Greek organizations have been a part of American universities for hundreds of years, and while many may think fondly of their time as a part of “Greek Life,” a fair share of members report negative experiences due to hazing.
Hazing consists of collective activities members of a Greek organization require prospective members to undertake as part of a "bonding" experience. Some of the activities "pledges" have endured are dangerous, embarrassing or illegal.
On several campuses across the country, hazing has led to the deaths of students trying to join the Greek organizations. Most of the fatalities involved alcohol – even though the typical "pledge" is not old enough to legally drink. Other typical initiation practices from the past have included "streaking" – running naked through campus; consuming unsavory foodstuffs, live goldfish or potentially hazardous items; and sexual encounters, sometimes in a public fashion.
Back in the mid-1980s, a Northeastern State University fraternity, Phi Lambda Chi, ran afoul of local law enforcement officials during an "egging" ritual along the banks of the Illinois River. The group left hundreds of empty cartons and piles of eggshells, as well as empty bottles of alcohol and beer cans.
NSU officials no longer tolerate that type of behavior, and any Greek organization engaging in such activities is likely to have its charter pulled. Local fraternities and sororities can even suffer the consequences when members of chapters on other campuses engage in hazing. Most recently, Pi Kappa Alpha was in the spotlight after a potential member of the Bowling Green State University died from alcohol-related causes.
NSU is home to several different Greek organizations, and they all have similar stances on hazing and do not tolerate it. But that does not mean new members – sometimes called "pledges" – do not have a certain rituals they must go through.
Grace Pere, new member educator for the Alpha Iota chapter of Sigma Sigma Sigma, said one of the sorority's goals while educating and initiating new members is to try not to set them apart from current members.
“Regular new member processes are where new members are respected and treated as equal to the rest of the chapter,” said Pere. “Hazing is forcing new members to participate in actions or activities that seek to differentiate them from other members and embarrass or harm them. In these new member processes, the major difference is that new members are treated as if they need to earn the respect of the other members.”
Regular new-member activities for fraternities and sororities include a handful of weeks spent meeting and getting to know current active members, learning the history of the fraternity or sorority, and attending workshops that vary, based on the individual organizations. Many of the processes new members go through are meant to be kept secret from those not affiliated with the group.
“In a proper new-member experience, a Greek organization will inform its new members of the standards and requirements for membership,” said Sara Wilson, president of the Chi Theta chapter of Alpha Omicron Pi. “During this period, new members will receive mentors, participate in activities, and undergo an initiation ceremony.”
Wilson added that hazing typically occurs when active members of the organization attempt to put themselves in a position of authority or power over the new members.
“If hazing takes place during this phase, new members might be pressured to perform embarrassing or difficult tasks for the organization in order to gain their respect,” said Wilson. “Common hazing tactics include forced sleep deprivation, excessive drinking games, and errands for older members.”
Numerous consequences can come with hazing. Some states have laws that combat the act of hazing to join any organization, and many typical hazing incidents require students to do something illegal, such as trespassing, underage drinking, shoplifting or break-ins. These actions can come with serious consequences, and NSU’s Greek organizations understand this, along with the immorality of these acts.
“I can proudly state that we are a non-hazing fraternity,” said Casey Edwards, president of the Theta Epsilon chapter of Pi Kappa Alpha. “We understand the consequences and negative effects of hazing, and that it can result in expulsion from the university, as well as being removed from campus as an organization.”
For information on the Greek organizations at Northeastern State University, visit https://offices.nsuok.edu/engagement/StudentEngagement/FraternitySororityLife