Founded by seven school teachers in 1922, Sigma Gamma Rho is one the oldest, most established African American sororities in the United States. Its alumni include Hattie McDaniel, the first African American to win an Academy Award, Congresswoman Corrine Brown, and Eugenia Charles, former prime minister of Dominica and the first woman elected head of state in the Western hemisphere. But Sigma Gamma Rho was also founded at a time when corporal punishment was a norm in American schools, and some of that apparently lives on in the sorority’s hazing rituals.
Courtney Howard, a sophomore at SJSU, was a victim of that hazing for a period of three weeks. Now she is suing SJSU, claiming that she was beaten and tortured as she pledged for the sorority. Hazing is illegal in California and against the rules at SJSU.
The school claims that it couldn’t have happened. “San Jose State University absolutely prohibits hazing,” says spokesperson Pat Lopes-Harris. Howard disagrees. “The schools and sororities just keep it under cover and don’t let people know that these are the problems that we have.” Her sorority sisters agree with her. Four of them pleaded no contest to charges of hazing—a misdemeanor—and were sentenced to 90 days in jail and two years probation. Meanwhile, the university has suspended the sorority for five years.
That is not enough for Howard, however, who has since transferred to UCLA. She is suing SJSU, Sigma Gamma Rho, and the girls she says tortured her. She claims that the university did not do enough to protect her, and is not enforcing its anti-hazing ruling.
Read More at NBC Bay Area.