Redefining hazing

TONY ESPINAL | Asst. Opinion Editor

Hazing has been around for a long time. Often when we hear the word hazing, we immediately think of pledges or new members being forced to drink copious amounts of alcohol before being forced to perform some humiliating or dangerous task. This has led to the creation of, what I believe, is a very broad and ambiguous definition of the word hazing.

The university website defines hazing as “any action taken or situation created intentionally, whether on or off campus or fraternity premises, that produces mental or physical discomfort, embarrassment, harassment or ridicule.” Yet, in my experience this definition has extended to simple and fun team building exercises and fun events that welcome new members to the Greek life.

Hazing has gone way too far in the past. This past November, The Daily Northwestern reported on student Sean Lavery, who as a pledge, was forced to fight a complete stranger. He walked away with a broken nose and needed surgery.

In 2012, The New York Times reported on George Desdunes, a student at Cornell who died after participating in an event where he was forced to drink excessive amounts of alcohol.

These are examples of what I would consider hazing. Students were seriously injured and died while participating in extremely dangerous events.

These kinds of events are irresponsible and the result of bone-headed decisions by pledges and brothers alike.  These are the events that should be banned, perpetrators punished and chapters placed on probation.

However, the definition of hazing has extended to far less controversial events.

As a pledge at Indiana University, I was expected to attend study sessions and maintain a minimum GPA. I also participated in events such as a dancing competition, a talent show, and team sports. Each one of those events could have been considered hazing. There was no alcohol involved. No beatings or humiliating activities were expected.

Most of my pledge brothers would even attest the best GPA they had in all of college came during pledgeship.

These events built the relationships that I now have with all of my brothers and help create my family.

Yet, we could have been in trouble for holding these events. We could have faced ethics boards and suspension.  It seems that in an effort to protect people from getting hurt and preventing lawsuits, almost everything has been labeled hazing. Having a scavenger hunt is hazing.  Making pledges study for school is hazing. Having pledges interview brothers is hazing. Doing a pledge retreat is hazing.

Next thing we know, being a pledge will become hazing. I can just see it now. When someone rushes, to avoid hazing the brothers or sisters will just have to hand over letters and say, “Welcome to club.”

When we sign our pledge to a house, whether for a fraternity or sorority, we recognize that we are not just going to be handed our letters. We have to earn them. That is what makes them so valuable to us.

If we did not have to work for our letters, I believe they would be as meaningless to us as getting a participation trophy.  That does not mean that we should allow hazing, but we need to redefine what hazing truly is.

We should not allow the simple fun events of pledgeship that built the bonds of brother and sisterhood be shattered because of bad decisions made by irresponsible people.

The administration should go after those who intentionally endanger the lives of their members, but not for events like a talent show.

If you are a brother or sister, use some common sense when you are doing events. Keep your members safe and protect yourselves.

As for the administration, it is time to think about what should really constitute hazing. I am proud to have earned my letters and if you ask any other Greek member, I bet they would feel the same.