued by these pledges’ parents when they get hurt. And let’s not all pretend like that won’t happen. If one of them actually dies, then the school loses a great deal of its reputational capital as well. Some people want to see the school crack down on pledgeship before that happens.

  • Lt. Nikolai Rachenko

    If you go greek, you go to the death! Anything else is pussing out