DOCUMENT: College, Crime

Sorority Hazing Triggers Busts, Lawsuit

Pledges beaten, warned that “snitches get stitches”


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San Jose Hazing

Sigma Gamma Rho Perps

SEPTEMBER 1--A California college student who was repeatedly beaten, punched, kicked, and paddled during a weeks-long sorority initiation that included frequent warnings that “snitches get stitches” yesterday filed a negligence lawsuit against a variety of defendants, including four sorority members who were convicted earlier this year of hazing.

In a Superior Court complaint, Courtney Howard details how she and fellow San Jose State University students were roughed up while pledging the Sigma Gamma Rho sorority in late-2008. After Howard, 20, reported the hazing to police and university officials, she charges that sorority members began to harass and threaten her. Howard, pictured at right, subsequently left the school, and is now enrolled at the University of Southern California.

In her lawsuit, excerpted here, Howard noted that she had originally planned to pledge Alpha Kappa Alpha, the oldest African-American women’s sorority. But since the sorority’s San Jose chapter has been suspended due to hazing activities, Howard opted to join Sigma Gamma Rho, believing that “they represented the ‘sisterhood’ she sought in a sorority.”

However, Howard contends, that the group’s pledge process was far from sisterly. According to her complaint, she and fellow pledges were punched, slapped, kicked, slammed into walls, struck with a wooden spoon and a cane, and had books and coins thrown at them during a series of 16 nighttime initiation sessions. Howard recalled one evening when a sorority sister told her to close her eyes. She was then struck on the buttocks with what she later learned was a kitchen pot. The pledges were also frequently struck with a wooden paddle, Howard said, blows that left her with welts on her buttocks.

Howard reported that pledges were repeatedly warned not to talk with friends and family about the initiation process, since “snitches get stitches.” They were also told that if they failed to participate in certain pledge activities, they would be “jumped out,” a gang term for a beating conducted by all members of the group.

Howard’s complaint names as defendants San Jose State University, Sigma Gamma Rho, and various sorority members, including a quartet of women who, court records show, pleaded no contest earlier this year to misdemeanor hazing charges. The defendants--Princess Odom; Monique Hughes; Joslyn Beard; and Nicole Remble--were each sentenced to 90 days in jail, directed to serve two years of court probation, and barred from involvement with any sorority. Odom, Hughes, Beard, and Remble are pictured here, clockwise from upper left, in San Jose Police Department mug shots.

As a result of the hazing, the Sigma Gamma Rho chapter has been suspended, according to a warning notice on the San Jose State University web site. (8 pages)

Comments (53)

