Heard the name Robert Champion in the news? Champion, who was a former drum major at Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University, suffered severe blood loss and died after a hazing ritual during a band trip in 2011. The University of Wisconsin’s assistant band director resigned after alleged hazing incidents, including sexual misconduct and alcohol abuse, put the band on probation in 2006. After a pledge was hospitalized at Wayne State University for kidney failure following a hazing incident, all chapters of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc were temporarily shut down and not allowed to do new member intake. Members of a high school organization placed an empty bucket over a girl’s face, then proceeded to hit her in the head with a baseball bat.
The incidents above don’t even begin to scratch the surface of how serious hazing is. Many organizations have non-pledging, non-hazing rules on their websites, but with people getting injured and even killed while trying to join everything from Greek letter organizations to athletic teams, Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc held an Anti-Hazing Town Hall Meeting on Monday, October 8 to raise awareness on this important issue.
There were several speakers at the event including Rob Biddle, Greek advisor at MSU and a member of both the military and Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. Biddle addressed several issues, such as military drills versus hazing in Greek life and athletics. It may not seem fun, but physical exertion is necessary in the military to make sure you can survive: joining an organization requires no such physical feats. Every answer came down to one simple point: “Hazing is criminal activity,” he said.
The evening’s speakers also included a panel of representatives from various Greek organizations: Alpha Phi Gamma Sorority, Inc, Delta Tau Lambda Sorority, Inc, Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc, Sigma Lambda Gamma Sorority, Inc, and Zeta Sigma Chi Sorority, Inc. The panel shared their individual experiences of joining their respective organizations, and then the floor was opened for questions from the audience.
There were no easy questions, and no easy answers. A big discussion problem is why there’s a hazing problem in the first place. The desire to belong, elitism, duty and honoring traditions were all listed as reasons why hazing still occurs. “It’s hard when it’s all you know,” said a representative from Sigma Lambda Gamma. And it’s true: old habits are hard to kick, especially if the alumni are unsupportive.
In 2004, Michigan became the 44th state to implement an anti-hazing policy and although Michigan State does not have a specific policy, hazing is still illegal. The state policy was written by two Greeks, a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc and a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc, and lays out varying levels of monetary fines and jail time depending on the severity of the offense. For instance, a hazing incident causing physical injury is subject to 93 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.
It’s not just the Greeks, though. Co-ops, military groups, business organizations and athletic teams do it, too. According to information presented during the PowerPoint, athletic teams are the highest hazing group in the country.
So what’s the solution? Stop. Hazing is illegal in all forms, whether you’re the one hazing or you’re on the other end getting hazed. There’s no difference between taking wood and getting beat up in a gang initiation. It’s not worth the jail time, it’s not worth the money, and it’s certainly not worth losing your life.