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Have you ever had to sleep outside with just a blanket on a cold winter night? That is one of the many activities pledges must complete to be initiated and accepted into a fraternity or sorority. Hazing has become a huge problem across the United States and is continually getting worse. Hazing is usually related to drinking excessively or drinking games causing the harm done to increase. However, it seems to be more prevalent in males then females. These drinking incidents, and other physical abuse have lead to injuries and deaths of pledges. Hazing has also been known to lead to psychological damage and pain along with the physical damage to the pledges and students, due to the pledge master controlling their actions. The danger of hazing has only increased with the heavier drinking and binge drinking that is done today.
Hazing is defined as “any activity expected of someone joining or participating in a group that humiliates, degrades, abuses, or endangers them regardless of a person’s willingness to participate” (“Hazing Research and Prevention”). Usually hazing starts in high school in such groups as sports teams, and other organizations, and leads up into college, in sports teams and mainly in Greek life. Today more than half of college students have undergone hazing (“Hazing research and Prevention”). This is an shocking number of college students who are being treated unfairly and are either being seriously damaged or even killed by these events on a regular basis. These initiation rituals have been practiced for many years in Greek life and organizations. These actions are considered to be ceremonial and mundane by current fraternity members, even though the National Greek organizations have banned this type of behavior many years ago (Drout 535). Fraternities also conduct hazing to reduce the pledges’ ability to join without paying their dues to the group or think they have privileges and rights as newcomers (Cimino 243). The older and current members also get enjoyment and entertainment out of hazing the pledges.
College students join fraternities or sororities to join a social circle, usually in the 2nd semester of their freshman year. They may have the need to find or form a bond, and were possibly not completely sociable in high school. They believe that they will gain these so-called brothers or sisters and form a special friendship with them. These students desire the sense of belonging that these Greek fraternities and sororities provide. Therefore most of these pledges are weak and will do whatever they are told which is why they are the perfect subjects to perform these acts for the pledge masters. They do these acts because they feel it will be worth it to have a family and group of close friends they can call their own (Keating 104). However, are these benefits really worth all of the pain and suffering they go through during the initiation process?
Hazing has to do with risky activities and behavior that usually have to do with such things as alcohol, drugs, embarrassment, and abuse. I considered joining a fraternity myself when I first came to University of Hartford, but after hearing many rumors and reading horrible news articles about hazing, I decided it was in my best interests to stay away from Greek life. I figured that joining a fraternity should not be about going through a lengthy process of hazing and embarrassment, but instead a time to meet a new group of guys and form a special friendship bond with them and have the feeling of belonging with a new group. The majority of the activities in hazing start with or completely involve alcohol, and the quick and over consumption of it. The facts show that 90 percent of hazing deaths have been linked with excessive amounts of alcohol consumption (Hollmann 15). A contributing factor is that excessive drinking has been shown this way in movies and T.V. shows so people think it is acceptable. These types of acts t can lead to incidents such as drunk driving, physical damage or fighting, or even rape.
Fraternity houses off campus are the ones that are known to do the most drinking and try to beat out other houses to be the more popular house. They are competing to have the better reputation and to be more famous around campus. Fraternities at large state schools have some of the worst hazing since they have large houses off-campus where events can be kept unnoticed. Some of these schools include Florida University and Penn State. These students are twice as likely as fraternities on campus to have problems with alcohol use and other issues (Hollmann 15). This is due to the lack of restrictions and oversight by the university.
One interesting topic is whether sororities or fraternities drink more and participate in more hazing rituals in their initiation process. The fraternity brothers seem to care more about what other students think of their group and their reputation, which is probably why they drink more to try to impress others. They then cause their pledges to involve themselves in drinking risky and large amounts of alcohol. However most girls are not prone to drinking and usually only drink while around guys at events such as socials. Some sororities at certain colleges also do not have pledges go through the hazing process and therefore have a hazing-free initiation, which is why there are more females willing to join (Drout 537). Sororities usually do not involve drinking; however, when they do participate in hazing they have less harsh activities for the pledges.
Change has to come about in this country to stop these hazing activities and harm from happening to any more students. There are organizations and clubs in the United States that trying to prevent hazing and are doing research to expose the dangers of hazing to the public, but there are not enough of these organizations. Sororities, on the other hand, have been ranked friendlier than fraternities, especially much higher than those in the high-alcohol category. (Drout 537). This type of behavior also leads to worse grades in school since pledges are waking up late and missing morning classes and are not prepared for tests due to excessive amount of drinking.
Hazing not only has affected people physically, but has many psychological aspects as well. The pledge master gets inside the pledges heads and makes them obey and do whatever instructions or activities are given. This type of mental abuse really affects some of the pledges and makes them unable to focus and perform normally in school or with their friends. Theories of cognitition and motivation of hazing have been researched, showing that hazing has a negative psychological effect as well as the physical one usually shown in the media. The pledge masters or leaders seek out a dominant position, which is why they meddle with their heads and make them view the pledge master as a father figure or a top boss.
Due to the reckless and risky behavior associated with hazing many students have died over the years. These numbers have been greatly increasing over the past couple of years. It went from about six deaths in 1980s to about twenty in 2000, a significant difference.(Hollmann 11) If hazing brutality continues on this rate it will get out of hand and lead to even more deaths. Hazing is very harmful and at times is even criminal. However, most of these harmful action crimes that occur on campus are not reported to the police or to the university by the pledges or witnesses, so most injuries and afflictions are not brought out in to the open or publicized in the media the way injuries and fatalities are. Only ten percent of students and pledges that have seen a hazing crime or hazing abuse have reported it (Hollmann 11).
Even though there may be statues and laws against hazing in Greek life, it still continues to occur every year. There are forty-three states with statues against hazing and which can be found on StopHazing.org (“Hazing Research and Prevention”). However, there is no agreement when it comes to the prevention of hazing, which makes it difficult to pass laws. Also, most of the hazing actions happen behind closed doors, so there is almost no way to know what is happening. Also, if there is a court case as to who is responsible; the college, the fraternity house, or the student.
Hazing must be put to a stop and a new form of initiation to a Greek group or some other type of organization must be created and be created in place of hazing and embarrassment, so we can stop the damage to the unfortunate students who have been harmed. Hazing seems to have only negative aspects such as putting students down and causing physical and mental pain and should be put to a stop in the near future. Greek life should not be mainly focused on hazing and hurting others; it should be about unity and brotherhood or sisterhood and becoming a part of a group of close friends. The focus should not be about embarrassment and bringing people down; it should be a positive and uplifting experience. This is why change needs to occur to this old custom and initiation process so that more people will want to join Greek life more and have a positive outlook on it.
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