In the administration’s attempt to end pledging as we know it, the Greek community at Cornell has now reaffirmed, with the ejection of the Tau Epsilon Phi fraternity, that medical amnesty applies only to violations associated with alcohol and drugs and not those associated with pledging. Until last fall, medical amnesty had been the absolution a chapter receives for calling 9-1-1 in the case of a medical emergency.
The problem here is not whether the university should attempt to end pledging, which is an historic tradition and a valuable experience if done right. The problem now is that fraternities at Cornell, who actively engage in both pledging and drinking activities, must consider the immense pledging violations associated with calling for help.
It seems easy to blame an individual fraternity’s leaders for stalling or not calling for medical assistance when a situation becomes so dire that professional medical help is the only option. But consider the all-too-common occurrence of individuals, who have likely consumed a significant amount of alcohol at a “pre-game”, arriving at a fraternity’s house at a time where pledging violations may be apparent. If those individuals become sick, the President or other risk managers in the fraternity must determine if the situation is so bad as to require medical assistance.
With the administration’s recent ruling, these risk managers will likely raise the bar for how sick someone must be before they endanger their fraternity’s recognition by calling 9-1-1. This is exactly what the alcohol medical amnesty policy was put in place to prevent. Without applying the policy to all infractions, its purpose is negated.
Being an outsider looking into the Greek system at Cornell, it may seem silly for the President of a fraternity to delay calling for help in any situation. The issue is that the President of that fraternity, upon taking his position, becomes entrusted with protecting and prolonging an organization that may have existed on campus for over a hundred years and is responsible for answering to many dedicated alumni.
Regardless of the hazing violations TEP may have been guilty on, the fraternity’s leaders made the correct judgment in calling for medical assistance. The University, in response, repaid the fraternity by revoking its recognition. In President Skorton’s attempt at ending fraternities as we know them, he has encouraged a system that endangers at least a third of the student population at Cornell.
Risk managers who must make judgment calls as to whether someone needs medical assistance are already under-qualified to do so, but are disincentivized from reaching out to capable professionals. I believe the University must eliminate these deterrents and encourage fraternities to reach out for help regardless of the level of pledging violations they may be involved in.
Until the administration makes amnesty universal for all types of infractions, fraternity members, and other Cornellians who may be at fraternity houses, will continue to be in danger.
Karim Lakhani is a junior in the School of Hotel Administration. He can be reached at kml248@cornell. edu.