by James P. Adams
For those of you who do not know who I am, my name is James Adams and I’m a junior. I’ve been at Sewanee long enough to be able to look back at my time here and see all that good that Sewanee has to offer, but I think I am also able to see all of the bad. I am also the president of my fraternity, Chi Psi (The granite house with four white columns all the way at the end of Georgia Avenue. Word is still out on whether or not we own Lake Trez.) So, I have also been able to view many of the ins and outs of the fraternity system here at Sewanee and around the country.
There are many problems at Sewanee, just like there are many problems at all other colleges and universities: sexual assault, rape, disrespect or discrimination based on one’s gender, sexual orientation, or race, binge drinking, etc. The list is definitely a long one. However, the problem that is most prevalent and institutionalized in nearly every aspect of student life here is that of hazing. I know, I know, it’s hard to convince a Sewanee student that hazing is a problem. No one has died. No one has gotten hurt. What everyone does here isn’t that bad. And everyone does it.
That’s the problem. I get it. I really do. Giving a pledge a weird haircut for a few days can be funny. Having a pledge stand on top of a table in the library and tell jokes can be entertaining. However, the more serious side of hazing, the kind that lies behind closed doors, the kind that involves pledges doing wall-sits while having beer forced down their throats is the kind of hazing that isn’t funny. That sort of hazing is a major problem. That kind of hazing, and everything worse, can cause injuries, alcohol poisoning, and death.
Yes, some may say it’s a stretch to say that chugging beer can lead to death, but it’s everything that can go wrong in the meantime that is the problem. People get drunk and do stupid things. Welcome to college. Many people just don’t knowwhere to draw the line and that means hazing is unsafe.
So, we understand that hazing can be unsafe. Someone having to go to the hospital is bad. Someone dying because they were forced to drink too much or were forced to do something dangerous is obviously horrible. Not only is hazing unsafe, but it is also morally wrong. Yelling at a pledge, making them drink, telling them what to do, embarrassing them, or making a pledge engage in some level of personal servitude is all morally reprehensible. You’re telling them that they can’t make their own decisions, that they’re not really a person, and that they are less than you because they just happen to have had the luck of being born a year or two after you. It’s degrading. It’s mean. It’s telling another human being who has joined your organization that they are not worth the same level of humanity that you are worth.
Every single person deserves to be treated with dignity. You can’t argue that. Hazing lowers a person’s self-respect and dignity and that’s why it should never happen. The people around you, the people who live in your dorm, the other people in your classes, and the people who sit next to you in McClurg all deserve to be treated well. They are people just like you.