HomeBrotherhoodHazing Prevention: Building Brotherhood

Hazing Prevention: Building Brotherhood

Uniting Voices of Support

No plan is complete without the necessary motivation to take action and make a difference. The movement to end hazing is propelled by a collective and that motivation to create change is generated through genuine support for one another. There are many individuals contributing to this effort by promoting solutions and upholding positive values. Hear their story.

Be the Change

Building a world beyond the shadow of hazing not only requires people to be educated and aware but to take personal responsibility for effecting positive change. The initial steps may be as simple as doing additional research, checking in with others to make sure they are educated as well, or just starting the conversation. To create intentionality, everyone has to be on the same page, and even if they truly believe that is the case, speaking it aloud makes it feel that much more real. From there, it’s possible to teach others who are less educated on the matter, share impactful stories, or distribute meaningful research. Soon after, it feels manageable to begin re-evaluating behaviors, assessing policies, and doing outreach. 

These steps can be taken by anyone, not just fraternity and sorority members. However, Greek communities are guided by creeds that demand they seek to better themselves and those around them, making them the prime candidates to champion much of this work. The elimination of hazing is a long-overdue reckoning that must be welcomed with open arms if brothers and sisters are to uphold their creeds and live out the values they claim to cherish. Instead of being overwhelmed by the bigger picture, ask yourself, ‘what can I be doing better in my own life and practices?’ If everyone were to look in the mirror and choose to be kind and empathetic, there would be no place left for such darkness. 

Advocating for Accountability

Creating accountability within an organization comes from bylaws, standards, and curated culture. Many groups have these things already, making it just as important to follow through. Establishing a zero-tolerance policy within a brotherhood or sisterhood is only the first half. The second half is recognizing when someone has violated that policy, no matter how small of a behavior it might be, and taking immediate action to report it. If this had been the case in Tim’s, Max’s, and so many others’ chapters, then they would all still be here today.  

Similarly, there must be policies and laws for all of society to create accountability and real-world repercussions for committing such a hateful act towards another person. This process is ongoing, but it needs support and advocacy in order to bring it forward and into the public eye. 

The Timothy J. Piazza Anti-hazing Law institutes tiers of hazing that address various severities of hazing crimes, such as hazing resulting in bodily injury versus serious bodily harm and/ or death. While it is still zero-tolerance, it allows for the nuances of various forms of hazing and punishes accordingly. 

The Max Gruver Act institutes mandatory reporting, ensuring that anyone who becomes aware of a hazing crime takes the necessary steps to alert others. The Act creates standards of accountability that apply to all active parties, enforcing a uniform approach towards reporting and the resulting investigations.

The laws themselves are much more detailed, encompassing a wider scope of issues and policies, but the primary goal of both of them is creating accountability through a powerful and intentional system of deterrents. Their goal is never to close chapters or destroy organizations. Their goal is to create a formal infrastructure that empowers individuals to speak out when they see or experience hazing and to target the individual actors that commit the crime or tolerate it by doing nothing or hiding it. Spreading these and other policies to every campus across every state requires individuals to be educated on their purpose and commit themselves to supporting their implementation. 

Open and consistent conversations with trained educators, health and safety officers, and anyone else with a knowledgeable background in the well-being of students is key to ensuring that fraternities and sororities are welcoming spaces by design.  

Prevention and Intervention

National and state laws create a shift in society, but there are also local strategies that can be applied quickly to individual campuses or chapters. Prevention models require education on the various forms and levels of hazing, with the goal of identifying potentially harmful activities before they escalate. They also take things a step further by looking at the types of environments students are socializing in and ensuring they are so well-thought-out that even the smallest forms of hazing have no place. Applying prevention models is something an individual chapter can undergo by asking for help and dedicating themselves to their enforcement. 

Things like creating membership hierarchies, using historical terms such as pledge, or having spontaneous events with no prior planning may not seem like harmful activities, but they set the stage for more serious violations. Membership hierarchies divide members and make new recruits feel subservient, whether that is the intention or not. 

