Why Hazing is Bad Business

Updates from the Road just finished a very successful series on issues of new member education in support of National Hazing Prevention Week. Through my work with Central Office I have been blessed to get to know each of the Brothers who wrote those articles. They are incredible human beings who believe in the value of fraternity. Each of them has significantly advanced fraternity within their own undergraduate experience and helped others realize that experience.

Whether it is Bill Stephens whose sons have followed in his footsteps and joined the Lodge at 1018 Hilyard Street in Eugene or John Logan who continues to be a tremendous asset from a programming standpoint; each of these men have made an impact that goes beyond 2-3 years. Doug Buglewicz has been instrumental in re-colonizing Alpha Gamma and has shown an extraordinary commitment to helping spread those values to other Alphas. Chris Feldman has been an instant friend for me from the very first day that we met and has always shown an interest in giving more of himself. I might have been one of the first handful of Chi Psis that Forrest McGuire met. It has been a joy to watch him grow into the leader that he is today, and I am truly indebted to him for where he was able to guide my Alpha as #1. These men are fraternal success stories. And a common theme is their opinion of how new members should be integrated into the Alpha. I want to re-affirm their opinion and offer my own candid reasoning for how hazing fails in so many ways.

Rho Deltas at convention

Let’s define it. The first result from google defines it as:

“the imposition of strenuous, often humiliating, tasks as part of a program of rigorous physical training and initiation”

What else would I add? Things like personal servitude. Asking a new member who is hanging out at the Lodge for a ride somewhere like you would a brother is different than making him be enrolled in a taxi service Thursday through Saturday night. Things like having expectations for the new member class that far exceeds what is required from active Brothers. Why would we want the greatest amount of involvement from one semester? The pursuit of excellence is a daily one. Being a gentlemen is a lifelong committment.

If the basic goals of fraternity are to 1)create lifelong friendships, 2) enhance the college experience, and 3) prepare each brother for success when they leave the host institution, then hazing really only tries to accomplish the first. And it does it mostly within each individual pledge class. Best case scenario I have seen from a group  that hazes? A group where each class is really tight and they do not get into any fights with each other because they do not really care what the other pledge classes do. The only thing that ties them together is their building.

The most immediate type of Alpha failure we can see from hazing becomes evident the recruitment process. Groups that do not haze place so much more emphasis on the recruitment side of things. They weed out bad behavior by not bidding that type of individual to begin with rather than using hazing to do so. In my undergraduate experience, there was only one person who had accepted a bid that failed to become a Brother. Because of the increased emphasis on making sure the Alpha recruits the right type of young men, the overall quality of the Brotherhood increases. Additionally, by hazing, groups severely narrow their pool of potential leaders. Leaders are the type most likely to reject an experience that is set up more to entertain active brothers, treat them like a servant, or create a new member experience that threatens their academic situation.

Hazing also lets down your alumni and the university. I have yet to meet an alumnus who supports much of what is all too common today. As they have reflected on their experience, which depending on the age might have been radically different then it is today, a common thread emerges. It was not their new member education period that they treasure, but rather all the other gifts that fraternity gives. Best case scenario with the university? Greek life is working hand in hand with providing an enriching experience that empowers men. Worst case? You are constantly lying or deceiving the university to protect a new member program that you know breaks state laws, threatens academic success, enables certain active Brothers to exercise their need for power, and/or puts new members in uncomfortable or even potentially life threatening situations.

Finally, hazing completely undermines our ritual. The new member education process should be designed to help new members to appreciate and be ready to receive our ritual. After all, even the goals of the worst hazing program imaginable are to get to what is spelled our in our R&T manuals. However, by creating so many distractions and focusing on cheap thrills, hazing waters down that experience. It does not create buy in, but rather feeds into behavior that we then spend so much time trying to correct. I can honestly say through the past year and a half of working with Chi Psi that Alphas that know that hazing has no place in the new member education process are the Alphas that are excelling and improving. Alphas that prepare and execute our ritual effectively are the ones that get to live out a true brotherhood experience.

If anyone still reading has any questions about the topics discussed in this blog post, feel free to reach out to me at jholman@chipsi.org. I would love to discuss this at greater length with anyone who would like to challenge these assertions or would like help to help create a more productive new member education experience of their own regardless of national affiliation. And in case you haven’t heard, the Central Office, along with the Program for Excellence Committee, has just released a great new member education resource called The Pursuit. Anyone on staff would love to tell you more about that program and how your Alpha can use it to build a stronger new member education process.

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