In 1997, then Texas A&M student and pledge of Kappa Alpha fraternity, Jonathan Culpepper and fraternity were indicted in College Station, Texas on criminal hazing charges because of a severe “wedgie” that caused Culpepper to require the surgical removal of a testicle.
Stunts such as the before mentioned are probably what people think of when they hear the word hazing. What really is hazing? The University of Missouri-Rolla handbook on hazing defines hazing as
“A willful act, occurring on or off campus of an educational institution, directed against a student or prospective member of an organization operating under the sanction of an educational institution, that recklessly endangers the mental or physical health or safety of a student or prospective member for the purpose of initiation or admission into or continued membership in any such organization to the extent that such a person is knowingly placed at a substantial risk of loss of life or bodily or psychological harm. A person commits the crime of hazing if they knowingly participate in or cause hazing” (UMR Hazing Brochure).
This means that members of recognized student organizations cannot endanger the physical or mental health of a prospective or active member as a requirement to join or remain a member of that organization.
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With that said I feel that hazing is a necessary and good practice in certain organizations, especially college Greek lettered organizations. Considering the above, the University of Missouri-Rolla could be considered a hazing institution. I know people, including myself, that have excessive stress due to the activities and expectations made by the university and its staff. In the pamphlet it also states that other examples of hazing include, but are not limited to, physical brutality, whipping, beating, exposure to the elements, calisthenics, forced consumption of any food, liquor, or any substance, forced smoking or chewing tobacco products, etc (Smith). Are students not exposed to the elements while walking to and from class? Is physical activity such as calisthenics not required for certain courses and athletic teams? Who is to call it excessive or abusive, and at what point? It is not for membership to a specific organization but it is all done to become a member of a financially active organization. Is that not hazing as described by the pamphlet?
The idea behind school and athletics and many other endeavors, which could cause potential stress, is to get the best results as quick as possible. In school, students are asked to complete assignments that may be lengthy or difficult, and may cause extreme measures to be taken or excessive stress. The professor would not have assigned it unless it was for the intent of reinforcing, learning, or the better understanding of a subject or topic that he/she has brought up during instruction. The same goes for athletic teams. Workouts are required for all athletic teams. Some that are extremely physically demanding and some that require you to wake up at ridiculous hours of the day. But, why is that not considered hazing? It is done with the intent to make the players better as quickly as possible.
When it comes to fraternity hazing the same intent is implied, which is to make the pledges better as quickly as possible. When one becomes a member of a fraternity they should learn life-long lessons that they should never forget, and sometimes talking will get you nowhere.
When people think of the word hazing and fraternity pledging, what do they imagine? My guess is that they picture a fraternity brother who has had a few beers with one in his hand and a paddle in the hand opposite the beer. This is all while a pledge is bent over and being struck with the paddle, while the other young pledges watch in fear (Smith). This is your classic type of hazing, which still exists but is less common these days. When people think of hazing in today’s world they should think about pledges paying for things such as dinner for all of the fraternity brothers, and making the pledges do numerous amounts of calisthenics and chores. Not to forget the classic binge drinking.
Why did hazing ever start? Hazing technically began when the first human beings were born. Since the beginning of time, somebody has wanted something that someone else had and that someone has given them a hard time in order to share what their counterpart has desired. Hazing in college Greek life began with the first fraternity. With today’s laws and definitions of hazing it is near impossible to bring a new member into a fraternity without being hazed. Hazing began and still exists for pretty much the same reasons. One reason is, when there are a lot of people who want something prestigious and held in high regard such as a fraternity you must weed out the one’s who do not have a deep desire or really are not deserving of being initiated by the fraternity members’ standards. Another reason hazing started and still exists is that people could not think of any other way to bring people into an organization that preaches brotherhood besides the answer to the question “How much of a beating and punishment would you take to become my fraternity brother?”
Hazing increased during the time immediately following the world wars. Since the number of men in college increased drastically, the number of college men wanting to be part of a fraternity increased as well.
The many people against hazing feel that it is unethical and does not produce results (Newer). They feel that hazing activities such as push-ups, shouting, “Hell Weeks” and other physically demanding as a group or alone are activities that do not help in determining good members. Many against hazing feel that activities such as these will cause the de-pledging of an individual, and will be temporary cures to the problem. Meaning once the pressure ends so will the will to work for the fraternity end also. Some also feel that it can create an attitude that pledgeship is hardship, not an educational period, and that initiation into the fraternity is the end of one’s work for the organization instead of the beginning. Most of the anti-hazing community feel that things such as outings with the pledge class, formal quizzes, and participating in activities such as intramural sports, participating in other school related activities, group discussions, and community service projects as a whole will sufficiently intake a new member or members into a fraternity. I totally agree to this. If a college student wishes to go out and join a fraternity in which friendship is the bond that it promises go right on ahead and pledge that Greek-lettered organization.
I feel this way because the only Greek-lettered organizations that I respect are the ones that show a strong sense of BROTHERHOOD on top of everything else. Yes, you will find some true brothers out of the process. But really, what do brothers do for one another? The answer is any and everything another brother needs him to do. Is someone who has only taken some tests, sat down and talked, and played a few games with some guys, and cleaned up a house on weekends actually going to show brother-like characteristics to one another at all times? From my own observation college Greek-lettered organizations that follow processes similar to the one I described are only close with their pledge class and the people in the fraternity that they were already close with. Yes, they have become friends and at the worst acquaintances with all of the members of the fraternity but is that brotherhood?
I can sympathize with the non-hazing community and the main reason is because it is illegal. Yes, they are correct in the fact that pledgeship is hardship. But I am a firm believer that nothing ever worth having ever came easy. No, the pledges probably will not view their pledge period as an educational period but they will learn lessons whether they see it or not. As far as playing games and going out with members, it just will not work. I am teammates with seventy-five other football players and I play games with them and talk to them and live with some of them but in no way, shape, or form am I anything like a brother to them. I also agree with the fact that hazing can easily get out of hand. The hazer must know when enough is enough in order not to severely injure a pledge.
My idea of a “perfect” pledge process does involve hazing. I feel that pledges should be humbled during their pledge process. Backtalk, disobedience, and disrespect should be enforced with a tuff, yet humane, exercise. With learning information about the fraternity, the failure of quizzes, may they be oral or written, should be “ingrained” in them in some way shape or form. As far as brotherhood goes, almost all the time fraternity members are closest with their pledge class because they are going through the hardships side by side and pulling each other through. Nonetheless, when the pledge process is over there should be a “post-pledge” period in which the new members have social activities with the older brothers to build brotherhood on top of the respect that they should have obtained during their pledge process.
Hazing is a tool that if used properly can produce results beyond the imagination. I was hazed during my pledge process and I feel that I am a better man for it. I accomplished feats that I never thought I could. I not only have frat brothers but my brothers in my pledge class are like my blood brothers. All of this is a result of something that is looked down upon, a practice that is now illegal, but yet I see no other way possible that I would have created this bond of brotherhood without this tactic. Everywhere I go and I meet a brother from another chapter I can sympathize and understand what he has been through and show him the same respect and love that I show the brothers of my chapter. Hazing is the way to produce immediate results just how Americans like it – fast. For those who are against hazing, do not knock it until you try it. For anyone who has been through a pledge process that includes hazing will understand and will quickly support me. So when it comes to the question, “To haze or not to haze?” I say haze wisely.
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