I entered college like many other young men in the United States. My father was in a fraternity. My uncles were in fraternities. Knowing few people in a large school, I flocked to the idea of joining a group of young men with values that genuinely cared for one another; and did what young men do when they are in college. I am now a second semester junior at a relatively large NCAA Division II public university. The school has an incredibly large Greek Life in proportion to the size of the college population. I have held two positions in my fraternity including Secretary and Vice President during my time as an active brother. I enjoyed my time as a brother immensely, but I am no longer an active member. I suppose that I feel that this is relevant background information so that the reader can understand my viewpoint; there is value in fraternity life. However, I truly believe that the Baby-Booming adults in the country that cultivated and created the problems that are associated with the generation of Millennials, have also completely botched the rule book that Universities use to govern and discipline fraternities. This will be the focus of this article.
When a young man rushes a fraternity, one of the questions which is undoubtedly in his mind is, “Does this fraternity haze?” This question essentially embodies all of what society cares about in regards to fraternities. This societal obsession forces a terrible connotation on fraternity life and is an absolute cancer to the collegiate community. My fraternity was, in my opinion, a non-hazing fraternity whose sole focus was the development of character and brotherhood. My fraternity conducted countless hours of service towards charities. My fraternity hosted the largest philanthropic event that the university was associated with. However, with the modern attitude towards fraternities; nobody cared about the actual character of my fraternity. We, as an organization, were constantly being ridiculed with false allegations that had essentially no basis. The entire town would scream hazing before our side was even heard, if it was ever heard at all.
As I began to gain experience, as a fraternity member, I was more clearly able to see the sad truth- this mindset was consistent throughout colleges across the country. I went to plenty of regional and national conferences held by my fraternity where this idea was always the topic of conversation between brothers who attended different schools. This forced me to look further into the handbooks and legislation which governs the fraternities and sororities at my school. I believe my findings to be a direct explanation of exactly what has created this unclear labyrinth-styled definition for hazing.
The definition for hazing that can be found in my university’s handbook is led by the sentence: “H. Hazing, any action taken or situation created, intentionally to produce mental or physical discomfort, embarrassment, harassment, or ridicule.” I encourage the reader to read and re-read and re-re-read this definition which embodies the act of hazing in the modern-day fraternity culture. If a school uses this definition to determine what hazing is, it is impossible for someone to actually narrow down and understand what in the flying [four letter word omitted] the act of hazing actually is.
I will now explain some rules and discipline strategies which I experienced throughout my little league baseball career and compare them to the legislation and discipline which I have experienced as a collegiate fraternity member. Satirical Disclaimer: I am not suggesting that a university allows the fraternal organizations to use the same level of outrageous hazing as a little league baseball program.
Anyone who has ever coached a little league sports team knows that there will undoubtedly be the class clown of the group who can make turning young uncoordinated adults into a cohesive unit that can win ball games a little bit more difficult. There are parts of mastering a sport that are less exciting than hittin’ dingers and scoring runs. So, what is a coach supposed to do when the little clown is not paying attention or minding his commands? The phrase of the team that I grew up playing on was, “Running improves hearing.” When a young player would not demonstrate discipline-we ran. The amount we ran increased drastically as we aged into older ball players. This method of discipline can be exhausting for the player, but it serves a purpose. When a kid must run; he listens to commands. When the young athlete listens to commands, he transforms into a better ball player. If a fraternity member was discovered making an adult man do something such as the sprint that was used in my little league example; it would probably end in the termination of his membership. At the very least this event would be reported as a hazing incident and the fraternity would be placed on probation as a whole.
This is just one example of the countless comparisons which could be drawn between a little league baseball team’s disciplinary structure and a modern-day fraternity’s. If the reader of this article is skeptical of this idea, allow me to provide some clarity. A little league baseball team must wear uniforms. A little league baseball team’s coach expresses his frustrations by yelling at the team. A little league baseball team member is forced to participate in specific tasks that are necessary for the logistical maintenance of a baseball organization such as picking up equipment. I could continue with examples of tasks that culture has deemed acceptable for little league baseball teams, but does not allow fraternity men to practice until my fingers grew numb and the reader grew bored (if you are not already bored with this article). But I think you get the point. Little League baseball teams are vicious organizations that prey on the innocence of young boys through outrageous acts of hazing which create situations ripe with embarrassment and harassment - no?
Obviously, this is not true. Little League baseball organizations are proved to produce well-rounded adults and teach valuable life skills such as determination, hard work, and respect. But so do fraternities. Both of these organizations are challenged with the task of turning a young man into a leader. Their sole purpose is to take a group of individuals and transform them into a cohesive unit of men; brothers. However, I implore the reader to understand how impossible this task is with the entire world constantly judging the fraternity system “guilty,” and failing to acknowledge the good that this organization does for the community. Again, I am not suggesting that society allow the Greek system to use the outrageous forms of hazing associated with little league baseball. However, society needs a reality check. Hazing, in the Greek system, has transformed into a miss-defined maze of confusing and unclear rules that are overused as a blanket-styled allegation in attempt to babysit adult men. I implore the world to reconsider and revise what hazing is and what implications the word has.