Words like “pledge” carry with them negative connotations and erroneous pop-culture representations that upstanding models of fraternity do not accept and should never tolerate. Lastly, an event with no planning is much more likely to include alcohol and devolve into negative behaviors that can then snowball into hazing. Members having open and consistent conversations with trained educators, health and safety officers, and anyone else with a knowledgeable background in the well-being of students is key to ensuring that fraternities and sororities are welcoming spaces by design.  

Intervention becomes necessary if, despite all of those prevention strategies, a hazing instance occurs or a negative influence is found. Swift and purposeful action is the only way to ensure that hazing does not take root. Hearing someone talk about risky behavior or seeing them engage in high-risk behaviors requires bystanders to become involved. Standing quietly and watching a member haze another is an act of enablement and empowers the negative behavior to persist and spread throughout the chapter. 

The truth is that hazing feeds off of inactivity because that is a form of validation. Whether it feels like it or not, saying nothing becomes a voice of support, and that is why anti-hazing requires active voices of opposition. If someone does not feel equipped to handle a situation on their own, then help needs to be called as soon as possible to prevent the situation from worsening. Creating clear, structured policies for intervention enables all members to feel confident that they can take action when necessary and feel safer knowing that their brothers and sisters will do the same.

The truth is that hazing feeds off of inactivity because that is a form of validation.

Be Yourself

The most important rule to follow as an active member of the Greek community is to never support a space or culture that does not accept its members as individuals. Maintaining personal boundaries and a strong sense of self is the only way to be a strong leader as opposed to being lost in the crowd. A space that demands you prove yourself or surrender your individuality is not a fraternity or sorority. During recruitment, new members are chosen based on their strong character and ability to contribute to a chapter’s mission. That should be the end of the “process,” and everything going forward is education provided for betterment, not embarrassment. 

Fraternity stands for empowerment and growth, and though it may ask you at times to step outside your comfort zone, the purpose for doing so should always be clear, meaningful, and without risk of mental or physical harm. If activities have to be conducted under shrouds of darkness or hidden away from friends and family, then they are not part of an uplifting culture. There is no reason to accept treatment within a chapter that you would not accept outside of it. Similarly, you would never harm a biological sibling, nor would you demand that they prove themselves, making it equally unnecessary and illogical to do so with Greek brothers and sisters. 

New members: protect yourselves and your newfound brothers or sisters by holding them accountable for all of the positive attributes that they advertised during recruitment. If your first weeks of membership make you question why you joined or you notice behaviors that do not align with a zero-tolerance for hazing, then it is up to you to reach out and help break the cycle. 

Current members: treat your new members with the respect and dignity that you expect in return. Seniority in a brotherhood or sisterhood makes you a mentor, not a warden. New members should be able to look up to you, trust you, and they should never have a reason to resent you. Hazing them will only cause the latter and leave no ability to ever regain the former.

Hazing Ends When…

Everyone can make a difference. There are many different ways to take a stand against hazing. All of them require a strong sense of self-identity and an unwillingness to compromise personal safety and the safety of others. “What can I do to help?” should now change to, “What will I do today?” Equipped with intention and knowledge, we must all push forward together by agreeing to take action and raise one another’s voices until a worldwide chorus says, “Hazing ends now.” 

The story doesn’t end here… Join us tomorrow for Episode 5: Lead with Values.


Special Thanks:

Clark Brown, General Counsel, North American Interfraternity Conference

Rae Ann and Steve Gruver, Parents of Max Gruver

Jack Kreman, CEO of Delta Tau Delta

Bobbi Larsen, Education Consultant for Holmes Murphy & Associates

Brandi Hephner LeBanc, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs & Campus Life, University of Massachusetts

Jay McGuire, Founder of Parents and Alumni for Student Safety (PASS)

Kelly Phillips, Former Director of Fraternity and Sorority Life, University of Tennessee

Evelyn and Jim Piazza, Parents of Tim Piazza

Trent Porter, Alumnus Sigma Phi Epsilon

Stevan Veldkamp, Executive Director of the Piazza Center at Penn State University


Copyright 2021, eHub Networks, LLC

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