It’s a rough week to be the PR spokesman of Lambda Phi Epsilon, the nation’s most visible Asian American fraternity this week. The Daily Beast recently did a story about the unspoken physical hazing in Asian American fraternities, and was followed up by a panel on National Public Radio of two members of the Pi Alpha Phi fraternity as well as the sister of Jack Phoummarath, a University of Texas student who died while pledging Lambda Phi Epsilon. (A lawsuit was filed against the fraternity by the family later and settled out of court.)
For most Asian Americans that have attended a college with Asian Greek organizations, it’s kind of unspoken but everyone knows; similar to Black or Latino Greeks, Asian social fraternities are known to haze their pledges, and more than just the typical “oh hey, let’s make you drink until you puke” stuff. But it’s news to mainstream media, a place where there isn’t any pre-conceived notions about Asian fraternities and sees Asian college students as hard working, intelligent kids majoring in Pre-Med or Engineering. (And they are; some of them just happen to kick the shit out of their pledges.) For non-Greeks, white or Asian, it’s tough to grasp why anyone would be involved in something like this the first place, but fellow blogger Jeff brings the point home:
I was never in a fraternity, which were never big at my undergrad school, but my guess is that the appeal is similar to that of gangs. They want to belong to something, have people watch their back, be part of something like family, often in a way that their parents never provided for them, and thus they are willing to go through hell to be part of them. In fact [in 2003], two Asian-American fraternities at San Jose state went at each other in a 100 person gang fight at a park near my house [which left one person dead].
As a former college undergrad, I understand the draw with rushing an Asian Greek — wanting to be a part of something greater than the whole, wanting to do social stuff with a nod to your heritage. But I’m 32 now, and the adult in me is wondering why the risk management programs so common in fraternal organizations hasn’t kicked into action yet, because left unchecked, stories like this will get more and more media attention without any official response.