Letters to the Editor

A recent Daily News article reported that a St. John’s student from the Staten Island campus nearly suffered kidney failure after being stomped on while doing pushups in a Sigma Chi Upsilon fraternity hazing ritual. Members of the frat then picked up the student and threw him into various objects.
In light of this situation, the Daily News reported that the University rightfully suspended the organization and went even further, barring new members from entering into the 11 other fraternities and sororities on the Staten Island campus.

What Sigma Chi Upsilon did was horrible, disturbing, and outrageous. But what’s most disappointing is that fraternities like Sigma Chi Upsilon – ones that conduct violent hazing rituals – hurt the reputation of Greek Life. The media often highlights the negative aspects of some fraternities and sororities and overlooks the positive attributes of these noteworthy collegiate organizations.

The media pounces all over Greek Life, sticking only to the negative headlines. This often unfair portrayal of Greek Life has led many to believe that fraternities and sororities are simply operators of college-styled torture rooms.

By only reporting about unfortunate hazing incidents, most non-Greeks view Greek organizations only under a negative context and fail to see the charitable deeds of these groups.

For example, Kappa Phi Beta sorority raised funds this past year for Campus Ministry’s service trips to developing nations such as Panama. The Iota Nu Delta fraternity recently participated with the South Asian Marrow Association of Recruiters, an organization that seeks to help people register in becoming prospective bone marrow donors.

These groups are among the many Greek organizations that dedicate themselves to impacting the community in a positive way. It is unfortunate that most people never hear about these outreaches. The majority of Greek organizations, both on campus and nationwide, work towards raising money for philanthropic and charitable organizations.
Greek organizations have found themselves constantly defending their common image, which is defined solely by their methods of hazing.

Those who wish to join a Greek organization are turned off from doing so due to the hazing incidents. The organizations then find themselves as being seen as something dangerous rather than being a crucial and positive part of campus life.

Fraternities and sororities need to tone down their sometimes ridiculous hazing rituals. The outrageous actions of Sigma Chi Upsilon, for example, should be condemned to the fullest.

They should not, however, be allowed to cast their ugly shadow over the good efforts of other Greek organizations.

It is overwhelmingly likely that he will be remanded to a locked psychiatric facility to receive treatment.

My point here is not to argue for sympathy for mental illness at the cost of safety. Most of us would certainly agree that those who threaten public safety should be kept off the streets. At the same time, however, it remains important to distinguish between those whose threats are intentional and purposefully malicious, and those who are under the thrall of psychiatric symptoms which temporarily render their judgment poor. In addition to confinement, they require compassionate treatment, often in the form of psychotropic medication, supplemented by psychotherapy.

It is important to understand that when it comes to psychiatric disorders, it is not “them” we are considering – it is “us.”

Current prevalence data suggest that over a quarter of adults in the United States suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year, a figure which has remained constant over the past fifteen years. Even more striking, over the course of a lifetime, it is conservatively estimated that almost 50% of the U. S. population will experience at least one episode of a psychiatric disorder. It should be emphasized that not all diagnosed disorders are serious, and that the vast majority are not associated with dangerousness. It is also encouraging that the percentage of those diagnosed who have actually received treatment has risen over the past fifteen years from about one-fifth to about a third. However, this still implies that two out of three diagnosable individuals are not receiving appropriate mental health treatment. The probable reasons are predictable: lack of knowledge, fears of stigma, and inaccessibility of affordable mental health care. It remains a continuing battle for those in the field of health care to advocate for parity of mental health and physical health insurance benefits. Raising public awareness about the pervasiveness of mental health problems and the pressing social need to address these can only aid in this fight.

Richard Morrissey, Ph.D., ABPP
Director, SJU Center for Psychological Services
To the Editor:

I commend Greg Leporati and The Torch for handling the gunman situation professionally. For those who were on campus, and those who were not, the thought of a possible shooting was, and still remains, terrifying. To sensationalize a story we know nothing about is unnecessary and downright dangerous. Journalism is a tricky business-while it can shed light on a dark situation, it can also be detrimental to a person or institution’s reputation. This is not to say that I support this individual’s actions, but this field of business also asks us to respond to the 4 W’s; but the “why” tends to be the most difficult one to answer. I do not know why this occurred at St. John’s University, but I do know that I wanted the truth. And I still do.

Allison Cerra
Features Editor Emeritus
College of Professional Studies