Last week, the NIC issued a Call to Action for fraternities. If you missed it, the video is posted here for your reference. This post, however, is about the response we've received. It is about the people that are answering the call to action. It is about the fraternity men and sorority women that are confronting these issues on campus. While we've received lots of stories and feedback, I want to share stories from Michael, Steve and Mike.
"My hazing story starts when I was a pledge myself. My pledge class was hazed in the stereotypical sense of the word. We had to scrub the bathrooms on our hands and knees, do push-ups and wall sits, and dressed up in togas for our pledge dad ceremony which included copious amounts of alcohol. During my sophomore year, we were caught for that same ceremony and received many sanctions. However, we decided that it had to be that way because otherwise we couldn't strengthen our new members. Over the summer before my junior year, I was the recruitment chair and attended UIFI in Indiana. I was still under the impression that hazing wasn't a bad thing. Over the week my thoughts began to change, and I finally realized what needed to be done. In one hazing presentation, someone said, "20 years from now, if fraternities are still around, there won't be hazing, just look how much has changed in the past 20 years. So if your chapter still hazes, you have two options. You can get caught and kicked off, and a new group of people will replace your chapter, or you can stop it yourself." That is when I realized that our chapter needed to fix our pledge program. It has been three semesters since then and our pledge program has continued to improve. We had to battle a lot of older members trying to go back to the old ways, but eventually they gave up. Do we have the perfect pledge program? No, but we have a program that develops our new members and helps them transition into becoming better students, leaders, and gentlemen."
"We are a community under fire. And we prove yet again through our stupidity that we are a community deservedly under fire. If the members were living up to their values and holding one another accountable than we would not be having this correspondence right now. Maybe this part is more for myself but leadership... character... values... and ritual are all what we do. They are our lifestyle, day in and day out. We must refuse to just perform Ritual and instead start living ritual. We say we are about one thing yet we continue to do the other. We continue to allow ourselves to be a community under fire. I will be the one responsible for elevating the community. I MUST be the one responsible for elevating the community. Or the future will have no community to elevate."
"I hold onto Fraternity and advocate for it because of my personal experience with it. Joining Beta Theta Pi my freshmen year has done nothing but push me to be better. I know what Fraternity can do for a young man. I know what it feels like to put your whole heart into an organization and get that much more out of it. I know how it feels to act better than I would normally because I don't want to disgrace my brothers or the name of my fraternity or Greek Life. I believe in Fraternity if it is done right. And I know it's worth our time and efforts to make them better and to try our very best to inspire members to understand the same."
Thank you to the fraternity headquarters that have shared this message and provide resources to address these issues. Thanks to the fraternity/sorority advisors on campus that help students and chapters address these challenges. Thanks to anyone that cares enough about their fraternity or sorority to volunteer as a chapter advisor - because you make a tremendous impact. And finally, thanks to the students - like the ones mentioned above - who represent what it truly means to be a part of the values-based organizations that we call fraternity. And a special thanks for those of you that have participated in National Hazing Prevention Week.
As the picture above shows, today was one of those days that I needed some extra coffee to get me going. We have all had those days, and there is nothing wrong with it. However, it makes me think of How Full is Your Bucket, a book I read several years ago about bringing the best out of yourself and your organization. At the risk of oversimplifying the book, there is one concise thought that summarizes the metaphor at the heart of the title:
Everyone has an invisible bucket. We are at our best when our buckets are overflowing - and at our worst when they are empty.
As we reflect on hazing during National Hazing Prevention Week, I want to share a simple thought - Hazing does not fill up our cups. It empties them and then screws on a lid so that it is nearly impossible to refill our own individual cups as well as those of our own organizations. Kind of like trying to refill my cup of Iced Coffee through the straw: it's not going to be very efficient and it is going to make a heck of a mess.
At their core, our organizations are about filling our cups to the point of overflowing. I believe it is safe to say that is why many of us joined - we were and continuing to look for new ways to fill our cups and be at our very best. So let's do that, let's be at our best, and stop emptying our own personal cups as well as those of our organizations by permitting the blight of hazing to persist in our organizations and communities and continuing to keep us from being at our very best.
Looking for some ideas to start filling the cup and building brotherhood? The NIC offers The Best of Brotherhood Building as a resource. Get a FREE copy by emailing Andy this week only (through September 23, 2011.)
Have you already stopped emptying the cup, and kicked the hazing habit from your chapter. Email Andy with your story and one of you will receive a $25 Starbucks gift card for having the courage to stand up.
Rath, T. & Clifton, D.O. (2004). How Full is Your Bucket. Gallup: New York
So far this week, in our blogs about hazing in honor of National Hazing Prevention Week, NIC staff members have written about taking comfort in rituals (and Ritual), and how to order up the ideal fraternal cup o’ Joe. What happens, though, when you know exactly how you want your caffeinated cup of goodness, but what the barista hands you is not at all what you asked for?
Despite their expert training, sometimes the coffee shop’s apron-clad employees just get it wrong. From adding an extra shot of espresso to a half-caf Grande, to mistakenly putting a big dollop of whipped cream on top of a low-fat Venti, mistakes happen. In a crappy café, you might get an “I’m sorry” as the barista walks away. In the best bistro, your order will be corrected and you will leave satisfied and not too late for your next appointment.
Let’s extend the analogy to Fraternity. Picture Frank Freshman or Susie Sophomore. They know they want to join a fraternity or sorority; they might be a legacy, or have just done their homework and know the many benefits of membership. They ask all the right questions and “maximize their options.” Frank is recruited by the fraternity with the best grades and the biggest intramural trophies. Susie receives a bid from the largest sorority on campus, whose philanthropy supports her personal passion for children’s literacy. All the world is right for these two… until the scavenger hunts, history exams, My Tie pledge mixers, and 6am calisthenics begin.
How did they get here? What did they do wrong? Why are these ::air-quotes:: brothers and sisters treating them this way? This surely can’t be what fraternity and sorority is all about. Their friends at another school never told them this would happen. But, then again, they want to belong, to feel a part of something greater, so they might as well put up with it for the time being.
Where is the barista who will own the error, take back the too-strong coffee, and give these two what they asked for? Where is the brother or sister who has the courage to stand up and say “No! This is not how we build up our future leaders. We are NOT going to be a hazing chapter.” Where is the member who grabs the Ritual book and shakes it in the face of decades of brutal brotherhood?
Fraternities and sororities across this great nation need for members to put on their game faces and prepare for battle. Hazing cannot be stopped overnight, and it cannot be solved without kicking out a few members and sitting out on a few parties in order to engage in tough conversations about values and Ritual. It requires guts and perseverance and a willingness to go toe-to-toe with older members who were hazed, alumni who like to relive the glory days, and councils that don’t hold chapters accountable.
Are you one of those hazing warriors who helped your chapter kick its habit? Are you the barista who corrected the order and made Frank and Susie proud returning customers? Email Andy@nicindy.org with your story and one of you will get a $25 Starbucks giftcard for having the courage to step up.