THE BLOG
12/08/2013 09:24 pm ET Updated Feb 07, 2014

Members of community lash out against Wake Forest student newspaper for publishing hazing story

By Hilary Burns
Editor-in-chief

Yesterday Wake Forest's student newspaper, the Old Gold & Black (OGB), published an article, "Reports of hazing increase on campus, Kappa Sigma Fraternity loses charter" on the front page of the newspaper. The newspapers were distributed around campus around 5:30 p.m. By 6:20 p.m., members of the Kappa Sigma Fraternity removed 200 newspapers (four bundles of 50) from the ZSR, according to an eyewitness who testified to University Police.

By 6:30 p.m. the comment section of the article was filled with inflammatory remarks, personal attacks on the writer, inconsiderate remarks about non-affiliated students, and people pretending to be someone they are not. Not to mention that all of these comments were anonymous.

Later that evening, the stolen newspapers were returned to the original stands in the ZSR after University Police intervened.

The editors of the OGB kept an eye on the rapidly growing comment section of the article as sentiments became more negative. As always, the Old Gold & Black's policy reads: "In order to facilitate thoughtful and appropriate debate, profane, vulgar, or inflammatory comments on our website are not allowed and will be deleted." This is written in the OGB's Constitution and is also posted to the "About" section of the website.

With this policy in mind, the editorial staff deleted such offensive comments. By 11:30 p.m. it was hard to delete inappropriate comments fast enough. The editorial staff agreed that the discussion was no longer constructive. We then decided to shut down the comment section of the article.

We were disappointed to see the community's reaction to this article. We now see that writing about a Greek organization in a negative light can lead to controversy and offensive behavior as a response.

This news article was written with sensitivity and respect for the fraternity. Fraternity members were offered the opportunity to tell their side of the story and the acting president (the position normally responsible for the official organization statement) declined to comment.

Last night, after the article was published, the acting president of Kappa Sigma who previously declined to comment reached out to the OGB staff.

Three editors met with sophomore Lee Terwilliger and he said, "While we did receive hazing allegations in the spring of last year, the main reason for the suspension of our charter by Nationals was that members of our fraternity were unable to fulfill the ritual aspects of the fraternity. I have already clarified this with Steve Hirst earlier today. The only charge the school has brought against us is the use of a driving system that over-emphasizes the use of pledges. That being said, we are already in the process of bringing the fraternity back to Wake Forest. Hopefully, the administration will help us so that we may earn the endorsement of the school as we work to bring a new commitment to transparency and ritual proficiency."

However, in a phone call with the editor-in-chief tonight, director of organizations, Steve Hirst, said he stood by what he previously told the Old Gold & Black.

"They are no longer a fraternity at Wake Forest," said Hirst to the OGB on Tuesday, Dec. 3. "They do hope to return to Wake Forest in three to five years."

The fraternity was originally investigated for hazing.

We are happy that we were able to begin a dialogue about hazing on campus. We wrote an editorial a few weeks ago titled, "The veil over Greek life needs to be lifted." Clearly we are taking steps as a community to lift this "veil."

While we expected some pushback for publishing this article, we did not expect our peers to steal newspapers and publish highly offensive comments, many of which personally attacked one of our staff members.

As student journalists, we believe that discussion is a positive tool for change to occur. We hope that discussions about social issues on campus can be continued, except hopefully in a more respectful manner in the future.