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A sorority at Minnesota State University Moorhead is on probation after a beauty queen says she was bullied by her sisters.
Miss Montana 2013 Sheridan Tihista, 22, of Fargo, said she received hate emails and threats of physical assault from her sisters after standing up for a freshman in the sorority from fall of last year through spring and summer.
During the ordeal, she claimed sorority sisters told her she was “probably the most hated person to go through Gamma Phi Beta”, WDAY News reports, and said she believed this bullying was part of a culture within the sorority.
At the end of last month, the sorority was placed on probation for three years and ordered to review its policies, after the university's Student Organization Advisory Committee found that there was a “level of bullying and cyber-bullying happening within the organization”, according to Inforum.
While the bullying violated school policies, the committee concluded that the sisters' bullying did not constitute hazing and did not agree with Tihista's view that the sorority should be shut down for good.
In a blog posting on Sept. 29, after the decision was made, Tihista wrote: “I think three years is a decent chunk of time and I think a lot can happen in that span.” However, she thinks the punishment may have been more severe had she not spoke to the media about her experience.
“I believe that (MSUM) may or may not be perpetuating the oppression of woman and our roles in society,” she wrote. “I was indirectly told that I 'possibly' forfeited a punishment ... because I shared my story on my own personal blog and agreed to discuss it with commendable and trustworthy news sources.”
Tihista previously told Inforum she was initially targeted because the freshman “little sister” she mentored published a tweet that wasn't received well by other sorority sisters.
The girl was punished for the tweet, but Tihista said she was then harrassed because she had defended her, and was even the subject of a Twitter hashtag created to gather support for kicking her out of the sorority. Wday says this was followed by hate mail and threats of physical assault.
The chapter of Gamma Phi Beta appealed MSUM's decision, but this was denied on October 7.
A statement to Inforum from Maureen Walker, spokeswoman for the international Gamma Phi Beta sorority, said that “additional education and guidance” will be given to the chapter, so “members can move forward in a positive and meaningful manner”.
One of the sanctions requires that the sorority put in place an anti-bullying and cyber-bullying program.
Wider bullying issue
Bullying and hazing within colleges can come not just from the Greek system, but also from roommates and even professors, with cyber-bullying a particular problem, reports USA Today.
The newspaper referred to a study by the Buffalo State University of New York Anti-Bullying Initiative that claimed that 100,000 students drop out of school every year because of bullying, and that it can often lead to eating disorders, depression, and drug-taking.
In April, three students at San Jose State University were expelled for a bullying campaign waged against a black freshman, according to the San Jose Mercury.
And in 2010, the tragic case of Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi hit national headlines after he committed suicide after a recording of him being intimate with another man was broadcast by his roommate.