Greek life members reinforce empowerment, living up to values
Story by Breanna Sill, Staff writer
Marquise Braham was a freshman at Penn State University-Altoona when he committed suicide after being hazed by his fraternity, Phi Sigma Kappa, said Evan Ditty, Coordinator of Greek Life and Student Leadership Programs to a crowd of Greek life members. Braham jumped from the window of a hotel while on spring break in March 2014.
What his brothers did not know, prior to making him consume large amounts of alcohol and mouthwash, kill, gut and skin live animals and swallow live fish as part of hazing exercises, was that Braham previously had suicidal thoughts, according to two suicide notes cited in an Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, grand jury report released January 2016.
Had his brothers known this about Braham, would they have hazed him as dangerously as they did? Or at all?
This was one of the scenarios that was presented to leaders of Murray State’s Greek community during a session on hazing prevention training organized Ditty.
“This program was made to show us that hazing does happen at university level Greek organizations,” Ditty said. “This is not news to any of us, but with all the bad publicity that Greek life has gotten in the past year and a half and the stuff we are doing, it just doesn’t seem to work on the modern college campus.”
Ditty said he thinks it’s important for the people working in Greek life to catch up with the other college systems. He can’t say for sure that hazing is a problem at Murray State, but based on the national average, he said there is a definite possibility that it happens on this campus as well.
“The idea is to empower the students, specifically the leaders, the presidents, the risk management chairs and the new member educators to take that stance and say ‘Enough is enough. We need to stop this. This doesn’t fit with our values as an organization,’” he said. “We want all of our organizations to be living up to their values.”
Taylor Chadduck, junior from O’Fallon, Missouri, and new member educator for Sigma Sigma Sigma, said she learned a lot about the different kinds of hazing during the class.
“We learned everything that goes into hazing,” she said. “It’s like verbal abuse, mocking and things that others might not even consider to be hazing.”
For Chadduck, hazing is something she said she and the other members of her organization have zero tolerance for.
“These are our new members and we don’t want them to feel uncomfortable or to feel like they are not a part of the organization because they are new,” she said.
Ditty said the university may not see the impact from the classes externally from Greek organizations, but he believes they are something that will evolve internally.
“I think it’s all something as simple as fixing up their processes,” he said. “A lot of the times groups sometimes go back to the mean, and that’s not what we want. We want all our organizations to be high-functioning and doing things right. Ideally, we will have more awareness of what hazing is.”
Chadduck echoed Ditty and said within her own organization, she is planning to speak to both the actives of Tri Sigma and the new members to make sure they know exactly what hazing is and why it is wrong.
“I want new members to know when or if they are being hazed and I want them to feel comfortable talking to me about it,” she said.
If a student feels like they are being hazed, Ditty said, the best thing to do is to contact the adviser for that organization.
Correction: A previous version of this story misstated the situation leading up to the 2014 death of a Penn State Altoona student, Marquise Braham. Braham had not been diagnosed with or treated for any mental illness, according to court records. Additionally, the article failed to attribute the information outlined about Braham’s death. Facts about fraternity hazing’s role in Braham’s suicide were part of a presentation given by Evan Ditty, Coordinator of Greek Life and Student Leadership Programs. A January 2006 Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, grand jury report found no evidence that Braham’s fraternity caused his suicide, in part, because two notes Braham left “make clear that Braham had been thinking of suicide for a very long time.” Braham’s family argued in court that he did not suffer from mental illness and hadn’t considered suicide before pledging that fraternity.
The Murray State News regrets the error.