Lately, all I have been hearing on the news is how bad Greek Life is.
And to be honest, I really do not blame a single person for having this view after what has happened recently with all the alcohol-related deaths at fraternity parties, specifically pledges. Last year at Penn State, a pledge of Beta Theta Pi Fraternity died following a party where he was forced to drink an excessive amount of alcohol to the point where he fell down the stairs, head first.
His fellow "brothers" did nothing to get him the help he needed and after a few more tumbles and 12 hours had passed, they finally called for help but it was too late. This boy, just 19 at the time, was from a town right by where I grew up. Our high schools played each other in sports and the weird thing is, I probably watched him play football.
Now, he is the poster child for the dangers of Greek Life and a real example of what happens when hazing goes wrong.
The scariest part of this story is that is can happen anywhere.
And I mean literally on any college campus that has Greek Life. Take a look. Recently, there have been deaths related to hazing or alcohol at Florida State University, Louisiana State University, and Texas State University. This is not just a Penn State problem because they have the biggest spotlight. This issue is a Greek Life problem and the culture around hazing.
I am not sure how, when or why, but hazing has become the norm for sororities and fraternities everywhere. I doubt that you will ever find a college campus with Greek Life that does not have some issue with hazing, no matter how big or small the offense is, because it is that ingrained in the culture. Even chapters that were founded on no hazing will still haze their pledges because it's a "right of passage."
It is crazy hearing what people say in order to justify hazing.
"It brings us closer together."
"It makes us better people."
"It makes us more loyal members."
"It's all fun, we won't hurt anyone."
"It could be worse."
The list could go on forever.
But you know, is it really fun being told what to do with no say, no matter how much you don't want to do it? Will it really make you more loyal? And yeah it will bring you closer together, just like any traumatic experience would. I don't, and will never, understand why hazing is the preferred method of "bonding" for some organizations.
If you get new members, wouldn't you want them to feel welcomed, accepted and appreciated rather than torn down, defeated and demoralized? Because that is what your hazing does to them, no matter how "fun" it is.
I thank God every time I hear a new tragic story about another hazing-related death that my sorority did not haze me or any other girl. There was never anything except love and respect from the older girls to my new pledge class and I am forever grateful that we will avoid those hazing statistics.
I have been able to create meaningful relationships and fond memories without ever being forced to do something I didn't want to do. It only takes one night, one activity or one extra drink to push someone over the edge towards tragedy and I am not sure why anyone would run the risk of that happening to themselves or their brothers and sisters.
I love Greek Life and will always be proud to be part of my chapter. I don't want you to think that I want Greek Life banned forever by any means, as I think it provides unparalleled opportunities that I haven't found in other organizations.
However, the culture around hazing needs to end right now.
Hazing does not make you cool. Hazing does not make you respectable. Hazing does not make you a "real" sorority or fraternity. Hazing only opens up you and the people you are supposed to care about in your chapter to possible disaster.
Best case scenario, you bullied a group of new members for around a semester. Worst case scenario, you end up on the news, being charged with involuntary manslaughter for the death of your fellow brother or sister.
With these two options in mind, are you really willing to take the risk just to haze for tradition's sake?
These horror stories need to stop here. We cannot allow hazing to continue anywhere on the spectrum. We need to stop it cold and if the recent stories haven't convinced you, I'm hoping this will. There is no safe hazing or fun hazing. You are not doing anyone, especially yourself, a favor by taking part in hazing events as a facilitator or participant.
You may think your chapter is invincible, that it could never happen to you and that you will never get caught. But the second hazing goes wrong, it is all over.