Our Opinion: Hazing Culture Needs Re-examination

The Emory administration suspended the Georgia Beta chapter of Phi Delta Theta fraternity during the summer until Fall 2017. A student conduct investigation revealed that the fraternity engaged in hazing practices during spring recruitment. Emory has a no-tolerance policy towards hazing and defines it as “a broad term encompassing any activity expected of someone joining a group (or to maintain full status in a group) that humiliates, degrades or risks emotional and/or physical harm, regardless of the person’s willingness to participate.” Hazing is also illegal under Georgia state law.

Phi Delt is not the only Greek organization that has been suspended for hazing violations in the past few years — in fact, it’s the fourth. Therefore, we at the Wheel feel it is important to discuss the root-cause of hazing: why students find it appropriate to haze their peers, and what both students and the Emory community can do about it.

The fraternity’s removal from Emory sheds light on a broader issue. Though the rules and consequences on hazing have been made clear, the mentality seems to remain that hazing behaviors are somehow acceptable unless they’re caught. If change is going to happen, it needs to happen at the grassroots level.

The administration should be more active — not just reactive — in preventing the damages caused by hazing. Yet in the current culture, it seems that such acts are inevitable. Perhaps the administration can make it clear that the University guarantees secrecy to any student who files a complaint, as well as encourage students to reach out if they find themselves in a compromising position. According to data cited on HazingPrevention.org from a national study, 36 percent of students say they would not report hazing because they feel there is no one available to tell and adults might not handle it correctly. In light of this, Emory’s Interfraternity Council should make an even more concerted effort to create and publicize avenues for reporting hazing.

It’s just as important to note that the issue is certainly not limited to Emory. It’s a problem across the country: a Florida A&M marching band member died two years ago while being hazed, and California State University, Chico experienced the death of a student last year. The school suspended Greek activities for the remainder of the academic year.

However, it takes much more than reassuring to prevent hazing. It is important to note that hazing can happen in any organization and isn’t unique to Greek life. This is a systematic issue that must be prevented in a proactive manner. Hazing happens because students want it to happen. Part of the value and exclusivity of an organization comes from community building and shared experiences — but there is a fine line between getting to know your peers and abusing them.

That said, the sense of relativity around hazing creates a slippery slope, where activities intended to be harmless can quickly become harmful. Some might say there are positive aspects to hazing, such as building camaraderie. But clearly, there’s the chance that terrible things can happen as a result.

Prevention comes from changing our mentalities and speaking to a larger audience, not just fraternities, about the implications of forced actions. The act of hazing is ingrained in our culture, and if we can change the minds of even a few, perhaps there can be a spillover effect that impacts the entire community. The “Creating Emory” program, which began this year through Emory Orientation, put orientation groups into discussion sections that emphasized Emory’s values and policies around issues like alcohol abuse and sexual assault. Engagement with freshmen in conversations like these seems to be a step in the right direction.

Hazing does not need to be inevitable, and it is never too late to change someone’s mindset. Simply being aware and recognizing that there are consequences to these acts are necessary first steps. As individuals, we have no right to negatively impact other people’s mental and physical states, so why perpetuate actions you would not want done on yourself?

The above staff editorial represents the majority opinion of the Wheel‘s editorial board. No members of Greek life voted in this editorial.