by Kathryn Willgus
Pledgeship for Greek organizations is in full swing here at The University of the South, and with 80% of the freshmen class going Greek, pledges can be spotted on every corner of campus. While boys wear coats and ties and must attend to every want and need of the active members, girls wear fanny packs and are forced often to humiliate themselves publicly. These pledge missions and hazing tactics may be entertaining for members of our community inside and out of these organizations, but it is not just fun and games. As I see it, there are three main missions of hazing: first, to create unity and brotherhood or sisterhood throughout the organization; second, to degrade new members and demonstrate superiority over them; and third, to eradicate individuality and create a standard for all members. It is the latter two negatives of hazing that will be the focus of this article.
The main purpose of the degradation seems to be to preserve a hierarchy within the organization. Pledges cannot be seen by others or feel like they are equal to active members. Therefore, girls are made to wear styles that are thought to be unattractive to men and are forced to publicly debase themselves on very intimate levels, including stunts that involve girls’ previous romantic partners. Not only is this embarrassing and upsetting for the individual, but it continues a tradition of androcentrism and a male standard dictating the actions of women.
While men seem very clean cut in public, it is behind closed doors that they are constantly challenged and forced to do various physical activities that test their bodies in the harshest ways possible. Although these methods are effective in maintaining a hierarchy within the organization, it is disgraceful that active members wish to take away the rights and freedoms of their new members, not to mention that there are very accessible ways to promote loyalty and respect without harming the mental and physical well being of individuals.
Although some people would say that Sewanee is a stereotypical-looking campus in terms of our student body, people here have individual traits and characteristics that make them who they are. Having such traits and displaying them freely is the basic principle of freedom of expression—whether it applies to the way one dresses, talks, or acts. However, Greek organizations strive to create a model for the organization that every member should follow. During pledgeship, new members are forced in many ways to dress and act exactly the same, and will eventually conform to the norm or standard of the organization. If an individual is a little quirky, there are often attempts to haze that individuality out of them. As described to me by one fraternity member, some young men have all of the right puzzle pieces, they just don’t have them exactly in the right order. This behavior is, to me, a repulsive violation of human rights. All people are entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Happiness is about finding a path in life that fits you, rather than conforming to someone else’s predetermined ideals of success.
Hazing is bad. Hazing can be dangerous, and often conflicts directly with lawful rights and freedoms of all individuals. Hazing isn’t necessary to have fun within an organization and create harmony and brotherhood among all members. For many people, college is the time to find yourself and be an individual, not a time to get lost in the crowd.