It’s National Hazing Prevention Week. This year it began on September 21. My twitter feed is full of “These hands don’t haze” memes. It’s not a coincidence that the week happens when many students are assimilating into Greek-letter organizations. Hazing has no place in any organization, but getting that message out to the rank and file members is not easy, especially if all those members know about an organization is what they’ve seen in the media or in embellished stories from older members. Membership and chapter culture changes each year, too, adding an extra challenge to it all.
Hazing, according to the definition on HazingPrevention.org, is “any action taken or any situation created intentionally that causes embarrassment, harassment or ridicule and risks emotional and/or physical harm to members of a group or team, whether new or not, regardless of the person’s willingness to participate.”
Hazing is not exclusive to GLOs. Professional sports teams have been known to haze rookies. Colleges and universities once supported class rivalries and potentially dangerous competitions were held between classes. My alma mater, Syracuse University, had its Salt, Cane, Flour, Orange, and Snow Rushes.
College customs were much discussed in the Greek-letter organization magazines of the early 1900s. The December 1905 Delta Upsilon Quarterly contained this report on the Syracuse chapter’s activities, “The Flour rush and Salt rush were held as usual and furnished the same amusement to the spectators and the same exhibition of class spirit as heretofore, the former being won by the freshmen and the latter by the sophomores.”
Gamma Phi Beta’s Alpha Chapter outlined some of Syracuse’s traditions in the November 1906 Crescent of Gamma Phi Beta, “Class distinction is impressed upon the ‘Freshie’ by a flour rush and a salt rush; in the Spring he retorts by an extraordinary ‘parade’ and a moving ceremony, in which the ‘Freshies’ bury their hated green caps which they have been forced to wear all the year.”
According to a chapter report in the January 1911 Alpha Phi Quarterly, “At the beginning of each college year the men have a series of rushes which include the salt rush, flour rush, the football rush, and later the snow rush. Only the underclassmen participate in these and everyone is glad to see the freshmen win as they usually do. The freshmen form at the foot of Crouse Hill, and the sophomores at the top. Then they rush at each other, throwing bags of salt or flour as the case may be, and the sophomores try to prevent the freshmen from reaching the top of the hill. Wrestling matches follow the rushes. The men usually escape with a few cuts and bruises but these, of course, are marks of honor.”
This excerpt from a 1930 Onondagan yearbook gives more details, “The Flour Rush, which took place on September 28 (1929), was a victory for the freshmen who stormed the Irving Avenue side of Crouse College with bags of flour and completely routed the sophomores with their fire hose. Boxing and Wrestling matches followed. A tie rush was scheduled between the halves of the St. Lawrence game, but this was called because of the mud. The Salt rush which followed soon after was a chance for revenge for the men of ‘32, and they took advantage of it.”
These traditions died out by the early 1940s. Inter-class rushes were not confined to Syracuse; they were part of campus life on many other campuses. Salt Rushes took place at other upstate New York schools including St. Lawrence University and Colgate University. This may have been because, Syracuse supplied much of the country’s salt. Cane Rushes in which freshmen and sophomores sparred over possession of a cane were commonplace at schools all over the country.
Sigma Nu, co-sponsor of the #40Answers campaign which precedes National Hazing Prevention Week, was founded by three cadets at the Virginia Military Institute after the Civil War. Hazing was rampant in the institution, “the system of physical abuse and hazing of underclassmen at VMI led to James Frank Hopkins, Greenfield Quarles, and James McIlvaine Riley to form the ‘Legion of Honor’ which soon became Sigma Nu Fraternity.” Whenever I hear of a hazing incident involving Sigma Nu, I wonder if those involved failed to make the connection between the founding of their organization and the transgression done by their own chapter.
The bottom line is that hazing has absolutely no place in today’s GLOs. The future of all of our organizations is at stake. That, choir, is the sermon for today.
© Fran Becque, www.fraternityhistory.com, 2016. All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed this post, please sign up for updates. Also follow me on twitter @GLOHistory and Pinterest www.pinterest.com/glohistory/