I came across an interesting article in Jezebel about Young Harris College, a small liberal arts college here in North Georgia. Two fired professors and one student have filed suit against the college claiming violation of Title IX of the Educational Amendments 1972 and negligence laws. They claim the administration censored a story from its campus paper regarding extreme hazing activities.
The student, Jo Hannah Burch, was a full time student in the fall of 2011. She pledged Gamma Psi sorority and began what they called an “education period.” Over a course of several nights Burch was subjected to severe “rituals” by sorority members including alumni. Burch was also subjected to mud crawls in cold weather and sexually charged “rituals” and forced to endure blaring heavy metal music. Some of the activities left Burch badly bruised. She made a decision not to join the sorority.
In March 2012, Burch met with student affairs vice president Susan Rogers to tell of her experiences which resulted in a suspension of Gamma Psi, but no individuals would be disciplined. Rogers told Burch it would not be wise to file a police report because the members would probably sue her.
Burch’s father contacted Cathy Cox, school president, regarding Gamma Psi and her cavalier reply was, “these things happen.”
Theresa Crapanzano, a visiting professor and Burch’s adviser at the campus paper, The Enota Echoes, talked with Burch regarding her experiences at Gamma Psi. Crapanzano and communications faculty member, Joseph Terry, began investigating hazing at the school for an article to be published in the campus paper.
Some of the allegations included sexual abusive acts including
Forcing ‘sweethearts’ (female members of male fraternities) to stand naked and be judged by the fraternity members…..
Forcing both female and male pledges to stand in a pool of water in which the older pledges have urinated or defecated in….
Forcing male pledges to engage in ‘elephant crawls’ through a creek, during which the pledges crawl one behind another, with each pledge’s face planted between the buttocks of the pledge in front of him….
In investigating hazing, it had become obvious that hazing had been a long time problem and an edition of the school paper had several articles discussing hazing dated 1989.
In April 2012 a meeting was called by Cathy Cox to discuss hazing policy, events at Gamma Psi and allegations of faculty members participating in the hazing activities. Cox said the allegations could not be substantiated. Crapanzano disagreed and in a recording Cox can be heard saying, “We can step outside and fight about it all day.”
An article discussing the allegations was to be published in the campus paper. The administration required “pre-clearance” from the campus attorney before publication. President Cox soon informed the two professors the article was to be killed.
Within a few weeks both professors were terminated.
Young Harris College’s spokesman Jay Stroman called the lawsuit outrageous.
The college has a no-hazing policy, and we take it extremely seriously,” Stroman said. “The student development office investigated it, determined that at some level something went on. And immediately took action.
The representative attorney for Crapanzano, Terry and Burch said the college’s actions against them were out of pure anger.
It’s pretty clear, based on the way they treated these two individuals, that they were angry with them, they were upset with them. Both of them had excellent performance from the job reviews,” said James Radford, the attorney who filed the suit.
The college has until May 28 to answer to the lawsuit.
Several things are really bothering me about this.
One obvious thing Ms. Burch went through a really bad experience and suffered consequences of calling people out. Ms. Burch was told that the sorority members would be the victims and can sue her if she filed a police report.
President Cox telling a parent “these things happen” and later saying the allegations of the professors could not be substantiated.
There have been only two local news reports on this matter.