The Haze Craze

When many people think of Greek Life, they immediately think of two things: hazing and partying. The stereotypes for Greek Life members are endless. What many do not realize is that not all Greek Life organizations haze. The negative effects and implications hazing can cause are immense and extremely damaging to future members and Greek Life organizations as a whole.

Hazing is illegal in the state of New York and in most other states as well; although, this was not always the case, causing the Greek Life hazing stereotypes to be created in the first place. Many Greek Life organizations have come to the times and realization hazing is damaging and could cause that organization to lose everything.

Many that haze, most likely do not even know the history of hazing. Where did it start and why do we do it? Well, here are the facts and it’ll make you realize that hazing…to put it nicely….is barbaric. Literally.

Hazing actually began in Europe during the Middle Ages. For those educated college students, you should know, the middle ages nickname was the “Dark Ages”. Hazing was imposed on men entering into Universities so they could feel hardship before receiving the benefits of education. The hazing was eventually abolished as it was regarded as barbaric on many levels. The more educated people became, the more they realized how wrong it was.

In the 1850’s, hazing began to make its way into the American colleges. It began with penalties on underclassmen, but soon got worse. Eventually, it became a tradition. For years, the government tried to intervene and although in the current day nearly every state has hazing laws, many organizations and schools still allow hazing to take place.

Hazing is still a prominent issue that not only Greek Life organizations face, but sports teams and other clubs as well.

St. John’s University has a strict hazing policy that the Greek community has worked hard to enforce. The policy, adopted in 1980, clearly states, “Hazing is both a violation of the Penal Law and other laws of the State of New York as well as the general regulations of the University. Accordingly, the University hereby reaffirms its policy that it will not condone hazing of any kind.”

St. John’s defines hazing as several things: any action or situation that puts a person in mental or physical danger which includes the use of drugs and alcohol, any series of acts that cause danger or harm, any kind of humiliation, tricks, ridicule or embarrassment, unnecessary or difficult work, harassment, criticism, abnormal or unusual dress, abnormal or unusual acts and any sort of abuse at all. The policy is clear, concise, and covers the hazing bases. Hazing is not tolerated at St. John’s University and it never should be.

Joining a sorority or fraternity is no easy task. It takes hard work, dedication and a whole lot of heart. People that condone hazing, or a slight amount of hazing, may argue hazing shows that a new member really wants to be a part of the organization. But, that is where those people are very wrong.

Gamma Phi Beta – Zeta Mu Chapter made sure that the pledge class knew everything about our organization, made sure we understood what our letters stood for, the rich history behind our organization and they spoke to us about hazing. The older sisters made sure to explain to the pledge class that they wouldn’t be hazing us and that was a common misconception. They wanted to introduce us to their world, make us comfortable, but at the same time instill in us the heart Gamma Phi Beta requires.                     

A new member educator, Kelly Chiron, explained she had done a lot of research on hazing and its negative effects. As a psychology major, Chiron explained the negatives of hazing of new members greatly outweighs the positives. Hazing causes hostility between new members and current sisters. It causes new sisters to fear older sisters, which is the exact opposite of what a sorority is supposed to be all about. Older sisters are supposed to guide younger sisters, help them out and be a friend. She also explained that hazing hurts the self confidence of new members. Greek life is all about developing leaders. Hazing does the exact opposite of that.

Chiron co-wrote a psychology paper where she explained situations of hazing and their negative impact. She explained that hazing often is a cycle and occurred because members previously were hazed and want the chance to do the same to new members. They think, “I went through it so you should have to”.

Even if they did not like when it was done to them, they continue to do it to others. Some of it has to do with conformity to group behavior, the desperation for acceptance, showing dominance over others and establishing authority.

One of the worst impacts hazing can have on someone (besides death) is ruining their self-esteem, she explained. Why would an organization want to ruin the self-esteem of a future member? Greek Life is about building members up, not physically and mentally tearing them down.

Alexandra Watson, a member of Theta Phi Alpha Fraternity at St. John’s University, has strong opinions on hazing. She backs up St. John’s hazing policy wholeheartedly and explains the stereotypes Fraternities and Sororities are often associated with upsets her. Alex states, “I never once felt threatened, pressured, or uncomfortable. In fact, it was the opposite. The stereotypical lifestyle of fraternities and sororities that is portrayed in film and television is such a poor representation of the reality of it all.”

Watson, like the majority of organizations at St. John’s University, realize why hazing is so negative. She believes hazing has a lot to do with lack of education. If you are hazing new members, you are probably not very educated on the negatives hazing can have on people.  Alex confidentially states, “I would never want to surround myself by people who don’t respect me and make me feel threatened. I would never submit myself to such torture.”

Leaders do not condone hazing or participate in it. Gamma Phi Beta is filled with leaders, as is many Greek Life organizations. As bold of a statement as this may be, you cannot call yourself a leader if you allow your organization to haze.

Rindaanne Riccio, Panhellenic President at St. John’s University this past year and my big sister (bragging rights!), is very passionate about the negatives of hazing. She worked extremely hard as president and member of Gamma Phi Beta Sorority to educate Greek Life organizations about why hazing is so wrong. She explained, “It’s sad that organizations disrespect and degrade future members and then turn around and teach them about respect and love in brotherhood and sisterhood.”

Riccio goes on and explained that it makes no sense and hazing is extremely damaging. She explained that no person should be proud to wear their letters because, “I was put through hell for them.” They should be proud to wear their letters because of what they stand for and the ideals their organization upholds.

Riccio explained that often times, people do nothing about hazing, even if they disagree with it, because they feel outnumbered by people that do condone and allow it. They are afraid to speak up. Through attending Greek Life’s UIFI Conference and through the support of advisors at her school, she realized it is extremely important to stand up against because she is a leader and that is her duty.

It is time that all Greek Life organizations and organizations in general that allow hazing, become educated on the issue. If sorority or fraternity members actually care about the well being of their members, they won’t haze them. It takes one person to step up and say, “I will no longer allow this.” It is wrong and barbaric.

It is something no human being should ever have to go through. That does not mean you cannot break the cycle though. Stand up and be a leader. Make a change. Do not allow future members to be hazed. Explain to them what happened to you and why you do not what that for them. They will respect you a lot more because of it.

Hazing is not worth it. Countless lives are lost every year because of a hazing ritual gone bad. Is hazing worth hurting someone else and perhaps ruining your entire life or the life of another? No.

If you have an opinion on hazing, your personal experience or so on…comment on this article!

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