Former student sues sorority for alleged hazing practices

Britteny Starling, a former pledge at the UC Berkeley chapter of the Zeta Phi Beta sorority, is suing members for allegedly hazing her to the point that she took medical leave from school due to the injuries she sustained.

The lawsuit, which was filed at the Alameda County Superior Court Jan. 27, details several instances of alleged hazing over the course of the 2010-11 school year, including an incident in which Starling was allegedly hit in the ankle after her leg gave out as a result of being forced to remain standing in a fixed position for several hours.

The lawsuit also lists as defendants the national sorority, the campus chapter and the UC Board of Regents due to their alleged failure in preventing hazing from occurring.

Zeta Phi Beta, a historically African American sorority, and the National Pan-Hellenic Council — the umbrella council of which the sorority is a member — both maintain no-hazing policies.

“Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., has a membership intake policy, which forbids all forms of hazing,” the sorority states on its website. “Prospective members are directed to walk away from any hazing activity, and to report all attempts to haze to the proper authorities.”

Tanya Fitzgerald, Northern California state director for the sorority, could not be reached for comment as of press time.

According to the lawsuit, Starling decided to pledge the sorority in fall 2010 on the advice of several of its sisters, who assured her that the pledge process would be safe and would include no violence or hazing.

However, the lawsuit details various occasions where the senior members allegedly taunted and made demands of Starling as a part of “underground hazing” practices.

The lawsuit states that at one event in February 2011, senior members beat her and another pledge over the head, stopping only when a third pledge finished reciting the sorority’s history.

At a different event, the lawsuit states that, among other alleged abuses, Starling was cursed at and beaten — the pockets were ripped off her jeans — and her head was allegedly slammed against a wall, causing her lip to bleed.

“Ms. Starling felt extreme pressure to remain as a pledge in ZPB because she was in fear that if she left the sorority, she would become an outcast,” the lawsuit states.

Due to this and other alleged abuses, Starling decided to leave the sorority and, according to the lawsuit, eventually left school on medical leave in order to “physically and emotionally recover.”

Read the full text of the lawsuit below.

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  • Danker

    As a member of the Greek community and a part of one of these organizations this is highly offensive. Sororities at UC Berkeley make it their goal to give women a place to feel comfortable as well as better the community. Comparing specific houses to characters from a movie about bullying is absurd and beyond inaccurate. Making the claim that sororities are cliques is demeaning the sisterhood and values they are founded on. This clearly is a stab at a community on campus that does nothing but support the rest of the student body.

  • anonymous

    as someone who was in a panhellenic sorority, let’s just say it was one of the most traumatic moments of my life…

  • Mikec

    Why does race matter? you must be a dumb white sorority girl. 

  • Sorostitution

    i) why join a house where your new ‘friends’ treat you like shit?
    ii) why resort to throwing blows when you can just eat each other out and call it a day?

  • Yycato

    This information is incorrect! First of all Zeta Phi Beta is a “pro dominantly black sorority.”. Therefore allowing members of other races to join if they so choose. This disturbs me because with them placing this sorority being an African American sorority people are drawn to that issue instead of the real issue here, a young lady was hazed. I would like for the person who wrote this article to first double and triple check his sources (what ever happened to that double checking your sources, do editors no longer require this anymore) and write a retraction, apology, or make a correction. As I read the comments no one is saying anything about this young lady being hazed to the point that she had to be hospitalized. That is what needs to be discussed, our priorities are backwards.

    • Nunya Beeswax

       Pro dominantly?  Ah, so they get paid to treat people this way.  It all begins to make sense.

  • David Chen

    It sounds like plaintiff is a drama queen. No surprise to me that hazing goes on in these, but everything sounds like what I would have expected. That fear about leaving the initiation needs to be elaborated upon. Do all African-American females belong to this sorority?  Otherwise, I don’t see why she couldn’t just say “This nonsense is not for me”

    • Adsahjh

       “her head was allegedly slammed against a wall, causing her lip to bleed.”

      Really? I’m pretty sure Zete doesn’t slam their pledges’ heads into walls.

  • guest

    It doesn’t matter whether or not this is an African American Sorority. The whole notion that one needs to “work/suffer/earn” their way into any club/campus activity permeates Berkeley and campuses all over the country. It disgusts me what people do to get into clubs and it needs to be stamped out. Hazing must end.

    • guest

      I just finished reading this whole lawsuit and this makes me sick. These girls have no human decency and deserves everything that comes to them.

  • Abc

    Stand in place?  Where’s the fun in that?!

  • Current student

    ha ha ha ha ha.

    The Daily Cal’s continuing commitment to omit the race of any criminal suspect continues.

    • Chrisss555

      The article says “Zeta Phi Beta, a historically African-American sorority…”   and it’s a civil lawsuit, not a criminal prosecution, so there is no “criminal suspect.”  I hope you’re not as sloppy in your class assignments.

      • Current student

        That was added on friday afternoon, almost 24 hours after the article was originally posted.

      • Adsahjh

        It didn’t say that until there was an outcry in the comments.

  • Adsahjh

    The NPHC is a black sorority system (as they proudly note themselves to be), but of course, the Daily Cal sees fit to ignore this fact.

  • Guest

     This is an African American sorority! Daily Cal again refuses to mention race in articles!

    • Anonymous

      Isn’t that discrimination?

    • Guest

      you do realize it says in the article, “Zeta Phi Beta, a historically African American sorority,”. First sentence of paragraph three. Read the article before you criticize.

      • Current student

        That was added long after the article was originally posted.

      • Anonymous

        How many ladies of non color belong to ZPB?

        • Guest


          • Jrobinson1906

            That is incorrect….there are many members of Zeta Phi Beta that are not African American. Please do your research before you begin to spew falacies. Either way, race place no role in this. The ignorance lies underneath the skin.

          • Moniquehasmoxie

            Actually there’s a lot of non-African American women that are members of historically African-American sororities. Me for example and 4 others in my chapter of 30 people. Do a little research before you spout your ignorance.

          • Aaliyahfanrighthere

            thats a lie

        • Datboimr704

          THere are some…I go to NC A&T, an HBCU in NC & i can tell her there are women of non-color in several D9 sororities

  • Kevin_jones

    Ignorance is bliss I see. If you dont know anything about
    the Greek systemlifesociety, please read and make intelligent comments. For
    one, the Greek society is a privilege, not a right so the initiation,
    whatever that may in-tell, is something that is honored and agreed upon by
    those who choose to par-take. Those who don’t finish the process, whatever that
    maybe, realize that the life of  a Greek
    is not for them. As for the case in question, there are two sides to every
    story. What happened to innocent till proven guilty and not the opposite? You don’t
    know what these woman did, all you know is a sob story that may, or may not,
    have been concocted. So please, all that have a shred of intelligence, lets see
    all the evidence before casting judgments. By the way, I am not a Greek and I
    do know these women and they would never do what they are accused of. 

    • Guest

      “whatever that may in-tell, is something that is honored and agreed upon by
      those who choose to par-take.”

      Not if it breaks the rules.

    • tiredandretired

      ” By the way, I am not a Greek and I
      do know these women and they would never do what they are accused of.”You’re not greek. You are a GDI. You really don’t know what goes behind closed doors and most likely you never will.

  • Guest

    The Greek system is so stupid.

    • Guest

       Seriously. It’s just an excuse for people to do things like this…

    • LAWLS

      Scumbag Sorority: “We don’t haze!”


      • Guest

        I absolutely love this. I wish we could put hats in comments.