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.