Both plaintiffs are "legacies," meaning their mothers are also members of the sorority. When neither girl was granted membership into the sorority, they applied again. They claim that they were denied and informed that a cap had been placed on the number of new members that could be accepted.
For their alleged hardships, both plaintiffs seek an unspecified amount of money in damages, and want the court to freeze the sorority's pledging process until the case is ironed out. Naturally, Alpha Kappa Alpha filed an opposing motion, saying that both plaintiffs could reapply for membership to graduate chapters.
Hazing has become increasingly problematic for colleges and universities in recent years. More serious cases have made national headlines, for example, the death of Florida A&M student Robert Champion. In November 2011, the 26-year-old drum major collapsed and died following what prosecutors call a savage beating that was part of routine hazing.
The beating took place on a bus that was parked in a hotel parking lot following FAMU and rival Bethune-Cookman's annual football game. Local authorities say Champion died of internal bleeding, and suffered bruises to his back, chest, arms, and shoulder. According to witnesses, Champion was vomiting before he was found on the bus, unresponsive. Just as the Howard University story was making headlines, it was announced that charges for the defendants in the Champion case were upgraded to manslaughter by a new prosecutor.
FAMU is working to combat hazing, and this incident doesn't even involve a Divine 9 organization—Champion's death allegedly came at the hands of the famous Marching 100 band, which has since been suspended by the university. This incident, which culminated with the senseless death of a young man, should go to trial. By comparison, it almost makes the story out of D.C. seem trivial.
The allegations of hazing at Howard appear to be born only of disappointment.
By contrast, it becomes clear that the allegations of hazing at Howard appear to be born only of disappointment. There's the disappointment of two young women who, despite working to achieve their goal, are still not members of Alpha Kappa Alpha. Adding to that is the disappointment of a mother whose daughter still has not joined the organization she herself is a member of.
The plaintiff's mother who complained to the organization may have been playing the role of protector, but in reality, she opened both women up to ridicule. Nobody can protect them now that the story has gone public, as their names and photos have been published by various outlets. Each now bears a scarlet "S" on her chest thanks to their revelation of the sorority's practices. Now that everyone knows who they are, they're open to torture from not only members of Alpha Kappa Alpha, but the entire campus. Assuming they are graduating seniors, they will spend their final semester with a much heavier burden than their senior thesis alone.
For that reason, their names have been omitted from this piece, despite the information being public. Based on the facts that have been presented, it doesn't seem their treatment merits the attention of a federal court. Still, these women don't deserve to be treated as pariah's on Howard's campus, even if their decision to take legal action has left them vulnerable to further bullying. Regardless of the outcome of this case, this will now be the first thing that potential employers will learn about when researching these young women who are about to graduate. Why were they not better protected by the news outlets reporting their story?
Why were these young women not better protected by the news outlets reporting their story?
There's a reason why hazing is prohibited by Greek organizations, and why ambitious potential members are urged not to participate in rogue activities. Reputations and lives can be placed at risk, and there's still no guarantee of membership. Everyone must remember that these incidents involve young people nearing the end of their formative years. If these stories reach the media, it's their responsibility to protect victims from further embarrassment whenever possible, lest those reporting on torment become the tormentors.
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