I am a 20 year Navy veteran. We also have initiations and ceremonies which at "one time" included hazing. Due to the public ridicule and several tragedies it was made a punishable offense by the Uniform Code of Military Justice. I believe college initiations and hazing should also be outlawed. It is ridiculous. It is not a matter of's a matter of immaturity and disrespect to fellow human beings. Let's get it together people!
I am a proud member of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority Inc. And after reading the comments posted in this forum I would just like to add: -the actions of the members of this chapter was unacceptable and not representative of the sorority members as a whole. So for those of you who may have the impression that my organization is comprised of thugs who have no regard for human life you are wrong. Unfortunately, all greek organizations (African American, white, multi-cultural) have members who are reckless. They gain membership into our organizations and commit herrendous acts. Sigma Gamma Rho is not the first organization that has been charged with hazing crimes and unfortunately will not be the last. -For those of you who are commenting and saying that African American Greek org are racist. Please, do your research! As many have commented these organizations are labeled as African American because, historically, the founders of these orgs were not allowed to join white sororities and fraternities in the early 1900's and so they started orgs of their own. These were orgs in which they sought refuge from the problems of the times. The early members were also part of historical and political movements. Today, all 9 NPHC orgs have members of ALL Nationalities. -African American did not invent hazing and if you believe this you are stupid!!! There are many "white" fraternities and sororities who haze so please do not make this a black issue. There have been young men and women who have died trying to join "white" greek orgs, died from alcohol poisoning, water poisoning, drowning, beatings, you name it they have died or have been seriously injured from it. -I love my Sigma Gamma Rho and I can't wait for the day when members of all organizations come to the realization that joining a sorority/fraternity is not that serious and that you don't need to be abused and killed to be accepted.
To All SoRHOrs: Please STOP posting. This is a legal matter. Let the appropriate parties take care of this. Thank you, Your SoRHOr
I think this is a sad case of hazing.. as a member of the sorority in question it is disappointing to know that members of my organization is out there doing these things in the name of our Illustrious Founders! Not only does it gives the Sorority a bad name but also the members of the Sorority who are following the rules and regulations of our organization!
And also this girl is obviously just a person who wanted to belong in a group. On my college campus that is called a letter-hopper(one who can not make up their mind on what frat/sorority to join.) I think that is a disgrace because if you really wanted to join that organization, then you would join. Since she did not like the AKA chapter that was on her campus she should have waited until she graduated. HELLO, THEN SHE COULD HAVE JOIN THE GRAD CHAPTER. I am not saying that every chapter of a sorority or fraternity is perfect. That is why you do your research before you join. Because those sgrhos had to been doing that for years but if you would have did your research than you would have known. SIDENOTE: YOU DON'T JOIN AN ORGANIZATION BECAUSE YOU SCARED THEY ARE NOT GOING TO HURT YOU BUT RATHER ON THEIR PRINCIPLES AND WHAT YOU COULD OFFER & BENEFIT FROM THAT ORGANIZATION.
@ ladymay...I do not believe this young woman is a letter hopper. I believe that she was under the impression that finer women do not engage in such acts. Actually, we could classify most GLO chapters as liars because most say they are non hazing when they actually are. Hazing doesn't breed bonding, it breeds contempt and hatred. We have enough inactive members for me to know this as truth. Clearly, the members of this chapter are unaware of SGRho principals or they simply do not care. Moving on, all members of all clubs or organizations joined to be apart of a group. People are communal, we look to be apart, so what's wrong with this young woman wanting a sororal college experience? Do some reach on why people have a need to belong. Also, why should she have waited to join a graduate chapter? For all we know the same behaviors could be taking place in the alumnae chapter. Hazers do graduate and transfer into graduate chapters. Hint: Seeking a graduate chapter will not provide a solution to stop or avoid hazing! Non-affiliated people can do all the research they want but chapters market themselves like mini corporations and usually those outside of the inner circle will not know the members for whom they really are until after the fact. Meaning, after the sorority chapter has spread the interested persons name around to all the other sororities; after the person has started an intake process or after the prospective has be deemed an eternal. You couldn't possibily believe these are sisterly acts because my founders would not agree.
Wow at Mikey I bet you blam Obama for Galigan being stuck on the Island too. Also when comes to hazing we have not even talk about the biker wars on the streets killing each other or how many rapes and people falling off of 2 stories houses and killing themselfs because of Drinking too much. The farts are not the problems it the people in them sometimes thing they can do anything like G W BUSH and his wire tapping your a$$. It Ilegall but we let people get aways with it. People forgot in the moive W. What was the first sence He was getting haze, hanging in a big barrel force drinking, and who know what else see the moive W. Let look at mt frat i don't claim no more, we do nasty thing , talk about womne like a dog claim to have brotherhood maybe ? I don't know. we have more suite then then any greek orgs, but we theathen to hurt then if we talk. so no one goes agains are gang, why becuase we are teh QUE SSSSSSSS! bE Qwt
