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Greek Life takes stand against hazing

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Members of the Winona State sorority Sigma Sigma Sigma finish a performance for the lip sync battle during this semester’s Greek Week. After a post put on Facebook declaring one of the sororities on campus to be hazing their members, Sigma Sigma Sigma decided to show their stance on the matter on Wednesday, April 5 in Harriet Johnson Auditorium. (Photo contributed by Allison DeRome)

Members of the Winona State sorority Sigma Sigma Sigma finish a performance for the lip sync battle during this semester’s Greek Week. After a post put on Facebook declaring one of the sororities on campus to be hazing their members, Sigma Sigma Sigma decided to show their stance on the matter on Wednesday, April 5 in Harriet Johnson Auditorium. (Photo contributed by Allison DeRome)

Olivia Volkman-Johnson / Winonan

Every fall, Winona State University’s Greek community invites new and current students to join their organizations to get involved on campus, make new friends and raise awareness for different charitable causes.

Winona State currently recognizes 12 Greek organizations, which includes four sororities, three fraternities, and four Greek associations, such as Greek Council.

The newest addition to Winona State’s Greek community is Alpha Sigma Tau, a sorority that welcomed over 50 new members last fall.

Alpha Sigma Tau President Anne Mills, a junior biology major, said she is excited to become more established at Winona State and build a community on campus.

“Being established here and having other people on the campus know us and know what we stand for and having girls excited to come out for Greek life and just know that we’re around has been a big [goal] for us this semester,” Mills said.

Part of the Alpha Sigma Tau mission statement, according to Mills, is “to empower women to excel in life” and “inspire members to enrich their own lives and the lives of others.”

Community, achievement and compassion are common values in three other Winona State Greek organizations: the Delta Phi Epsilon sorority, the Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity, and the Phi Theta Chi sorority.

Delta Phi Epsilon President Karly Malizia and Tau Kappa Epsilon President Luther Burns said they appreciate the support they get from their fellow members.

“My favorite part about being a member is getting to know all the brothers and being able to spend time with them,” Burns, a junior political science and public administration major, said.

Malizia, a junior public health major, commented on the support she has within Delta Phi Epsilon

“What I find the most rewarding is just the support system you have. You have 100 plus girls that would do anything for you,” Malizia said.

Another common trait of Greek organizations at Winona State is the philanthropic responsibilities they take on each year.

Phi Theta Chi’s main philanthropy centers on helping women who are victims of sexual abuse and domestic violence, according to President Joleen Donovan, a senior psychology major.

This year, Phi Theta Chi organized ‘The Walk of Silence to End Violence,’ which took place Sunday, April 16, in order to raise awareness about sexual violence.

The money raised from the walk was donated to the Women’s Resource Center in Winona, which assists women who have experienced sexual violence and domestic abuse.

Members of Phi Theta Chi show off their signs at the “Walk of Silence to Violence” on Sunday, April 23 in Winona. (Photo contributed by Kyra Beske)

Members of Phi Theta Chi show off their signs at the “Walk of Silence to Violence” on Sunday, April 23 in Winona. (Photo contributed by Kyra Beske)

Malizia said Delta Phi Epsilon focuses on raising money and awareness for anorexia nervosa and associated disorders (ANAD), as well as other debilitating diseases, such as cystic fibrosis.

“Our philanthropies are what really pull us together [and] really unite us,” Malizia said. “That’s usually one of the reasons people will choose to [be in] a sorority, [by] what philanthropies they support.”

Winona State Greek organizations also take part in other activities, such as trips, conferences and banquets, which are funded by the dues that each member must pay in order to be a member.

Donovan and Mills said that many people misconstrue these dues as a way that members “pay for their friends.”

“[The money] is going towards our mission of empowering women and it’s going towards our programs we have within Alpha Sigma Tau to better ourselves,” Mills said. “So it’s not ‘paying for your friends,’ but it’s paying to better yourself through this type of organization.”

Dovan mentioned what Phi Theta Chi dues goes towards.

“You pay for the activities that you do through the organization and you just happen to make friends along the way,” Donovan said.

Another thing that Winona State Greek organizations have in common is their policies for member behavior, including hazing.

The Minnesota State Board policy defines hazing as an act that “endangers the mental or physical health or safety of a person” as a means to humiliate or ridicule “for the purpose of initiation, admission into, affiliation with or as a condition for continued membership in a student group/club, organization or athletic team.”

Malizia and Burns said that all national sororities and fraternities have a zero tolerance policy for hazing.

“[Tau Kappa Epsilon] abolished hazing nationally in 1923. We were one of the first fraternities to abolish hazing, if not the first,” Burns said.

Delta Phi Epsilon follows a similar set of guidelines.

“We have absolutely zero tolerance for anything. Hazing is anything that someone could find uncomfortable physically, mentally. Absolutely zero tolerance,” Malizia said.

As a local sorority, Phi Theta Chi is self-governing, though Donovan said they also discourage hazing.

“We tell people that they can say no to any activity at any time if they feel uncomfortable. There won’t be punishment or anything forcing,” Donovan said.

Recently, Phi Theta Chi was involved in an incident with a Winona State student who said she felt she was hazed by some of their members during the pledging process.

Jordan Jakusz, a freshman I-Design major, said she was unfairly kicked out of Phi Theta Chi for being sick during the last week of March.

Donovan said Phi Theta Chi asks pledges to leave the sorority if they feel they are not improving or if they feel they are not a good fit.

