Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Can we please stop talking about hazing?

Rick Barnes is a member of the Association of Fraternal Leadership & Values Board of Directors, a member of the CAMPUSPEAK speakers roster, and President of Rick Barnes Presents. We thank him for his guest blog post this week for National Hazing Prevention Week.

I remember when I first started thinking about joining something called a fraternity. I’m a first-generation fraternity member in my family - my parents were not in one of these organizations. I thought it looked fun. The parties were great, the presence on campus was huge, the commitment to one-another appeared solid and really looked like something I would want to be a part of. But there were a few things that made me second-guess any desire to join. One of those was hazing.

I graduated from high school as a three-letter athlete and as class president. I had great grades, had that girlfriend I thought would last forever (and she did for about three months...but that was forever back then). I didn’t need fraternity. I just thought it looked like fun. But, one thing I wasn’t willing to put up with was hazing. Not by anyones definition. Even as a freshman in college I was aware of the issue. I’m not sure I knew the word hazing...I just knew I wasn’t willing to put up with someone screaming at me, making me do things I didn’t want to do, treating me abusively, or any of that. I thought the fraternity and sorority community looked like a lot of fun, but I wasn’t about to be willing to let anyone haze me. And I challenge anyone to suggest that I am any less a fraternity man because I was willing to say no.

Looking back, I am so thankful I finally decided to join a fraternity. I can readily admit the decision to join has impacted every area of my life - my personal and professional life. It was absolutely one of the best decisions I ever made. We are phenomenal organizations - doing some of the best things on college campuses. But despite all of that...despite all the great we do...we’re still not good enough to be able to get away with hazing!

I’ll admit it - I don’t understand hazing. Either side of it. I don’t understand how you can be a big enough bully to do it to someone else, but I also don’t understand how big a wimp you have to be to allow it to happen to you. But to make it even worse, I don’t understand how organizations like fraternities and sororities can be labeled with this one. Organizations composed of “brothers” and “sisters” who have committed to a lifelong membership in organizations who espouse to high values and standards. And then we get tagged with the stereotype of hazing?! Or is it really even a stereotype? No, doesn’t seem to be. In fact, it happens. Way too often! I think it’s time we quit calling it a stereotype and start calling it a fact so that we can acknowledge its presence enough to actually do something about it.

Please don’t try to defend it as a good thing. Hazing is no longer one of those moral or ethical topics. In most states it’s against the law. To suggest that it is a good thing...or to suggest that it has a place in fraternity is suggesting a blatant violation of the law.

Okay - so what is it? The policies are often hard to interpret. They include words like demeaning, degrading and disgracing. They tell us we can’t cause bodily harm, offensive punishment or pain. We aren’t supposed to cause psychological harm or hinder a students academic efforts. So what is it? Seems to me the policies are simply saying folks should treat one another as friends and with respect and dignity. Or, another way to say it - I think the policies are simply saying we should treat each other as brothers and sisters. How can fraternity and sorority members argue with that? We claim that responsibility in our purpose. How we complain that we might be singled out or held to a higher standard on this issue. Isn’t that exactly what we want?

So can I offer this suggestion - can we please stop talking about hazing? Can we - as fraternity and sorority members - please stop complaining and arguing and suggesting that it’s not fair? Can we please just do what we said we would do - raise the standards and live to higher values. Why can’t we just step up and be the leaders we say we are? If hazing takes place at all, let’s let this one be someone else’s issue.

1 comment:

gmc14 said...

Your phrasing seems to indicate a misunderstanding of the word 'stereotype'.

"Or is it really even a stereotype? No, doesn’t seem to be. In fact, it happens."

ster·e·o·type - a simplified and standardized conception or image held in common by members of a group

Calling something a stereotype does not mean it is false. Stereotypes and reality are not necessarily at odds.

(ex. It is a stereotype that tall people are good at basketball. Many tall people are, in fact, good at basketball.)