As an African-American woman who pledged on of the historically black sororities, I just shake my head and wonder why more young people don't file lawsuits. I commend Ms Howard and hope that the legal authorities put the screws to the "sisterhood" of Sigma Gamma Rho. Before I pledged, I got a verbal promise from my "big sisters" that violence had no place in the process. But halfway through the eight week pledge process, some sorority sisters from a nearby campus showed up in the middle of the night and started brutalizing people. I was angry, felt betrayed, and walked. I left the session that night and went home. They talked me back into pledging probably out of fear that I would get all legal on them. Fortunately, there was no more violence, but the girls blackballed me for standing up for myself, saying that I had no "heart". Very sad.....they equated sisterhood with allowing yourself to be physically humiliated. To this day more than a decade later I have nothing to do with my line sisters or big sisters. I have no respect for them. The last thing that black women need is more violence and disrespect in their lives. We need to truly live up to the purported ideals of our sororities and stop treating each other like plantation owners.
When I was in college in the 80s the black fraternity would brand their pledges with a hot iron and burn their emblem and letters into their skin. Sick and twisted and they didn't do any charity work!
This is a black thing. Only the black fraternaties and sororities inflict violent hazing rituals on their members. They are very bizarre and need to be banned. Plus it is racism to have these all black sororites and fraternaties. I say rid the campus of these completely. The women in this particluar case should be prosecuted and sent to prison!
Mikey: first of all, the reason why black fraternities and sororities exist is because white people would not allow us to join with them in the 1900s. These fraternities and sororities are known as all black because their founders were all African-American and majority of them were founded on Howard University, which is an historically black university. But let the record show that none of these sororities/fraternities are racist. If anything we welcome who ever would like to be a member reguardless of race, creed, or religion. I am a proud member of Delta Sigma Theta and I can say that we accept any female who meets the scholaristic requirements, which are high. The proof is in our chapters that are in London, Germany, and Japan. I know plenty of sorors who are of non-african american descent. So obviously those individuals did not think we were racist. Yes, there are white frats and sororities that do inflict violence so maybe you should do some more research before you run your mouth.
Really Mikey how stupid are you? How many pleadges have died in the white fraternities due to alcohol poisoning? And why would you ban black fraterneties and sororities and not ban the all white ones? It is obvious that you have never attended college if you had you would need hazing goes on all through the Greek community. Or did you never watch the movie Animal House based on white fraternities. Prejudice statements like the ones above are based on ignorance and lack of education.
Hey Mikey, Have you ever attended college. It is not a black thing! Skin Hazing has no color associated with it. Look at the White organization or the military, football team you name it some form of hazing goes on. You need to research your facts before making stupid comments like this. White greeks face the same problems.
I am a financial, TORCH certified member of SGR with almost 30 years of service. (TORCH is the nationally approved intake process of SGR) Nothing that I have read here is a surprise. Hazing has run rammpant in this organization for years. When officers attempt to put members out of the sorority because they are found guilty of hazing, their rulings are often overturned by appellate hearing panels or the International Board of Directors because the sorority hearing panels are often comprised of members with no legal training and who are also fearful of the sorority getting sued. I am truly sorry for the victims, however they should have stood up for themselves as soon as they were advised that hazing would occur, walked away and reported these members to school officials and the local authorities. I would not be surprised if this lawsuit will be the means to cause the sorority's demise. And as much as I love this organization, for all of the positive things our Founder's stood for, and for the love and respect that I have for the many law abiding and sisterly members who are in this organization, if we no longer existed because of this foolishness; so be it.
The quoted statement below is a sad and sick truth. The members on this campus in particular have a long history to doing the "most." I really don't know why these girls are being called perps...are not they the result of a chapter choosing quality over quantity? I'm tired of chapters who talk a lot and do nothing but cause havoc. I cannot see myself continuing to financially support this organization when my funds are being used to settle lawsuits. Shame on the Western Region. "Hazing has run rammpant in this organization for years. When officers attempt to put members out of the sorority because they are found guilty of hazing, their rulings are often overturned by appellate hearing panels or the International Board of Directors because the sorority hearing panels are often comprised of members with no legal training and who are also fearful of the sorority getting sued."
No one can understand the pain this causes us but the members of the Sorority! It is sad n sicking.. but not supporting the Sorority is not an option for me! I want to be apart of the solution.
@ Goldie...In the beginning God created and destroyed the Earth twice because people where out of control. Sometimes drastic measures must take place before change can happen. I'll assume you are more enlightened on how to change the mentality of some members. I pray that we will make it to the year 2022.
it never ends....give them a free education and they act like the garbage they are
