Being a member of a Greek-Letter Organization entails certain responsibilities. A member is expected to take part in the activities of the organization, serving in the day-to-day life of the chapter. A member is expected to be responsible for him/herself, turning in paperwork, paying bills on time, attending chapter meetings, etc. A member is expected to uphold the values of the organization.
While I know only one ritual, I do know that hazing has no part in any of the rituals of our organizations. I cringe whenever I read “hazing ritual” in an article because hazing is not a part of our rituals and has no place in any GLO.
Hazing has never made an individual a better person and it has never made an organization a better organization. It hasn’t. Yet, year after year, GLOs take center stage in the press for hazing violations. Hank Nuwer, an expert on hazing, keeps track of these things on his website. I follow his twitter account.
It breaks my heart to read some of the items he links to in his twitter posts. It’s hard to be a proponent for GLOs when reading about the actions of a small segment of our organizations. We are all discredited by the actions of a few.
I am reminded of a letter I read when writing the history of a fraternity chapter. The writer had achieved great prominence in his field. Yes, he noted, he was an initiate of the chapter but he wanted nothing to do with it. Why? When he was recruited, he was told there was zero-tolerance for hazing in the chapter. That turned out to be a half-truth, he said, and while he remained in the chapter because his close friends were there, he wanted nothing to do with the men who hazed him. The chapter lost someone who could have been a very loyal alumnus, but because of the actions of a few, he felt no loyalty to the organization. Moreover, the decades hadn’t softened his disdain. In replying to the invitation to speak to the chapter, he unleashed a torrent of anger about his experiences to young men who weren’t born when the hazing happened.
Every member reflects credit or discredit upon the organization to which they belong. Have our organizations become too big and/or successful for their own good? When we pitch membership to potential members do we stress the wrong things? Do we say “You will need to live by higher standards? You will need to do the right thing even though it may not be the easy or popular thing?” Or do we sell the fun aspects, without touching upon those things that are a bit harder to sell?
I am not coming up with any answers to these questions today. It’s food for thought.