It is time for another Hazing Prevention Week. The initiative began as a way to market hazing speakers. Today, it embodies all of the political theater around fraternity hazing. All the while, we ignore the reality that our efforts to combat hazing reached their point of diminishing returns.
I do not need to get into that. I already have. . . here’s some source material:
- Why our authoritarian responses to hazing are hypocritical
- Public Universities are where hazers flourish, should we ban them?
- Prohibition makes hazing (and other things) more dangerous
- 3 ways the NIC & Piazza family can improve their coalition to combat hazing
No, I’d rather build upon this post with some inspiration from my non-Greek Life life. That post focused on individual actions you could do to pull your chapter away from the slippery slope toward dangerous hazing.
So, if you are a student intent on building the best brotherhood possible, consider my advice. It all revolves around you forming a covert, influential team of members to eradicate bullying from your friend club.
Things To Consider Before We Begin
There are three truths which should inform the goals of your task force’s “Keep Everyone Alive” initiative. They are as follows:
- Our issue is not hazing, it’s fratricide. Your mission is to figure out where fratricide might happen in your chapter and to nudge your chapter away from those blind spots. Remember, no one joins a fraternity to kill someone, so everyone will be on your side.
- Hazing does not just affect fraternities or fraternity-aged men. You may have already encountered hazing in elementary or high school or as a part of a team. You may re-encounter hazing as a professional. Your goal is to look to external organizations for answers. They are not liable for you and can therefore provide honest solutions without the lawyer-approved language.
- We are social organizations, and can succumb to social pressures. Bullying is common in fraternity chapters, and if you don’t tackle hazing as a subset of bullying (which it is), then you’re not approaching hazing correctly. This compartmentalized approach to hazing is why fraternity leaders have failed to prevent hazing-related fratricide.
The suggestions offered below are based on personal experience and anti-bullying/hazing training provided to me through non-fraternity organizations.
I’ve seen how bullying, and therefore hazing, are stopped
The answer is immediate, in-the-moment intervention. If you or a group of your brothers do not intervene immediately and consistently, there’s a chance your chapter will get bad once you leave.
I sounded like a girl as a kid, so much so that I pretended to be my mother and roll calls for her real estate business at the age of 12. She sold more than 5 homes with my help. In 2nd grade I consulted my sisters and mother to stand up to one of my bullies.
He never bullied me after I stopped him in his tracks. A second time, in 7th grade, an insecure kid who didn’t understand how awesome I was made it a point of calling me names. One day, while walking by one of my favorite teachers, he got caught. The teacher grabbed his arm, gave a respectable talk, and the student and I became friends from that point forward.
To put it simply, I’ve dealt with bullies, and as chapter president I tried my best to reverse the influence of my chapter’s biggest bullies. That said, sometimes the strength one gains from standing up to bullies can turn that person into a bully himself. This isn’t time to put on a tough face and shout the rules at members. No. The antidote to bullying and hazing is not coercive threats, but respect for oneself and those around him.
Your pro-Friendship, anti-Fratricide Squad
It is important that you build a team of influential members, just as if you were running for office in your chapter. This is guerrilla warfare – if hazing/systemic bullying happen in secret then your attempts to eliminate it should keep quiet too.
Choose brothers who have positive relationships with others in the chapter. Almost every group of humans has a “punching bag,” so select those brothers who noticeably do not take digs at your chapter’s punching bag or who stand up for them from time to time. Why is this important? As mentioned, the antidote to bullying is (self) respect, and we need people who help lift others.
This team should meet once every two weeks. It should work toward implementing the ideas provided in this post and improving the relationships between members of your chapter (brotherhood). It is more of a secret pep squad than a brotherhood committee. . . do not rely on a formal committee to accomplish much of anything. That includes eliminating fratricide.
Use this post to ensure that you are all mission-aligned and know how to influence members to think like you, rather than trying to force them to think like you.
Bully-Proof Your Recruitment
People put up a front during recruitment, but you can still get a baseline understanding of their personality by paying attention to how they make decisions or how they tell their story.
You may not be able to identify all bullies/hazers before they join your chapter, but here are some traits which should raise a yellow or red flag:
- Easily Frustrated
- Displays aggression
- Exhibits behavior problems in programs
- Lacks empathy
- Has difficulty following rules
- Views violence in a positive way
By no means does someone who exhibits some or all of these traits automatically qualify for “hazer,” but they can help you make informed recruitment decisions. Someone who doesn’t follow the rules of a sport, game, or rush itself is unlikely to follow your rules. A potential member who picks on other potential members, or even brothers, is likely to continue that as an initiate.
You will not change people. Don’t believe the hype of “building better men.” Better to deny them a bid and see if they care enough about your chapter to change.
If you see some of these signs, ask:
- What they expect out of the new member process
- Which brothers they’ve best connected with
- What they think of other fraternities/sororities
- If they were ever bullied
Responses to these types of questions may help you get a better understanding of how potential members tick. Actually, you should ask those questions to every potential member. As mentioned before – someone who was once bullied may turn into a bully themselves.
Get creative with New Member Orientation
Read this post – My big sisters helped me with bullies. Your new member’s big brothers should do the same.
Focus on where bullying (& fratricide) happens
I came across a list of where hazing is most likely to occur during training for my day job.
During one of your squad meetings, work with your group to identify where and when the following occur within your chapter’s regular activities:
- Transition times between activities
- Times when members crowd together
- Activities involving mixed ages/member classes
- Free times
- Overnight trips
- Activities that involve transporting members
- Before and after a meeting/program takes place
- Initiation activities
- Activities that involve changing clothes
Your goal here is to identify these “hot zones,” which is when most hazing-related fratricide occurs. You will then secretly appoint pairs of your squad members to protect your brothers during these high risk times.
Simple interventions, like saying “not now,” demonstrate to those being hazed/bullied that it’s okay to stand up to senior members of the chapter. Placing “monitors” in pairs also gives them backup.
Slow and steady wins the race
People want things to happen yesterday, but bullying is a part of human nature. It exists in all group. Try not to promote your squad too heavily within the chapter, lest you become the person your brothers keep secrets from.
You want to create a positive support network so that your anti-fratricide squad is no longer necessary. Get early members of your squad into positions overseeing ritual, risk management, and brotherhood activities. This authority will allow you to covertly and effectively implement new, positive traditions.
At the end of the day, only students have the power to end fratricide. Making it more illegal and telling people about it can only do so much. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to put together a high caliber team of brothers to undermine bully activity.