“When we extend a bid, we give everyone a chance. If we feel that someone is not necessarily the right fit for the sorority and if we aren’t helping them grow and they’re not helping us grow, we have the ability to ask them to leave,” Donovan said.

However, Jakusz felt that she was treated unfairly after being sick for a long period of time.

“I feel like I was treated unfairly throughout the whole process of rushing for Phi Theta Chi,” Jakusz said. “One of the things we had to do was meet with all the sisters and I fell behind a little bit because I got sick.”

Jakusz’s friend Hailee Beissel, a freshman psychology major, said Jakusz asked her to take her to the hospital on March 29, and Jakusz was admitted for most of the day.

“[During] this ‘hell week [sic]’ that they were having, she was sick and they were continuously harassing her and she asked me to take her to the hospital… so I do and even on the way to the hospital, she’s getting phone calls from her sisters, harassing her,” Beissel said.

Beissel said one of the Phi Theta Chi sisters told Jakusz over the phone that she was lying about being sick.

The next day, Jakusz said she was brought into a meeting with Phi Theta Chi sisters where she was told she would be leaving the sorority.

“They told me that I had a bad attitude about everything and after I showed them the doctor’s note that I gave them to prove I was sick, they still looked at me and said I was a liar,” Jakusz said.

Donovan said that Jakusz’s sisters felt she was not improving in the way that they previously discussed.

Members of Phi Theta Chi march through the streets of Winona in the “Walk of Silence to End Violence” on Sunday, April 23. (Photo contributed by Kyra Beske)

Members of Phi Theta Chi march through the streets of Winona in the “Walk of Silence to End Violence” on Sunday, April 23. (Photo contributed by Kyra Beske)

“Before we had asked Jordan to leave… some sisters in charge of our pledging process did meet with her and kind of told her what they thought and what they would like to see her improve on and they just didn’t really see her improve in the way they had wished and so that’s why they had asked her to leave. It’s not like she was just kicked out without any warning or anything,” Donovan said.

Later that day, Beissel posted a photo of Jakusz hooked up to an IV while they were in the hospital on her Facebook page and explained Jakusz’s experience with Phi Theta Chi.

The post also included screenshots of text messages, which Beissel identified as harassment, between Jakusz and a contact named “Grand Big,” who Jakusz said was a Phi Theta Chi sister and former friend.

“I met her at the beginning of the year…and we were friends and then after she got initiated into Phi Theta Chi, she changed,” Jakusz said. “I feel like after you are initiated, you change a lot and not in a good way because obviously she was trying to call me a liar.”

Donovan said the girl involved with the text messages is not an active sister with Phi Theta Chi and does not attend Winona State anymore.

“If you’ve seen the post, you’ve seen that there was a very mean text message sent to Jordan, but that was not by an active sister. She doesn’t even go to Winona State,” Donovan said. “It was pretty hurtful that someone who isn’t involved would be so rude to her.”

After the Facebook post gained traction, Beissel said she was contacted by Phi Theta Chi members to take it down, though she refused.

“I just [thought], ‘You guys did something wrong. I want there to actually be some justice for this,’” Beissel said.

Donovan said she wished Jakusz and Beissel would have confronted her before posting about the incident on Facebook.

“It’s really hard because there’s two sides to every story and her side was blown up, but we’ve stayed silent to not make things worse,” Donovan said. “Now we are kind of seen as the ‘hazing sorority’ which isn’t necessarily true.”

The post was eventually removed by Facebook when users reported it, Beissel said.

After she was asked to leave, Jordan said several of the Phi Theta Chi sisters have refused to talk to her.

“My big [sister] actually told me I could still talk to her like a big [sister] and that made me feel happy, but the rest of the sisters won’t talk to me. They blocked me on Snapchat and every other [social media] thing,” Jakusz said.

Beissel said other Greek organizations have been supportive of Jakusz during this incident.

“I thought it was cool that most of the fraternities and sororities were changing their cover photos on Facebook to ‘We don’t haze.’ So it made me feel good that even though they’re still a part of Greek life, they’re saying it’s not okay to treat someone like that,” Beissel said.

Jakusz said that she most likely will not pledge another sorority at Winona State, though she and Beissel still support Greek life.

“I like Greek life. I’ve always wanted to be involved in Greek life. I just think the sororities here are a little twisted in their own ways,” Jakusz said.

Beissel has similar feelings towards Greek Life.

“I haven’t changed my opinion on Greek Life. It’s not for me personally, but I don’t think it’s a bad thing at all,” Beissel said. “I just think that that particular group is doing something wrong. I’ve had other girls reach out to me and say that they got hazed as well.”

Jakusz said she would have handled the situation differently if she was president of Phi Theta Chi, who she believed did not have much say in whether or not she was kicked out of the sorority.

“I would’ve confronted the few individuals that were hazing me at the time and ask them for the truth and then if they would’ve lied, I would’ve kicked them out,” Jakusz said.

Beissel said she wished that the students involved would have been confronted and reprimanded.

“I just kind of wish that the girls would’ve gotten suspended from something or something more because they didn’t get punished at all. They don’t even really get to know that they did something wrong,” Beissel said. “They don’t see any wrong in what they did which is just upsetting.”

Donovan said the incident was reported to school officials, though the case has been closed since then. She said she hopes to move forward from these events with positivity.

“We just want to help show people what we’re really about. It’s not all the bad things that everyone sees,” Donovan said. “We would like people to see more of the good things that we do versus the bad things that might be in our past.”

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The Winona State University Student Newspaper
Greek Life takes stand against hazing