fraternity hazing

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Question:

I’m one of the first members to be part of a non-hazing program.  We have about 15-20 of us who were not hazed and 10 that are still around who were.  The rest of the fraternity quit because of the decision to stop hazing.  The problem is, we haven’t improved as a chapter and there is naturally a rift between the members.  Because of the situation our rush, social, dues and brotherhood morale is the worst it has ever been and when alumnae come into town they only want to haze the new members.

How can we fix this without going back to the “old ways” like some members want to do?

Answer:

Eliminating hazing does not make a chapter great.  However, a chapter that hazes cannot be great.

It appears that you really have two issues going on.  First is hazing; second is improving your fraternity.

In regards to hazing, you guys should be commended for your no-hazing stance.  It is extremely difficult to change an established culture in a chapter.  You guys made a move that will ensure the longevity of your chapter and you should be proud of it.

When leaders make a change that is unpopular with some of the brothers, they make the change and move on.  They don’t dwell in the past.  The move was made, now it is time to be positive and put it behind you.

The brothers who are not happy with it have two choices – they can be part of the new fraternity or they can quit.  Of course you hope that the dissenting brothers take the high road and conform to the new mindset of the chapter.  If they don’t though, let them quit.  You don’t need this type of cancer to permeate your new member program.


The same goes for your alumni.  If they decide to haze, respectfully explain to them that hazing is not allowed in the chapter.  Hazing is something that is not in accordance to your values and should never be condoned.  If they don’t like it, then they are not welcome to the house.  Don’t ever let anyone bully the members of your chapter – regardless of who they are.

Hazing may be the issue that has caused a divide in the fraternity, but it isn’t the reason why you are struggling.  You are struggling because your chapter just isn’t very good right now – hazing is just being used as a scape-goat reason.  Fortunately, there are a few steps that can improve your fraternity rapidly.

Improve Your Strength

Your fraternity and your brothers are good at something.  It could be the typical fraternity functions like intramural sports, social or community service events.  Or it can be something completely different like music, hiking or debate.  Regardless, your collection of guys have a strength.

Whatever that is, make that a focus of the fraternity.  If you do, you will see a few things great things happen.

You will see brothers become more engaged because people like to do what they are good at.  Since the focus is on what the chapter is good at, the chances of success are higher.  Everyone likes to succeed, and this will bring a positive vibe in the chapter.

This strategy is not revolutionary.  It is pretty common in business.  GE made it famous in the 80s by eliminating every business it was in that wasn’t in the top two of its industry.  They only wanted to be a part of the things they were good at because it increased their chances of success.  This is valuable advice for your chapter.

Everyone Needs to Look Forward to Something

If your fraternity has gone stale, a probable reason why is there is nothing in the future they are looking forward to.

Talk to the brothers, find out what they want the chapter to do, then plan whatever that is in the future.  Get everyone involved in the planning stage and talk it up like it is the greatest thing that will happen since NC State’s 1983 NCAA Championship.

Of course it won’t be, but that doesn’t matter.  What matters is your brothers will be excited about what the fraternity is doing and what they are doing.  That excitement is infectious and will create a ton of positive momentum.

Hang Out More

The core of any fraternity is the brotherhood.  When chapters struggle, the brotherhood inevitably isn’t as close as they should be.

Fixing brotherhood is easy.  You just need to hang out more.  The more you hang out, the stronger your personal relationships will become.  The stronger those relationships are, the stronger your chapter will be.

Make it a point to invite brothers to be a bigger part of your life.  Are you going to the movies on a date? Invite a brother and his girlfriend to make it a double.  Are you going to the dining hall?  Send a mass text inviting your brothers to join you.  Are you going to play ball at the gym?  You get the idea….

If there are enough guys who make a point to do this, it won’t take long before your friendships improve dramatically.  Stronger friends make stronger brothers which will make a stronger fraternity.

Good luck.  I know it seems daunting to be a part of a fraternity that is struggling.  You cannot and should not try to fix everything at once.  Get a few small wins under your belt.  Focus on getting a little better every day.  If you do, it won’t take long before you see significant improvements.

I realize this is the quick answer to a significant problem your chapter is facing.  Realize that my book was written for guys who are facing problems just like yours.  I wrote it from the mindset of how I would run a chapter if I was starting from scratch.  I think it will really help you with the issues you are struggling with.  To learn more about my book – go here: The Fraternity Leader – The Complete Guide to Improving Your Chapter.






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5 thoughts on “Hazing has Split My Fraternity

  1. “Hell Week” hazing had its roots in military boot camp practices brought back to campus by returning World War II veterans. However, after the veterans cycled through college, less experienced members retained the abuse without the purpose (as Christopher pointed out in an earlier post).

    However, dumping hazing is only part of the answer. Hazing, done properly, served its purpose. It QUICKLY bonded the pledges through a shared ordeal. Without hazing, a fraternity has to develop brotherhood in a different way — and this takes much longer than a week or two. This is why modern pledge programs last for six to eight weeks or longer.

    It is difficult for a college student to maintain the proper focus for several weeks. But, without that focus, true bonding and brotherhood is unlikely to be achieved. A successful pledge program must create shared physical experiences and a carefully crafted program of education to achieve the same results that were achieved under the old hazing system.

    • Interesting, thanks for your input. Can you provide any examples of a activities that create these shared physical experiences without hazing?

  2. If fraternities are to survive, hazing has no place in Greek life. While this at first glance appears to be an elementary observation, the old, passé mindset holds the opposite. Maintain your integrity, your aversion to group-think, and priceless core values that define who you are as an individual. You will find, as you get on with your life, that this is an intrinsic virtue that can only enhance your standing as a person, as an individual of character, as a true asset to the human race – both collectively and individually. Celebrate who you are. michaelstarks.org.

    • George makes some good points. Maintaining one’s core beliefs is important. However, too many fraternity members today believe that “individuality” means a guy can do whatever he wants, whenever he wants to do it. Belonging to any organization requires that an individual buys into the organization’s purpose and values. The individual will have to go along with the will of the majority from time to time if group unity is to survive. Sure, no fraternity member should bow to peer pressure and compromise his values, but no man should remain a fraternity member if he cannot abide by the decisions of the group.

  3. I find that the major issue with hazing is not simply that it is done, but that it lacks purpose now.

    The military uses degradation ceremonies upon entrance to boot camp to break away the old features of an individual, but then they work to give them skills and build them up. Today, Fraternities have the break down portion, but don’t have the build up. My hazing was being told how crappy of pledges we were, cleaning, and making fun of us. None of that was traumatizing, but it created a pledge class in which we had been told how crappy we were and never told that we had grown into men. Fraternities need to see pledging not as a test of worthiness, but a building moment to make them up to the standards of the men we hope them to be during and after their time in undergraduate. I wish my experience had been full of lessons from men with experience in college, advice on how to maturely deal with challenges in college, and experiences that taught me how the brotherly bond was a higher standard.

    So that said, I see where what may be called hazing by some can be used in the molding of an upstanding man, but since it has become prohibited, it is an underground activity with no direction.

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