By Kenneth Kowald
The death from the alleged hazing of an Oakland Gardens student of Baruch College raises many questions.
I am familiar with the original building of what is now a campus around East 23rd Street and Lexington Avenue and beyond. As an evening session student at City College, my classes during the usual academic year were in the main campus buildings in Harlem, but in the summer semesters, I found classes I needed at what was then the Business School of City College. It became the Baruch School and then Baruch College years after my graduation.
I remember the slow elevators in the original building. It seems that has not changed. Of course, we had no air conditioning, but getting those extra credits on warm evenings was worth it.
The walk along East 23rd Street to the F train at Sixth Avenue was always interesting. The trip home to Elmhurst was fairly quick.
In those days, if there were fraternities on campus, I was too busy to know or care about them, since I worked full time and took as many credits I could get.
I have nothing against fraternities or sororities. I am not a joiner in the traditional sense, but I have had memberships and some board positions in many educational, environmental and other organizations when I felt I could be of help to them. Listing organizations I belong to, just for effect, has not been my cup of tea.
It has always seemed to me, however, that some clubs’ initiation practices, as I have heard about them, could be considered what we used to quaintly call barbaric. Do you really need to put a new member through such possibly dangerous nonsense? Does that show manhood or womanhood? Do you become an adult only as the result of drinking too much, taking too much punishment of a physical or cerebral kind, submitting to some things which are close to torture?
If you saw the practices of “savages” doing stuff like this, wouldn’t you turn away from them in disgust rather than emulate them in some way?
The death of Chun “Michael” Deng has called our attention, once again, to this kind of deadly nonsense. State Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Little Neck) is leading a move to rein in this kind of absurdity. About time.
Does a fraternity or a sorority need an initiation project for prospective members? How about getting them to do some public service in their communities? Working to help the poor and needy will make them realize there is a better way to show their new adult status.
Let’s get the Greek societies in Queens places of higher education to lead the way. Any volunteers out there?
Perhaps those organizations which admit members without hazing could mentor those that do. That, it seems to me, would be a public service.
And it would be a true remembrance of a bright young man who lost his life in order to belong.
Read my blog No Holds Barred at timesledger.com.