By Katie Ray
According to Sewanee’s Student Organization Handbook, there are three levels of hazing. Level 1 includes things like road trips, requiring pledges to wear certain outfits, periods of silence, and personal servitude. Level 2 includes more disruptive things like restricting diets, sleep deprivation, humiliation, and disrupting a pledge’s academic life. Level 3 is much more severe with things such as branding, paddling, and compromising sexual activities. These seem like obvious signs that people would report, right?
During Spring Rush this year, Sewanee’s freshman and heads of Greek organizations had to attend a screening of the movie Haze. Now, the movie was very good at addressing the issues of hazing and complacency in greek culture. That is not my issue. My issue comes from the fact that we did not actually get to talk about hazing towards women. Most hazing conversations and examples come from men, specifically white men.
The bidding process for sororities at Sewanee makes the entire experience a little dehumanizing. The organizations sit in a room with their names on pieces of paper, waiting for the girls on their first list to be called. (We are told to have two lists: one with our cap, and then extra ones.) All of the girls rushing have at this point already ranked all 11 sororities in order from who they want. Throughout the Fall semester, they have been going to parties and meeting members of the Srats, but nothing is guaranteed. It was stressed that every girl would be going through this year. Every girl would be getting a bid card, even if it was from their 10th choice.
For girls, rushing seems like more of a life-or-death situation than anything else. There is a lot of pressure, both internal and external, to get into the organization of your choice. Once you are in, you want to stay in. Rarely do pledges rock the boat of their organization because there is a thin line between getting to stay and having to leave.
Although binge drinking, such as pledge classes having to drink 100 beers in a night between themselves, or sleep deprivation, like having to complete an all white puzzle while drunk with the lights on at 2 am, happen on campus, the more subtle acts of hazing end up doing more harm than good.
According to Vice-Chancellor John McCardell, “If it happens once it is a scandal. If it happens twice, it is a tradition.” Hazing culture at Sewanee has become more of a tradition than a scandal here. I see girls walking through Clurg with their bright name tags on and pledge beads branding them across their necks. Guys come in with shaved heads and suit jackets. If you ask any pledge, they will say it is voluntary, but it becomes a psychological game.
If you are the one pledge who is not wearing their pledge beads or not wearing your organization’s dress code to class every day, it sets you up as not one of the team. The toxic mindset that pledges are conditioned into makes them more susceptible to turning a blind eye towards their own organization’s bad press.
Many of the arguments I have seen about hazing talk about the team bonding experience of shared trauma. That is toxic. In Haze, they talk about how you are not forced to go through any psychological damage or physical trauma by your friend groups. Why does that not apply to Greek organizations?
On a final note, I am going to tell everyone something that I did not see brought up during the entire rush week: you can anonymously report hazing on the Sewanee Greek Life webpage.