Saturday, March 31, 2012

On hazing

This article was brought to my attention yesterday. Featured in Rolling Stone, it covers alleged hazing that took place at Dartmouth. Essentially, a young man who had been a member of a fraternity at Dartmouth exposed everything that he had gone through in an opinion piece in the school paper. I had already come across his column last week, but the Rolling Stone article covers more of the response from the school’s Greek community, which I’m more interested in writing about.

Dartmouth, unlike many Ivy League schools, boasts a large, and historic, Greek community. While other Ivies have eating clubs, many fraternities and sororities have some of their oldest chapters at Dartmouth. It’s unsurprising, then, that the Greek community is fairly tight knit. That being said, the response to hazing allegations against the school’s chapter of SAE are extremely disappointing.
Following allegations, the Greek community banded together to voice their disapproval of the young man’s “whistle-blowing.” They fought back by insisting that he had lied, and emphasizing that he was a “disgrace” to their community.

That response makes me sick.

You would think that in some of the oldest chapters of Greek lettered organizations, someone would understand years and years of values. Where in any chapter’s ritual is hazing okay? Did anybody’s founders intend to foster an environment where sisterhood/brotherhood is built through binge drinking and abuse? Mine certainly did not.

How embarrassing for the Greek community at Dartmouth, and the Greek community as a whole, that young men and women ostracize someone who has been treated in a way that doesn’t align with organizational values and ideals. Why isn’t the Greek community leading the charge to uncover the truth, and to reprimand organizations that do not follow their founding principles?

His allegations are just that, allegations. But if there is truth to his story, shouldn’t members of the Dartmouth fraternity and sorority community want to put an end to abusive behavior that in no way, shape, or form reflects the deeper meaning of Greek life?

Like I’ve written earlier, it takes one person in one chapter on one campus to deal a significant blow to the credibility of our organizations. More importantly, how we, as young men and women, choose to respond to things like hazing that threaten our deeper purpose, impacts how we are viewed. Holding collegiate chapters and members accountable for their actions, especially when they go against everything the organization stands for, is vital to the health of our organizations.

Hazing isn’t just a Greek problem – it’s a cultural problem. We make fun of rookies who are hazed publicly, even writing about it in major newspapers. But when the Greek community refuses to hold our members accountable, we make it a Greek problem, and it reflects poorly on all of us.

It's time for the Dartmouth community, and the International Greek community, to stand up for what our founders believed; to stand up for what members have preserved for over a hundred years. Hazing doesn't build respect, it destroys it. Until we can hold our own accountable, how will we ever be able to make a truly positive impact?

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