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Miss America admits to hazing

By Magdalene MichalikEDITOR-IN-CHIEF Miss America Kira Kazantsev has admitted to hazing new members while she served as new member educator and recruitment committee president for the Alpha Phi sorority at Hofstra University.

Kazantsev, advocate for domestic violence victims and whose personal platform for the pageant was “Love Shouldn’t Hurt: Protecting Women Against Domestic Violence,” has denied allegations of harshly hazing pledges and acknowledged that she was terminated from the Theta Mu chapter of the organization in April 2013.

“Under the broad definition of hazing, yes, I was involved,” Kazantsev said in an interview on Good Morning America last week. “At the time, unfortunately, that was just the culture of the University, and I was hazed and I was kind of brought up through the organization thinking that is appropriate behavior.”

Kazantsev, who is no longer a member of the Alphi Phi organization, said that the group’s hazing while she was a pledge included standing in a line and reciting information, sleepless nights crafting and other menial tasks.

“That year, the sorority got in trouble for those actions and was disciplined by both Hofstra and the national organization,” Kazantsev wrote in a blog post. “However, after being brought up through that process, my class thought the only way to gain respect in the sorority was to go through it or be seen as weak.”

The pledging events, according to Kazantsev, were similar to those that she went through during the recruitment process.

However, Kazantsev said that she was terminated from the organization for a completely different reason. While she was a senior, a new member educator asked her to send an email to alumni asking them to attend an event. The joke, that “we could make the evening scary for the pledges,” was forwarded to the national organization, which summoned her for a judiciary hearing.

“At the time, it was the end of the school year,” Kazantsev said. “Finals, graduation and moving to New York City were at the forefront of my concerns. Based on the fact that I did not attend this hearing that was the official reason given for my termination.”

The event, according to Kazantsev, never came to fruition and so the things she was accused of in the email never happened.

“Now that I’m two years removed from that experience at the sorority, I’ve learned what healthy relationships are, and can better speak to what young girls entering college should avoid and it has further developed my platform, ‘Love Shouldn’t Hurt: Protecting Women Against Domestic Violence.’”

The website Jezebel broke the story last week and published a long list of accusations of hazing done by Kazantsev. All of the sources have been anonymous.

The alleged hazing practices included criticizing members of the incoming class of their physical imperfections, forcing them to perform undignified physical tasks and name-calling, according to Jezebel.

“I was never involved with any name-calling or use of profanity toward a girl during my time with the sorority,” Kazantsev wrote in the blog post. “I was never involved in any physical hazing or any degradation of physical appearance of any kind. This has all been immensely taken out of context and manipulated purposefully because I am now in a public position.”

Although Hofstra University can’t comment on individual cases because of federal law and University policy, according to Vice President for Student Affairs W. Houston Dougharty, any concerns that people have about hazing or any kind of mistreatment, even when they are anonymous, are immediately investigated by the University.

“One thing that’s really important to all of us who work at Student Affairs is that all organizations, whether they’re athletic teams, Greek-affiliated organizations or clubs, that they are aware of the policies at the University that prohibit that kind of behavior,” Dougharty said. “I think one of the challenges is fighting decades – and in some cases centuries – of tradition and organizations that are based in different locations and have chapters around the country.”

All complaints are taken seriously and the University uses the student conduct system to adjudicate any sort of situation that it is found to have legitimacy. The Office of Student Leadership and Activities is committed for the new member process to be free from discrimination, and to be open without any sort of hazing experiences, according to Dougharty.

“When you decide to be part of a university community and an organization that is off campus as well, at that point you have to be able to answer to both organizations and in most Greek environments the office or leadership of that organization is going to take just as seriously any concerns just as the University itself would,” Houston said.

Hofstra has a continued policy of investigating hazing allegations and incidents.

The same month that Kazantsev was expelled from Alpha Phi, Hofstra disbanded and no longer recognized the Phi Epsilon sorority for hazing and other infractions including falsification and failure to comply, according to a 2013 article published in The Chronicle.

Linda Kahangi, executive director of the Alpha Phi International Fraternity, in a statement said, “Alpha Phi confirms that newly crowned Miss America, Kira Kazantsev, was a collegiate member of its Theta Mu chapter at Hofstra University but is no longer a member of the organization.” More details could not be revealed because of the sorority’s privacy policy.

“Alpha Phi is, and always has been, a values-based organization that has no tolerance for hazing in any form,” she added. “The Theta Mu chapter of Alpha Phi at Hofstra is no exception; they have shown responsibility in addressing inappropriate behavior by individual members to ensure a positive chapter culture.”

The Miss America Organization has continued to stand behind Kazantsev since the allegations were first raised.

“Kira has been very open and candid about her termination from the Alpha Phi sorority, a statement from the Miss America Organization said. “It’s unfortunate that this incident and unsourced allegations have been exploited to create a storyline that distracts from what we should be focusing on: Kira’s impressive academic achievements at Hofstra University, including earning a triple major from the Honors College and her commitment to serving her community. Kira is an exceptional ambassador for the Miss America Organization, and we are excited to be a part of her journey as a force for good across our nation, promoting education and service and working to empower young women.”

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