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Newsletter > September 2008 > "DETECTING HAZING: WHY THE HAZERS MAKE IT EASY FOR THE REST OF US"
DETECTING HAZING: WHY THE HAZERS MAKE IT EASY FOR THE REST OF US
In our Greek letter community, hazing is near the top of the pyramid in terms of potential for criminal and civil litigation. Over forty states have hazing laws and several states have upgraded those to include felony status under specific circumstances. Nearly every academic year brings us the death of an undergraduate and injuries to others that generate lawsuits with significant financial repercussions for defendants.
One would therefore assume that those who practice hazing would spare no effort in attempting to hide or conceal the hazing. Yet in a practice that is heaped high with ironies, members of hazing chapters consistently and regularly provide many signs, indications and confirmation that hazing is occurring.
Rather than list a series of hazing practices, let us consider first what the practical aspects of hazing are and then how those are translated into hazing.
Hazing is usually — but not always — practiced and supported by those who your author refers to as, “Incomplete” people. They lack courage, fortitude and self-confidence. Their self-esteem is low. They use hazing as a means of justifying, ratifying and validating their perceived place in a group or culture. Some hazers consider it their designated role or calling to be a hazer (as opposed to being a treasurer or another leader) and make things difficult for pledges or new members (P/AMs)
Hazing focuses upon control, authority, domination and bullying a group of individuals, some of whom want to be hazed and who see hazing as a means of earning group approval. In order for serious hazing to occur later in the semester, hazing with a little “h” will begin immediately after pledging begins. This hazing is designed to establish the unquestioned authority of the hazers. Then, the hazing practices ratchet up week by week, to conclude with “hell week” or pre-initiation.
Many of the hazing activities therefore emphasize pledge class unity and conformity, uniformity and obedience. In the book and subsequent movie, “All The President’s Men”, an unnamed and high-placed source in the Nixon White House tells a reporter to “Follow the money”. In identifying hazing chapters, follow the emphasis upon pledge class unity, control, authority, uniformity and conformity. Those will in turn lead to specific activities designed to establish and maintain control and authority.
Fortunately, those who believe in hazing seem compulsive about revealing certain aspects of the hazing. Why else would hazing chapters demand conformity and uniformity in dress, appearance, behavior and demeanor from P/AMs that are easily perceived by others?
One answer is that members of those chapters with embedded hazing are anxious to maintain a perceived status—to let others know that joining their chapters is not an easy task. It can also be asserted that hazers become arrogant and that arrogance leads to a lack of discretion.
As well, hazers are not trained CIA agents. They often will not think about the fact that the hazing is obvious to others. Contrary to their belief, the hazers cannot control everything that the P/AMs think or do. Finally, the hazers
will use the public displays as a means of convincing the P/AMs that, “You’ve been through a lot already—don’t quit now”
Watch and listen for the hazing. A very short list of examples:
- Conformity in dress and appearance ranging from the obvious such as bandanas, ribbons or the display of certain colors to the more subtle such as carrying backpacks or the P/AM manual in a certain way.
- Carrying a number of items: these may not be immediately apparent but will often make an appearance in unguarded moments, such as cigarette lighters in the dominant color of the organization or candy or snacks for members that are to be surrendered on demand.
- Frequent emphasis upon “pledge class unity.” Hazers utilize pledge class unity so that the entire group can be punished for the errors or omissions of one. Pledge class unity also allows hazers to objectify the P/AMs–to treat them as a group rather than as individuals. It also allows the hazers to maintain an assured distance from their future sisters or brothers which enhances their ability to ridicule and denigrate the P/AMs.
- Demeanor: in a hazing chapter, P/AMs are treated as errant children. Many of the P/AMs therefore act like children, carefully navigating what seems to be never-ending series of no-win situations. Hazers often demand that P/AMs greet them in a particular way, use a particular entrance to the house, lodge or floor, to rise or to give up their chair if a member approaches.
- Nearly every hazing activity involves the entire P/AM class. The emphasis upon unity therefore leads to hazing practices such as “fun runs” on campus or requiring the P/AMs to wait outside the chapter house in inclement weather.
- Concealment: the use of paper, plywood, plastic trash bags or other items to cover the first floor windows of the chapter house during pre-initiation.
- Restricting communication by collecting the cell phones of P/AMs or prohibiting them from speaking to “Outsiders” during particular times.
- Unusual hours—meetings or events for P/AMs late at night or early in the morning.
The hazers give us a number of ways to detect the hazing. If we watch, listen, ask questions and remain diligent, we can often detect the hazing in time to intervene and ideally to change the culture of the chapter.
The author is the owner & CEO of Limberlost Consulting, Inc. and worked for Theta Chi for over 30 years, including 18 as Executive Director. He may be contacted at (317)-250-3799 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.