Looking to do damage control after word got out Monday that Miss America winner Kira Kazantsev was allegedly kicked out of her college sorority for hazing abuse, the pageant quickly sent Kavantsev to “Good Morning America” to clear up the rumors.
“Unfortunately, these allegations, first of all, are just not true,” Kazantsev told Lara Spencer on Tuesday morning. “I’m incredibly hurt that someone has said these things.”
On Monday, Jezebel quoted an anonymous source saying that Kazantsev was expelled after a stint as the new member educator of Alpha Phi at Hofstra University, as “pledges in the incoming class were called names, berated for their perceived physical flaws and imperfections, and made to perform physical tasks to the point of bruising and exhaustion.”
None of that happened, said Kazantsev, whose social cause for the pageant is preventing domestic violence against women. Yes, she was kicked out of Alpha Phi, but the real story is much less dramatic: She sent an e-mail to alumni last spring about an event and joked that they would “make the evening scary for the pledges.” Someone forwarded the e-mail to the national chapter, and because that’s technically considered hazing under Hofstra’s Greek Life rules, a disciplinary hearing took place. Kavantsev was a senior about to graduate, so she skipped the meeting, which meant she was automatically terminated from the sorority.
Kazantsev admitted that yes, “under the broad definition of hazing,” she was involved in some hazing activities at Hofstra. She said her sorority’s “hazing” was more like menial tasks: standing in a line to recite information, a few sleepless nights, crafting.
“At the time, unfortunately, that was just the culture of the university. I was hazed,” she said. “I was kind of brought up through the organization thinking that that’s appropriate behavior, when clearly — I’m two years removed from the organization today, and I understand that’s just not true.”
“All I can do is sit here and be honest,” she said. “Yes, I was involved under the broad definition of hazing at some point. But never, ever in a million years what this [story] is claiming to hold.”
One of Kazantsev’s sorority sisters also came forward to defend her. Abby Littleton, a 2014 Hofstra grad who was Kazantsev’s “little sister” in Alpha Phi, said the allegations are false and that she was horrified to read about claims of abuse. Littleton said she talked to some of the current sorority members on Monday, who she said were thrilled to watch Kazantsev in the pageant last weekend and shocked by the Jezebel article.
“They are very, very sad about this because no one knows who is trying to bring Kira down,” Littleton said in an interview with The Washington Post. “She’s on top now, and it’s really sad that people are trying to bring her down. No one knows who is saying these things.”
Littleton said that there are rumors on campus about hazing, some of them mentioned in the Jezebel story, but that none of the tales are true.
“That’s Greek life for you,” she said. “There are always going to be those accusations, whether they’re true or not.”
The pageant is also standing by Kazantsev, releasing a statement that said she had been very candid about her termination from the sorority.
“It’s unfortunate that this incident has been exploited to create a storyline that distracts from what we should be focusing on: Kira’s impressive academic achievements at Hofstra University, including earning a triple major from the Honors College and her commitment to serving her community,” the organization said. “Kira is an exceptional ambassador for the Miss America Organization, and we are excited to be a part of her journey as a force for good across our nation, promoting education and service and working to empower young women.”