First of all this is not a "black" thing. Second, it's not a "Greek" thing. It's a human thing. Some human beings suffer under the delusion that they are (a) superior to other human beings, and (b) in order to join their elite ranks one must suffer pain and humiliation both publicly and privately, and (c) some women who achieve a certain degree of "power" over others lose their perspective and anger at life drives them to use that power in negative ways against others. Not to say male fraternities don't do the exact same thing, that's the power and control bit of it. Just like high school cheerleading hazings, and secret society's hazings, it's all power and control. If I can humiliate you, then you are less than I am, just like I was made less than someone else. Payback, control, manipulation. As a species we are capable of the most wondrous and heroic deeds. Unfortunately we are also capable of the most evil, vile and heartless deeds. And it's never going to change. Because we are who we are. Scum.
They should allow the girl's parents a half-hour of playtime with those girls. By "playtime" I mean, in a locked room and tied down, with whatever her folks want to use, ie cattle-prods, razor blades, salt, etc.
This is so sad, colleges are becoming so liberal that beating up fellow students are now the norm. This is all Obama's fault
@jim887fe You gotta be kidding me. What rock have you been living under?
Nice try blame everything on the black president. Hazing has been around for 100 of years. Ask the Masons. I went to college during the Reagan administration and they hazed then. Was it his fault? Many of the ultra conservative, white right wing greek organization participate in these rituals too. "Free your mind and the rest will follow, dont be so blind, dont be so shallow!!"
You see I was abused as a child and into adulthood. In the 60's the school principle didn’t recognize child abuse. Frankly his idea of my behavior problem was to haul me in everyday and give me licks, I recall praying that God would kill him. He would hit me hard and leave bruises, I was 13 and 6’4” he didn’t like me because I didn’t want to play football. The football coach once sent 15 members of the football team out of the gym to beat me because I was smoking a cigarette after lunch out by a tree. I dropped out when I went to another school. The coach came in to give everybody licks when he came to me I turned and walked out of the locker room, never went back. As I became increasingly more violent the adults thought increased beatings would work. One night I stole some cigarettes and got caught. My grandfather had no idea of the abuse; he told my father “beat him with a 2x4.” That night, that is what my Father did. Years later as an adult I revealed what happened that night to my Grandfather; he cried, as I am now at this writing, I’m 56. I was in prison and 41 years old before I was able to stop the abuse. I forgave my Father before he died, but not that principle. I’m a self educated engineer, but I have to be careful I almost killed the last guy that threatened me. I don’t understand humans that abuse other humans. I would be writing this from prison if this incident had happened to me.
Darrell: Your post was so compelling that I had to reach out to you. I am sorry for the abuse that you have endured in your life. Seems that there is no end to the pain that human beings cause each other, be it family members or others. Is it any wonder that a person would become more violent when that's all he or she has known from childhood? It's a great testament to your character and integrity that you were able to forgive your father and let him leave this world in peace. That principle doesn't deserve the same courtesy. As an educator, it was his obligation to provide a safe, nurturing environment and he failed to protect you! We are about the same age. I remember that things were different back then but for an authority figure like a school principal to abuse a child is unforgivable!! He couldn't break your spirit and that's what matters most. I hope that you have found your own peace and I wish you all the best.
Reading the comment section almost makes this story worth it. Before I even started reading the comments, I was sure some hag from a fourth-tier sorority would start posting to assert how being "greek" makes one superior. Sure enough, Southern Delta Girl from Omega Mu has filled this role. Now before this cow flames me for not understanding greek life, let me state for the record that I am a Sigma Chi. While I have a lot of lifelong brothers that I still keep in touch with twenty years later, that part of college was just one small part of the overall experience and I am pretty sure I could have had a great experience at college belonging to any number of organizations. Please go away Delta Girl and spend time with your fellow nerd brothers from Lambda, Lambda, Lambda rather than commenting here.
Sororities and fraternities are nothing but a big waste of time and money! Thank goodness I never got tangled up in that crap when I was in college! All that hype about how they can help you later on in life is resounding bullshiat! I know 4 people who joined these piss-ant organizations and all it did for them was ruin them both academically and financially!
First off, the comment section here sucks. Took forever to finally have the site recognize I was logged in. 2nd, what kind of idiot is this woman? She went through *16* nights of abuse? WTF? So after you get beaten the first night, ok, maybe you were drunk... after night 2, well, maybe she blacked out the first night... but after night 14, you'd think you'd say "that's enough".
If she did not like what was going on then she should have quit after atleast the second night. Obviously they must have dropped her off line for her to want to report this after 16 days. So now she has her revenage.
....and how much do you want to bet that the perps are attending school on our dime?
After reading the title, I wasn't surprised when reading the body. It never ends - they can't learn.
Let me just say that some of you are ignorant in saying that this is a "black" thing!! It happens in white frats and sororities too, they just haven't been caught. Yes I am greek and I hear about it all the time so it is very stupid to just point the finger at just the black fraternities and sororities because it happens EVERYWHERE!! And just to note, not all fraternities and sororities are just about partying. There are those that focus on community service, academics and so forth so on. Obviously you all have to do some research before you begin to open your mouth. I am proud to be greek and I would gladly do it all over again. There are some orgs that might do pointless things but not everyone does it and not every chapter, charter, etc. within the organization as a whole does it either so we cannot stereotype this organization just because this happened in California
