Hazed and confused: Why would “brothers” do this to each other?

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September 22, 2009

12:17 AM

Hazing. It’s something that no one talks about, but everybody knows happens at the College of William and Mary. People contend that hazing is part of the process of joining certain organizations — many Greek organizations, clubs and sports teams haze their new members for a certain amount of time until they are deemed worthy of admittance. There are many different varieties of hazing; some are just an annoyance — like cleaning up after a party — but hazing can be much more extreme, and people can be forced to do things they would not normally do.

Last Friday, the New York Times published a story about a New Jersey high school’s attempt to stop female athletes from hazing freshmen. The story reported much of what most students here at the College already know: Complaining about hazing will only intensify it behind closed doors. The seniors taking part in hazing believe it was justified because it was no different than what they went through as freshmen.
Hazing ultimately has little to do with tradition or camaraderie. It’s about hierarchy — letting freshmen know that they are powerless and that seniors are their gods.

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Unfortunately, when you decide to pledge a fraternity you are, in essence, consenting to go through the hazing process in the hope that you will emerge from it a brother. When I asked my friends about pledging a lot of them say, “It is the most fun that you never want to have again.” Hazing is supposed to be in good fun, but some acts are solely meant to degrade the person, to let him or her know that they are not good enough.

Many brothers of fraternities believe that since they were hazed as freshmen they can now haze their new pledges — and who are they to break tradition? One of the main problems with this mentality occurs when the hazer steps over the line, something not uncommon when organization members have been waiting for years for the opportunity to extract some sort of retroactive revenge on those who hazed them.

I have no problem with hazing as long as the brothers or senior members of the organization take an equal part in it. The point of hazing is to foster brotherhood and for people in the organization to develop trust between each other.

This idea is lost when the senior members of an organization get their weekend entertainment from watching a naive freshman eat a live goldfish. It is foolish to think that if we abuse each other we will become closer. Go on a retreat or start an intermural football team.

There is no need for brothers to assault new members — it just leads to ill feelings toward each other and perpetuates a culture where affection is substituted with abuse. I understand that it is tradition for new members to go through hazing, but that doesn’t mean it accomplishes anything. How does dropping your pledges off miles away from campus and telling them to be back in a certain amount of time make your organization closer? It doesn’t — and keep in mind these distances can be miles away from campus in the middle of woods, and these events usually take place in the middle of the night.

If you honestly believe that the members of your organization became a tight-knit group after hazing and being hazed, then that’s fine. You accomplished something. But if you forced yourself to grin and bear it by fantasizing about torturing someone else three years later, you should probably take a step back and think about the sort of organization you’ve aligned yourself with and the sort of traditions you’re protecting.

E-mail Ben Arancibia at [email protected]

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