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The Issue of Hazing as a Rite of Passage in Greece

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Hazing can be defined as rituals and activities that cause humiliation, abuse or harassment through the process of initiation into Greek life. The most recognizable forms of hazing occur in fraternities on college campuses. College hazing is taken to lightly considering the degrading and sometimes fatal results to the victims. Hazing is illegal is most states, but is that enough? The University of Virginia Police points out that the first death due to hazing occurred in 1873 after a “Kappa Alpha society pledge died upon falling into a gully after being left alone in the woods blindfolded” (Hazing). Hazing continues to be an issue throughout the country. Joining Greek life is more than saying, “I am in a frat”, it represents a bond of brotherhood with the letters they share and the rituals they preform that make up their loyalty and values. There are many ways to resolve the issues of hazing in Greek life starting with college undergraduates that are new members to Greek life, they can be the biggest influence. Also, brining more attention to these issues on a college campuses, enforce bigger rules and laws as punishment for being caught to get them to stop in the future, and getting the list of resources out to freshmen or those who are rushing Greek life each year.

There is a fine line between what is hazing and what is bonding activities between brothers. Some believe hazing pledges of a fraternity narrows out those who do not belong in that particular fraternity. When in actually, a pledge is a male seeking a fraternity and a fraternity also seeking that male. Hazing is a test of your metal and physical strength, “those who choose to join a fraternity are faced with revered initiation rituals, which serve the purpose where each member will ‘ideally move ever more from the periphery to the center’ of a social unit” (Smart). Before a pledge can get initiated into a fraternity they have to do certain things for brothers of the fraternity to prove they are worthy of wearing the letters of that fraternity. The already initiated brothers want to make a pledge into what they think is the perfect form of a man and they do this by, “mimicking the transition from boy to adult as they transition from a pledge to a full brother. Initiations are all about masculinity testing it and proving it. Masculinity is tested through a collection of feminizing hazing practices” (Smart). Hazing can be as simple as a scavenger hunt or making pledges yell phrases that the brothers think is funny. A more recent case of hazing occurred,” November 2012 when a pledge at the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity at Northern Illinois University died after being forced to answer questions and consume alcohol throughout the night” (Hazing). Hazing has become way too common throughout colleges in this modern world. Throughout the country, schools need to promote the idea of less hazing and act on it. The first step to change the idea that hazing will improve boys to be more adult is to prove it wrong while identifying the risk factors of hazing.

Many schools and students across the country identify that hazing is a problem, and they want to fix it. There is a national week known as, “Hazing prevention Week” that is continuing to be adopted by several universities. Hazing prevention week was established to educate new members if organizations on hazing and what to do if they have to experience these practices. It is encouraged that students take a stand, sign a banner, and take a pledge to stop hazing, but nobody seems to follow through with these actions they take. Elizabeth Dsurney explains how students think, “to most of us, it isn’t hazing, she said. It is a rite of passage which everyone in the organization before has gone through. If you don’t want to be put into those situations, or don’t think you can handle being in those situations, don’t rush, don’t join, don’t try out” (Dsurney). She continues with her point by saying, “just because its expected doesn’t mean it should be happening” (Dsurney). Hazing prevention week works close with organizations to spread the idea that fraternities can still get their rituals across to new members without practicing hazing. In the article “Hazing prevention makes an impact”, it is explained that “Hazing is an issue that is not seen on the news as much, but as the article in the news said when it does appear it’s going to hit hard” (Hazing Prevention). Hazing prevention week is a good way to start to be proactive rather than reactive when it comes to hazing, but it does not push students to do anything about these issues. Hazing prevention week lets students know that things are going on behind closed doors in a fraternity, but it does not give them any resource to act and make a stand to change hazing practices all together.

Another solution to prevent hazing from happening in the future is to enforce rules and laws to keep this practice from escalating into a bigger problem. Enforcing rules that nobody wants to follow is becoming a problem as well. Sometimes big corporations like to sweep little problems under the rug and hope nobody finds the mess for example, “universities prefer to turn a blind eye to hazing because they want to avoid public scrutiny that comes with being at the center of a major campus crime. To help avoid public scrutiny, some universities use the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (‘FERPA’) as a shield to avoid reporting hazing incidents that occur among university students” (Alvarez). Many witnesses or victims of hazing also fail to report these crimes because they do not want to be the person to tell on practices and rituals that have been happening for many years. Many people wonder why young adults are drawn to a joining Greek life organizations when they should be well informed about possibilities of hazing and how common it is as well. This is because, “Greek organizations are very secretive. The loyalty demanded by keeping secrets, such as hazing practices, strongly appeals to many young people’s desires to be accepted” (Alvarez). The appeal to loyalty is another reason why witnesses or victims fail to report hazing crimes. They are told these acts of hazing are ritual and must be kept secret in order to earn their letters. Alvarez agrees, that if individuals are held accountable who commit said hazing crimes, they should be first and foremost responsible for their actions and that should make a chain reaction effect into the rest of the fraternity. This often does not happen unless something serious is reported because universities do not want the trouble, as mentioned before. Also, many students are convinced by these organizations to say that, “I know what to expect before I pledge and I don’t see anything wrong with it” (Morgan). If new members stand up together and say, “no” then they will change the way they are treated and those who follow. If more rules were followed by the fraternities when it comes to hazing, they might get more quality men who want to join for the reason they should join, like the values which each fraternity is based on. If the rules and laws are better enforced, it should start making a difference rather than sitting back and watching hazing continue to happen.

New member education and explaining resources to interested potential new members is an absolute necessary process that needs to happen before considering joining an organization. If a pledge is experiencing hazing, but does not want to go straight to the police many college campuses have resources that students can go to anonymously and privately report hazing without anyone knowing you said a word. This is not the most effective approach because if the university tries to include law enforcement, there would be no case because there will not be a witness. Another resource is the IFC board, Inter-fraternal council, which is the main board that all the fraternities fall under on a college campus. This board stands for the fraternities and they deal with recruitment and big decisions that involved individual fraternities. To eliminate the issue of hazing, IFC is taking all kinds of proactive approaches by interviewing and researching many fraternities on college campuses nationally. They believe, “reducing hazing concerns started with communicating with the presidents of the various fraternities” (Smart). IFC is reaching out to potential new members to try to use education as means to prevent future issues. Being young and trying to make the transition from young adult to adult starting college is very difficult. Then adding on the pressure of fitting into a fraternity and being easily influenced to act a certain way or do certain things. Mothers do not want their sons to change the way they were raised because now they think drinking and smoking is the way in with the crowd. New member education is helpful before or after or even during pledge ship but will it push victims of hazing to come forward and voice their experiences?

In conclusion, hazing is a problem many universities face and to find a solution is nearly impossible. The best way to solve these issues is to knock out the problem before it gets started by being more proactive rather than reactive. I think men haze because they think it is funny to humiliate another person. If new members of Greek organizations can come together to stop this tradition, then Greek life will be viewed better in the eyes of the public. Years ago, before hazing was a huge issue it was known as a positive thing to be able to add Greek life onto a resume. Now employers look at it like a gateway to partying, underage drinking, and hazing. I joined Greek life because I personally wanted the sisterhood and support system throughout college. I wanted the networking opportunities, and I wanted to get involve and serve my community. A sorority fulfills my home away from home idea that I do not think I could have found from any other organization. Speaking as a new member that is in Greek life, the university has had mandatory presentations for new members to watch and many people just thought of hazing as a joke and nothing serious. I see it as a serious issue that needs to be solved and the only way it can get solved is through those who pledge for the organizations.

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