Underground Greeks go unregulated
Published: Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Updated: Sunday, June 17, 2012 14:06
Between five and seven underground fraternities comprised of UAlbany students operate with no rules and no oversight from the university or national chapters, three students close to the Greek revitalization process told the ASP.
The sources, who wished to remain anonymous to avoid compromising their positions in the revitalization process, said the underground groups often use harsh hazing techniques on their pledges.
"They do heinous shit," a source said. "You literally go through hell."
In one hazing technique known as "lightning showers" pledges are forced to go outside in the middle of winter and strip naked. Members then douse the pledges with buckets of cold water, according to the sources.
In "through the roof," another hazing practice, pledges are picked up by the hips and thrown upwards with the idea of slamming their head through the ceiling. Other techniques include forcing pledges to drop to the ground on command without using their arms to break their fall and making them do pushups on glass.
Often these underground groups start with 15-20 members and end with less than 10 because of their hazing, sources told the ASP.
These groups have occasionally been reported to the university, said Craig Brewer, UAlbany's coordinator of fraternity and sorority affairs.
"They're outlaws. They can basically do anything with any consequences," Brewer said.
He had not heard of any the specific hazing techniques described by the source, but called them very disturbing.
"It's very troubling that there's a student out there that would allow this to happen to them," Brewer said.
One reason hazing may be more intense is the concept of reciprocal justice – where a member of a fraternity would do whatever happened to them, plus more, to their pledges, Brewer said.
He refers to the groups as "social cells" rather than underground fraternities because they do not do any of the typical fraternity activities like community service, academic programming or having affiliation with national chapters.
Many of the groups were recognized fraternities at one time but were kicked off-campus for poor behavior, Brewer said. UAlbany's Student Involvement Web site lists nine Greek organizations that were derecognized by the university over the last five years. Several of these groups were mentioned by the source as operating underground frats.
New members are sucked in by the party atmosphere of these groups, which often take freshmen as members. These groups may still be thriving because sororities still mix with them, sources said.
"They suck them in with drugs, women and alcohol," the source said. "At the end of the day you have hot girls with drug problems who these guys support."
Brewer said he has met with national representatives of several sororities who do not condone their Albany chapters mixing with unrecognized groups because of the risk taken on by doing so. Groups that are recognized by the university all maintain insurance.
Two groups – Delta Chi, a fraternity, and Psi Gamma, a sorority -- have been derecognized for taking pledges, something prohibited this semester under the revitalization plan. Overall, UAlbany has 28 Greek social organizations with 17 sororities and 11 fraternities.
Because of the nature of secrecy of all Greek organizations, questioning members about any allegations is difficult, Brewer said.
"We look into everything, but nobody wants to rat out their friends or be the snitch," he said. "We fight the level of secrecy on a daily basis."
Even if Brewer sees someone wearing the letters of a banned organization on campus, there is little he can do because the person can claim the shirt is a friend or relative at another school.
All of the underground fraternities are off-campus, making it difficult for the university to investigate because it falls out of their jurisdiction.
"We're doing the best we can to dissuade these activities with our constraints," Brewer said.
Any student who is referred by the university is subject to the conflict resolution process, where punishment can range from community service to dismissal from the university.