Understanding and Recognizing Fraternity and Sorority Hazing: A Guide for CLV Village Personnel
For readers who desire a comprehensive understanding of Greek organizations in US higher education, the full version of this article is located on SharePoint:
In early February 2017, Timothy Piazza, a new member of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity at Penn State was intoxicated when, during a fraternity party, he fell down the basement stairs of the fraternity house. Fraternity members did not call for emergency aid until 12 hours after the fall. Timothy passed way at the hospital several days later.
Unfortunately, Timothy’s death is not an unfamiliar circumstance. Since there is no official designation in the Uniform Crime Reports for deaths associated with hazing or other fraternal activities, it is not possible to precisely determine the frequency. One website that attempts to chronicle these deaths reports thirty-four fraternal-related deaths occurring between the years 2000 and 2014 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_hazing_deaths_in_the_United_States).
Fraternities and Sororities, otherwise known as Greek letter organizations, are formally structured social organizations found on many of the campuses where CLVus has villages. Greek organizations have many positive attributes and have a shared purpose of developing young men and women into productive citizens. Below are common activities that are offered by many chapters:
New Member Selection
The process of selecting new members for sororities and fraternities have similarities in that they involve what is known as mutual selection. The process is known as “rush” or “recruitment”, although for many campuses “rush” is an outdated term with negative connotations. The National Panhellenic Conference prohibits the use of the term “rush” for its member organizations. There are varying timelines and requirements per campus. Some campuses hold recruitment prior to the opening of the fall semester, some defer recruitment until the spring semester and there are options anywhere in between.
Once selected, new members are required to meet certain objectives before achieving full membership. The new member is referred to as a new member, associate member or pledge depending on the organization. During the period of time between recruitment and full membership, new members learn about the organization’s values, history and rituals. Once the new members complete the requirements they participate in a formal initiation ceremony.
Preventing and Recognizing Hazing: Tips for Village Staff
According to Wikipedia, hazing is defined as “the practice of rituals and other activities involving harassment, abuse or humiliation as a way of initiating a person into a group”. For the most part, membership in Greek organizations is a valuable and rewarding experience and most groups have eliminated hazing from their activities. National Greek organizations prohibit hazing and have revised fraternal traditions in order to eradicate hazing from the Greek experience. Still, hazing rituals can be found in athletic programs, performing arts organizations, student organizations and fraternal organizations. For fraternities and sororities, it is during the new membership period that new members of Fraternities and Sororities are most at risk of personal harm as a result of hazing.
The perpetuation of hazing traditions is insidious and is passed down from generations of students as a valued part of the fraternal experience and the judgment of new members is clouded by a strong desire to be part of the group. Many students are not sufficiently sophisticated to understand that what they are experiencing is hazing. Verbal abuse, requiring students to wear humiliating outfits, excessive alcohol consumption, humiliation, sleep deprivation, kidnapping and sex acts are common forms of hazing practices.
Members of Sororities and Fraternities live in CLV villages. Village staff are frontline in the securing student safety. Below are some tips for preventing and recognizing hazing:
In summary, Greek organizations play a positive role in the lives of many young people, yet there may be remnants of dangerous practices. CLV Village personnel can play a part in keeping residents who are members of Greek organizations safe by being aware of what constitutes hazing, recognizing the warning signs, paying attention to the rhythms of the activities associated with new membership and letting residents know they are available to be strong advocates for their well-being.