Tag Archives: Armando Villa

Hidden Changes

One aspect of Greek life on college campuses, often perpetuated by the media and pop culture, is hazing.

California State University, Northridge, has created a very strict “Non-Hazing Agreement” for fraternities and sororities. It reads, in part:

All organizations and clubs must obey the CSU code of conduct which defines hazing as any method of initiation or pre-initiation into a student organization, or student body, which is likely to cause physical harm, personal degradation resulting in physical or mental harm to any former, current, or prospective student.

But CSUN students have differing opinions on whether or not fraternities or sororities follow this agreement.

“…I particularly made sure that no hazing was involved at all [in the fraternity I joined],” said CSUN student Mauricio Romo. “I was at first sketchy when I joined as a brother, but then I noticed … there is no hazing. I don’t understand why they would haze. I never understood the topic. I’d see that other fraternities haze, but I never understood why you have to haze somebody if someone joined for the same purpose you are.”

“…there are communities that say that they don’t haze, but I’ve experienced hazing firsthand,” said CSUN student and sorority alumna Leah Cohen, “and so have people that I’ve talked to, and even most recently I’ve had people coming to me that have complained about those particular issues, so I do not think that the Greek community at CSUN has been adhering to the hazing policy that has been put in place for them.”

Hazing was a problem at CSUN in the past. A 19-year-old student named Armando Villa died as a result of a hazing incident almost three years ago.

“Armando’s death really affected me because we were on the same swim team, so we knew each other,” Romo said.  “I’d known him since middle school. I talked to him in high school. The last semester of senior year we all talked about how we were going to go to CSUN and join a fraternity. When Armando’s death happened, it hit me. I was like, wow, someone I knew passed away for a stupid reason.”

Although not all hazing at CSUN, or other college campuses, ends in tragedy, hazing of any kind can have lasting social or psychological effects on people.

“These organizations are communities of individuals,” CSUN Sociology Professor Ali Akbar Mahdi said, “… young people who have come together, 40 or 50, or an even larger number of them, in one compound, who do not have any blood relationship, and they do not know much about the past of each other… So, they get into very intense relationships with one another, and unfortunately one of the negative aspects of it is that it creates a sense of exclusivity, and also a sense of superiority.”

Another negative aspect can be the peer pressure that it makes it hard to speak out against hazing.

“The people who come to this organization then accept that this is going to be part of the game,” Mahdi said, “and therefore they should accept these things.”

Although Greek life is stereotyped as non-stop partying, drinking, and hazing, even its critics agree some benefits certainly exist.

“I primarily joined because, ultimately, I wanted to do something more for the community, philanthropy-wise,” Cohen said. “The goal was, whichever sorority I ended up in, to contribute to that particular philanthropy, whichever one it would be.”

To help push the positive aspects of sororities and fraternities, and to teach students the correct way to contribute to Greek life, CSUN created Greek 101 and Greek 102 classes that are mandatory for students who want to join these organizations.

“I felt that Greek 101 was very like — it could pretty much touch you, in a sense,” Romo said. “It also touched me because they also talked about Armando. From what I hear, before Armando’s death, Greek 101 was a lot different.”

“I took Greek 101 prior to what happened to Armando Villa, so my experience was that [hazing] wasn’t taken as seriously beforehand,” Cohen said. “When I experienced Greek 102 afterwards, hazing began to become more of a prevalent thing that was being discussed. It was taken a little more seriously in Greek 102, but in Greek 101 at the time it was not.”

Villa’s death has had an effect on the entire campus, and more specifically the Greek community. While hazing may still be going on, the campus has tried to minimize it.

Moderator: Shelby Charlene

Producer: Amber Partida

Anchor: Malcolm Finney

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Reporters: Yesenia Burgara, Shelby Charlene, Malcolm Finney, Julie Nesbitt, Amber Partida, Curtis Poindexter and Abril Preciado

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Beyond the Haze

Greek life at CSUN has come under fire following the death of Armando Villa, a pledge of Zeta Mu. Villa died of dehydration and hyperthermia in July, during an initiation hiking trip with fellow fraternity members and pledges.

Nationwide, more than 60 people have died in fraternity-related incidents since 2005, according to  Bloomberg News. Researchers also suggest fraternity members are more likely to commit sexual assault, and sorority members are more likely to be victims of it.

Villa’s death, and the reports of fraternity-related fatalities and sexual violence across the country, have had an impact on the Greek life and its members on CSUN’s campus.

“I mean you can’t help but feel disgusted that these kind of activities are going on,” said incoming Interfraternity Council President Josh Stepakoff. “It obviously goes against every value that we preach in being part of the Greek system.”

Diane Harrison, President of Cal State Northridge, has suspended pledging for the Spring 2015 semester. Stepakoff said he was surprised she decided to let Greek life continue at CSUN.

“She made it very clear during her announcement she could’ve just suspended the Greek system completely,” he said. “She would be ridiculed no matter what she did, and she probably took the most ridicule just by keeping us around, and by cutting pledging this semester, cutting it next semester, and giving us the opportunity to regain the administration’s trust.”

While people hear many negative things about sororities and fraternities, members say there are many positives to the Greek System. The brotherhood and sisterhood the members form in a fraternity or sorority is the main one.

“I mostly joined for networking,” said Katrina Brkic, former vice-president of CSUN’s Panhellenic Council. “I never had sisters — I always had a brother — so I wanted an older sister…. I’ve gotten most of my internships through our alum, through sisters who’ve worked at different places.”

Andres Rodriguez is the former recruitment chair for the Interfraternity Council. He said fraternity and sororities also come together to do positive things like philanthropic work.

“One of the collective philanthropy events we did this past semester through IFC was the Walk a Mile in their shoes, which was to bring awareness to sexual assault and domestic violence,” Rodriquez said. “That was pretty cool because it brought members from every fraternity together for a common cause.”

CSUN’s Greek system leaders agree the fraternities and sororities must work to make improvements in their reputation, and to make sure no more tragedies occur. Students who want to rush will have to take an online prep course before they are allowed to attend a rush event. Rodriquez said the Greeks would keep promoting the good things they have done, and the importance of their values, so that the new potential members won’t be pushed away by the negative stereotypes in the media.


Moderator: Alex Vejar

Producers: Carly Bagingito and Alex Vejar

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