Anyone who read the ABC news article this week on the
increasing violence in sorority hazing has to be sickened by
the vicious acts of these young women, supposedly the cream
of our society, practicing every kind of abuse, from demeaning,
malicious verbal assaults to physical violence to calculated
sexual abuse of the young women seeking to become
members/pledges. I mean, we've heard about the fraternity
hazing violence, the alcohol poisoning deaths, the rites of
humiliation, and just plain criminal acts which have led to
some campuses banning fraternities and sororities from their
educational institutions. Why does it continue despite
institutional policies and protocols on hazing?
It continues because it's institutionalized bullying. It
continues because it happens on school campuses, just
like elementary, middle school and high school bullying,
and therefore law enforcement defers to the campus
authorities first instead of taking immediate outside
criminal action against the perpetrators of these abuses.
And campus authorities are loath to admit their institution
has these types of criminal behaviors occurring on their
grounds. For institutions of higher learning, bad press
equals loss of revenue by students changing their choice
of university or college. Bad press means a loss of revenue
from former alumni and financial subsidizers. So
universities and colleges are highly motivated to whitewash
or hide the questionable, if not outright illegal and
discriminatory practices of these "fraternal" organizations
and to make it difficult, if not impossible to report these
abuses by students. Sure you see little real action taken
-- until there's a high profile case that makes the local news.
But there's almost nothing substantial done to change the
culture of the frats and sororities themselves.
Some would say it's up to the youngsters themselves to
refuse to participate in these rites of humiliation. But why
are rites of humiliation the source of determining who will or
will not be admitted into a sorority or fraternity? If these
"Greek" system organizations want to represent the best,
then let them recruit by grade point averages, recruit by
special artistic or academic talent, and leave the sadistic
silliness elsewhere. Let them open their doors to external
reviews and have outside supervision of their initiations.
That won't suit the "it's a secret" mantra which these
organizations embrace to prove their exclusivity and which
the bullies hide behind.
Frankly, as a young college student, I thought about
pledging to a sorority. But I wasn't at the university for
a four-year social event. I wasn't at the university for
parties, dating or hanging out. I had a lifetime goal ahead
of me. I went for an academic education that was going to
get me a chance at the best paying job in a professional field
I enjoyed. And I let that be my all-consuming focus, rather
than "belonging" to a crowd I was most likely never going to
see again once I graduated. So I never joined. I went to
school, I got good grades and I put my energy into living
my life independent of others and their opinions of me.
I recognize not everyone is that sturdy. A lot of students
are desperate for peer acceptance and validation, so they
subject themselves to figurative slaughter by frat house
and sorority conscienceless sadists, protected by a tradition
of secrecy and rampant peer pressure.
If we keep the antiquated and increasing influence of
sororities and fraternities on campuses, then the campus
authorities need to do more than pay lip service to the
no-hazing policies. They need to define hazing, they need
to make it plain that many actions which currently pass for
"hazing" are in fact criminal acts and that any complaint
of hazing will see the sorority or fraternity closed down and
participating individuals (and their Greek chapters) facing
criminal and civil prosecution. That's the punitive measures.
The positive measures should be banning pledging. Sororities
and fraternities need to set public written requirements for
membership and recruit accordingly, the same as you would
for any professional organization. And the organizations
themselves need to set a standard for courtesy, honesty and
a few other virtues which seem to have gotten lost in the
animalistic clawing for supremacy.
To paraphrase the article, this ain't reality TV where you're
going to get some prize for survival; this is the real world and
living means more than staying alive. Show you have enough
personal integrity to stand up for yourself and the guts to say
"no" to abuse by these bullying creeps and walk out. You'll be
surprised how many will follow you out the door. And when
enough young people show they're not interested in being
victims, the frats and sororities will stop the hazing and
become the positive social organizations they were once
purported to be.