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.

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