Hazing is any activity or experience expected of or forced on a person joining or maintaining status in a group that humiliates, degrades or risks emotional or physical harm regardless of that person’s willingness to cooperate.
Every person has personal boundaries and, when those lines are crossed, what does a person do about it? Why isn’t it brought to the authorities’ attention?
The truth is that, in the Greek system, ratting out or telling on your fraternity brothers or sisters is quite possibly the biggest taboo of the whole institution, as evidenced by the fear The Argus’ sources expressed in the front-page story.
Not only are you risking your social status among your brothers and sisters, but you also risk losing some of your closest friends.
“Since I’ve been [at Illinois Wesleyan University], I’ve not had a student come in and say ‘I’m being hazed.’ But this could be because of fear of being ostracized from that group of so-called friends,” said Blake Bradley, Director of Fraternity and Sorority Life at IWU.
This is far from how it should be. When students are unwilling to report unethical practices that soil an otherwise vibrant and important part of campus based on fear, some practices and attitudes need to be changed.
It can be difficult as a young person to view one’s life in a broader context, but this is exactly what students need to do on both ends of a hazing incident.
Those who suffer or witness hazing should understand that the opinions of a few college students are hardly worth worrying about in the context of their lives.
Reporting immoral, destructive behavior might burn some social bridges, but if others aren’t able to understand the reporter’s motives or the necessity of their action, it’s not worth keeping those bridges up.
Those who believe hazing is just a tradition that bonds group members need to realize that no amount of social validation is worth causing or receiving humiliation or harm.
Real bonding comes through intellectual and emotional engagement, which is killed by harmful hazing practices. And childish mistakes, when big enough, can easily affect the course of a lifetime.
This is not an indictment of the Greek life at IWU, or of its members. Greek life, for most students, is a positive experience. But it’s time to recognize that hazing does not equal tradition.
“Your traditions are central to the identity of your organization” said a member of Greek Life who wished to remain anonymous. “And people think that by doing away with these negative traditions, they’re losing their identity. But there’s a way of updating them to make them positive.”
Authorities encourage victims to come forward with their hazing experiences. “We shouldn’t hide it if it is going on. By not saying anything, it allows others to think it’s okay,” Bradley said.
Karla Carney-Hall, Vice-President and Dean of Students also said, “We offer total protection of identity for students who report hazing.”
“Reporting hazing helps to ensure that it won’t happen again to another student,” Carney-Hall said.
In the end, the broadest context we need to understand is that by not speaking up, and by intimidating others into silence, we are allowing these childish and immoral practices to keep on hurting lives and reputations.