Colleges around the world, most notably in North America, the Philippines, and various countries in Europe have adopted Greek Life as a major part of campus life. These schools are home to fraternities and sororities, of which some have roots reaching all the way back to the late 1700s. Formed on the basis of fostering family, service, and social unity, involvement in fraternities and sororities were seen as prestigious positions in which one could better their communities and experience family life within a group of housemates.
Greek Life (specifically modern Greek Life) has become extremely popular within Western culture, a main factor of this popularity being the renowned tradition involved. Traditions originating from earlier chapters (the term given to “dynasties” of sororities/fraternities) of Greek Life organizations such as secret handshakes, meetings, and passwords have been extended to include an vast array of unpleasant practices. The focus of my post is on the extremities of those unpleasant practices.
While tradition, challenge, and competition are among the valuable elements of several unions, Greek Life organizations that take these aspects too far are shown to be not only the originators of fatal situations, but the twisted reality to which “family” has been associated with.
Hazing is defined as “humiliating and sometimes dangerous initiation rituals, especially as imposed on college students seeking membership to a fraternity or sorority” by Merriam-Webster dictionary. Hazing takes on different forms- forced streaking, being assigned a derogatory name, solitary confinement sans food, water, and bathroom privileges, etc. While hazing, a practice that has been around for ages, is often seen as merely fun and games, it is this mentality that leads people to underestimate the consequences that their “fun and games” can incur.
The danger of hazing can be seen in countless documented cases. For example, Chun Deng, who died after being shoved in the snow and injuring his skull during a scavenger hunt ritual in a Pi Delta Psi fraternity. Or Jack Culolias, who was “accidentally drowned” in a river after enduring “Hell Week”, the initiation process of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity. Or a girl who was beaten with paddles in the Sigma Gamma Rho sorority after she was told it would “humble her” and create “love and trust between sorority sisters”.
It angers me that belonging and friendship have been warped into such conditional and terrible concepts. It angers me that Sigma Alpha Epsilon’s mission statement is to “promote the highest standards of friendship, scholarship and service for our members based upon the ideals set forth by our Founders and as specifically enunciated in “The True Gentleman” “, and yet, it is hailed as one of the most notorious fraternities associated with death. It angers me that people think that preservation of hazing is preservation of tradition.
I realize that not all hazing has deadly results. I also realize that getting made fun of or being bullied is a part of life, but why does it have to be? How many stories have been told of kids who were killed or committed suicide as a result of “harmless taunting”? I believe that the miscalculation of others’ words and actions upon an individual is a grave mistake.
There have been over 56 fraternity/sorority related deaths since 2000 in the U.S. There is a fine line between camaraderie and utter absurdity. Why does acceptance entail injury, embarrassment, or in the extreme, death? Since when is it okay to preserve “tradition” at the cost of causing brotherhood or sisterhood to lose their meaning?
*While many colleges have adopted Greek Life, several do not tolerate hazing. My intention is not to generalize, but to call attention to schools that continue to ignore it.