Hazing Prevention

Engaging Members in a Conversation About Hazing Prevention After a Membership Review

This article was originally published in the 2013 National Hazing Prevention Week Resource Guide ‘Know.Decide.Act’

Engaging Members in a Conversation About Hazing Prevention After a Membership Review

By Dave Westol

Hazing is almost always the primary reason for the issues that led to the decision to conduct a membership review of a chapter. Loss of respect…zero accountability…significant divisions between classes…all trace their roots back to hazing.

Now that we have removed most of the problematic members, how can we engage the new chapter members in a discussion about hazing?

Begin by asking questions.

What are (not “were”) the real issues in the chapter? What does “better” look like? How can we ensure that the same issues do not arise again? How can we prevent a repetition of the membership review in two or three years? What role should pledging play in changing our chapter?

Fraternity members have a deep and abiding belief that “As pledging goes so goes the member”—in other words, the tone, commitment, dedication and enthusiasm of a member are established during the PNM process. While that is not necessarily true or accurate, it is what many members believe.

Therefore, shouldn’t we change our PNM process to reflect what we want members to become rather than what they became before the membership review—a group of robots who simply did what they were told to do, endured what they were told to endure, and experienced every negative group dynamic including bullying and taunting with the understanding that once they were “activated” (their word) they would be magically transformed into brilliant brothers who exemplified the values and ideals of Alpha Beta Gamma?

A long question but you get the idea. Challenge the status quo.

I like to use “Moneyball”—the book or the movie–as a basis for change since most fraternity men enjoy using athletics and teamwork as a metaphor for fraternity.

What beliefs, traditions and sacred commandments did Billy Beane challenge in professional baseball? Note: Billy Beane challenged nearly every cliché relating to recruitment of players and game management, ranging from speed afoot to aggressive hitting to putting recent high school graduates who had a 92 mph fastball into the minor leagues rather than having them attend college.)

Then, apply those same questions in context to traditional pledging and especially hazing. Prove to me that hazing works. And if hazing is so good, why do you have guys who drop away from the chapter as sophomores…as juniors…who disappear as seniors? Why do some of your best members take their leadership talents outside of the chapter? Why aren’t all your members involved in the hazing? Why do your best members often abstain from hazing while your worst members—leaving a trail of unattended meetings, unpaid bills and unrealized potential–are the loudest advocates for hazing?

The pro-hazers…and there will be some who remain despite the best membership review process—will be unable to answer your questions. Good. That is a start.

Then, work with the members who possess the vision and the courage to make changes and to eliminate the hazing. Keep asking questions—what is the purpose of this activity? The intended outcome? The actual outcome? Do we exemplify our fraternity and its ideals by doing this activity?

Most undergraduates who have been through a membership review do not want to repeat the experience. If you have no other point to begin the discussion, let it begin there. If pledging is indeed where changes will begin, then we need to eliminate hazing from that process. Let us lead by example.