Opinion: Pledges shouldn't be complicit in their own hazing

Students pledging fraternities should refuse to participate in hazing if they don't want to

Fraternity members may refer to themselves as 'the pinnacle of college men' or 'the kings of campus,' but what does it take to become one of these men? For a large majority, it may entail being subjected to harsh hazing rituals. 

These rituals have dated back to the dawn of fraternity life. Kappa Alpha Society, one of the first fraternities to be established, had the first hazing death in 1873. A pledge was blindfolded, left alone in the countryside to find his way home, fell off a cliff and died.

While today's fraternities utilize modern hazing tactics like binge drinking or embarrassing stunts, there are still incidents, some fatal, that occur across college campuses. 

Regardless of who is to blame, the pledges are just as responsible for hazing as the active members who haze them. Pledges allow for the behavior to continue and the idea gets passed from pledge class to pledge class. 

Regardless of age, each pledge is capable of making a conscientious decision about what activities they partake in. 

Brennan Lines, a political science sophomore and current prevention and wellness officer for the Phi Kappa Tau Fraternity at ASU, said that different fraternities' pledge classes may have mixed emotions about the hazing process, and there have been cases of pledges dropping due to these hazing rituals. 

"Everybody’s different, but I’d say for the most part pledges generally (are) consenting and participating at least," Lines said. "There is always that aspect of you can drop out — they're not actually forcing you to."

Lines said that there might be some outside pressures to continue with hazing, "but again, every fraternity is going to differ and be its own subculture."

According to a 2013 article for Rolling Stone, in 2012 at ASU's Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity “a prospective member drowned after a night of binge drinking at a fraternity event, and this May, brothers dumped one of their own in front of a local ER with a Post-It note on his body. According to reports, the young man, 20, had consumed 30 ounces of tequila, and his blood alcohol level was five times the legal limit."

Following the incident, the organization was kicked off campus in 2013.

According to AZ Central, "Bloomberg News reported that at least 10 deaths have been linked to hazing, alcohol or drugs at SAE events since 2006. SAE has a zero-tolerance policy toward hazing and eliminated pledging in March. It has 241 groups and 15,000 undergraduate members nationally, according to its website."

It seems like the trade-off for "life-long friends" is sometimes the choice between potential death or great bodily harm. While these incidents and deaths are always tragic to a college community, the only repercussion for saying no to a fraternity when hazing is the possibility of being dropped from or ostracism by the Greek community. 

Almost every state in the U.S., including Arizona, has laws to prevent hazing in educational institutions.

Knowing this and partaking in these rituals as a right of passage is not worth the repercussions. Pledges need to take a stand and not be subjected to humiliation and bodily harm to join an organization during their college years. 

Whether a student is an active member of a fraternity who is conducting the hazing or a pledge that is being hazed, both equally responsible for these actions and should take measures to stop the harmful tradition.

Reach the columnist at psaso@asu.edu and follow @paytonsaso on Twitter.

Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the authors’ and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

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