@ sotelob - im with you, would do it all over again!!
When I was a fraternity member in the late '70s, we had already eschewed physical abuse during hazing. There was no value in bonding through administered pain. We all agreed that to cause a brother pain was sadisitic. We experienced unprecedented growth. The African-American houses were tattooing new members and physically abusing them. It was not even a secret. I did not have to open this article to know that the house in question was African-American. Physical abuse for something as non essential as sorority or fraternity membership is simply stupid. It is a felony. I hope the woman who was beaten sues this sorority out of existence.
This isn't a Greek thing, this is a black thing. I'm a fraternity brother and, except for a very limited amount of paddling during hell-week, violence towards pledges was not allowed (and never had been). On my campus the Fraternities had had live-in "house-mothers" to make sure the Brothers didn't get overly familiar with their (female) guests at the parties. The house mothers would never have allowed violence. In particular White sororities would never do anything like this because they might break a nail or hurt someones feelings. I guess this gives the lie to the idea that black violence comes from living in the ghetto - these were college girls for Christ's sake. Also - this is 2010 - why are there "African-American" sororities? Excluding blacks from white sororities and fraternities has been outlawed since the 1960s.
@GFR - House mothers for fraternities, what are you all, 5? Yah, definately not a NPHC thing.. sorry, but PWGLO's and BGLO's operate differently. Also, they are African-American because 98% of the members are black! Not to mention, the organizations were founded because because we werent allowed into white organizations at the time (1908, 1913, 1920, & 1922). While we do all kinds of public service (beyond college) we still continue to focus ou attention primarily on the African-American community. Finally, know that we do have members of all nationalites in our organization(s)!
God, this website sucks! It took me 8 logins before I could leave a comment! TSG needs to fix this crap before they lose their audience...
@jesusjack: They are not in any danger of losing anyone who has the time to log onto TSG eight times...
aNonnyMoose, Check out the comments on this page:
aNonnyMoose, Yes they will lose their audience. If you read through the comments on other articles, you will find that I am not the only one to experience problems with the login. In fact, I have read many other comments which are much more strongly worded than mine. My main complaint is that TSG has so far ignored all complaints, and the comments sections are the only outlet for reporting website flaws. TSG needs a link for reporting errors, but apparently, they don't want to know about stuff that doesn't work. I don't know why you would comment on this, as you registered less than hour ago... Hey! You registered just so you could comment on my comment... Far Out!
John V. Karavitis I have never understood the fascination with the "greek" system. It just seems to be an excuse to party, etc. And this hazing ritual is nonsensical! I remember from my Intro to Cultural Anthropology class that there are three stages that occur during one's entry into society or a social group: separation, the liminal stage, and re-introduction. It's in the liminal stage, the "betwixt and between" stage, where weird stuff happens. E.g., when two people get married, you have the engagement, the bachelor party (where anything goes), and then the wedding. You also see these stages in primitive tribal societies when boys become men, etc. But we're living in the modern world, in the 21st century. College should be a place where people become adults. Instead, it seems to be four years of debauchery at either one's parents' dime, or the taxpayer's. I think it's time we ended the "greek" system, it's been nothing but trouble. Perhaps repeated lawsuits like this one are a good start. John V. Karavitis, John Karavitis, Karavitis
You are obviously a far left liberal who can't understand that other people have different values and don't want to live the life you deem correct.
are any of you even greek? LOL doesnt sound like it... ignorance is bliss
I've always thought it was funny that the initials of this soroity are AKA - as in "also known as" from the criminal realm. I'm just sayin'
@Steveu812: Quoted from article: "Howard noted that she had originally planned to pledge Alpha Kappa Alpha..." AKA is the sorority to which she WAS going to pledge.The offensive people are in Sigma Gamma Rho. Your comprehension of what you read is about as extensive as I suppose the ghetto-rat offenders' would be. Jus' sayin'.
I pray for the Lord God to repair their hard hearts while they are in jail. They knew what they did was wrong, because the same was done to them. Let some light come into their lightless life. Their deeds are already written in their life books and unless they seek the Lord than these wrongful deeds are on them. Love..... Ron
Much like a larger increasing percentage of college youth of today, I am willing to bet these perps probably had to take remedial math, and remedial English. All subjects they should have learned in high school. But nowadays they let anyone into college, and are doomed to failure.
you are obviously a moron!!
This is a case of the sorority attempting to make this a gang initiation. I understand hazing and the act of providing a sense of “sisterhood”, but hazing has predominately been mental harassment as opposed to physical. Why would there be a need to “snitch” in the case of joining a greek system? And why would this sorority need to provide these warnings. This is a gang environment situation. Sad.
Thanks for taking down Beneteau's racist comment regarding the hazing story. This boob brought his/her uneducated, ignorant, andracist prejudice into a discussion about the nonsense of hazing that goes on during fraternity and sorority initiation activities. It had no relevance to the issue discussed in the story. I would like to get a look at this slug...Beneteau. He/she is a real work of art.