Hazing: A Benefit or BurdenThe concept of hazing has long since been a source of debate, yet it has also served as a means of training designed to save lives. Hazing has been around almost as long as mankind but its formal introduction became most apparent in the military. Hazing is used to bring a group of people together as a unit and teach them a great deal of information in a short amount of time. Hazing is designed as a consequence based teaching method where a mistake leads to harassment of some sort. This harassment may include physical or mental discomfort, embarrassment, ridicule, paddling or other forms of physical abuse, excessive fatigue, psychological shocks, chores, involuntary road trips, and any morally degrading games or activities (Interfraternity By-laws). Hazing also develops a high degree of respect from the leader as well as a greater appreciation of the group and its purpose. “Hazing exists in any army”(Filipov, A28). Unity and respect are imperative when lives are on the line. Hazing turns a group of individuals into a finely tuned machine where all the parts work together as one. “People who volunteer for the service are subjected to taunts and hazing presumably to make it difficult to become a quitter. It is stated that many individuals compensate for feelings of inferiority by performing successfully in this training” (Bernstein, 1303). The Romans, who dominated the world for centuries, required many of their soldiers to sleep with one another to develop a high level of trust for their colleagues. The troops that defend the United States of America have all been hazed in one fashion or another, which has made the USA the most powerful nation in the world. Discipline, respect, trust, and unity make up the solid foundation required for a strong military. From the time of a child begins to walk and talk, parents teach them right and wrong by use of rewards or punishments. These punishments range may include scolding, isolation, spankings, or grounding. Simon Messing states “even little boys haze other boys who cry or seem soft by saying he lacks something’ or he is effeminate.” Classroom teachers send children to the corner, write their name on the board, or give them detention when they show fault in their actions. The same set of actions is set up for adults but the consequences are stronger in order for the adult to be affected. An adult will not take offense to having his name on a board or being sent to a corner, hence stern criticisms, physical deeds, and moral degradation are applied to persuade the individual into doing what is expected. These methods of hazing are even more effective when applied to groups. Hazing can bond a number of individuals and make them strive harder to succeed. When a group is “lined up” they are to act as onenot as individuals, which is imperative in military, sports, and even in fraternal brotherhoods. If a single individual fails, the entire group must face the consequence together. A single person may not be affected by the punishment, but the mental anguish they receive when watching their peers pay for their own failure is more powerful in changing their actions and learning. The movie Full Metal Jacket give an accurate portrayal of hazing in the military. Private Pyle, an overweight and undisciplined new comer, gets caught hiding a doughnut in his military supply box where only supplies are permitted. The drill instructor makes the rest of Pyle’s platoon hold a down position for pushups while Pyle eats his doughnut. Not only does Pyle feel poorly for punishing his team for his actions, but his team resents him and strives to keep him in line. By the end of boot camp, Private Pyle is in peak physical condition and performs his tasks to perfection. Fraternities almost have a direct link to military in the way of hazing. Fraternities were founded as secret organizations designed to protect students from corrupt universities. Fraternities gave their brothers the freedom to express their ideas and break down the corruptness of the school and church. Militaries were made to hold secret agendas for the purpose of keeping the freedom of the nation and protect it from others trying to harm it. During the civil war, many students were forced into war and fraternities ran thin. When the war was over, the brothers went back to school and brought life back to their fraternities. They brought with them their new knowledge of how to form unity among a group of individuals. Forms of hazing were transferred from the military boot camp directly into the fraternity for their pledges (new members). Fraternities have been looked down upon by many people for their “constant parties”, lack of concern for school, treatment of women, and most of all their hazing. Hazing is now illegal in most states and forbidden by most fraternity headquarters. There are a few problems faced with banning fraternities. First of all, fraternities were founded as secret societies. As a secret society, the members of the fraternities strive to keep their actions known only to brothers making it difficult for others to take action. The main problem with hazing is that there is not a concrete definition of hazing. Without a solid definition to go on, there is great deal of gray area in enforcing the laws. Fraternities have been around since 1400 and have produced some of the world’s most successful leaders. Fraternity men have a higher cumulative grade point average than non-fraternity men do. Fraternities participate in fund raising, community service, social functions, scholarship, and many other productive events. The most treasured part of fraternity life is the brotherhooda single bond that unites hundreds of thousands of men. Aside from the ritual (secret ceremonies of fraternities), the hazing each person endured can bring two strangers together as if they had known each other for their entire lives. An example of this bond happened when a man from Mississippi decided to move to California with his fiancee. The man had an apartment set aside and a job waiting for him, but things took a turn for the worse. The company he was working for laid off many employees with him included because of his short time with them. Without work, he began to struggle to make ends meet for him and his fiancee. The man ran into a brother of the same fraternity as he had been in back in Mississippi. The two strangers sat and talked for a while about their mutual chapters and then of their personal lives. When the brother heard about the man’s troubles, he took his name and number down then went back to the chapter and asked them what they thought of the situation. The next day, the man received a call offering him a room at the chapter house without pay so that he could get back on his feet. This is what a brotherhood is all abouta stranger taken in and supported because of his pride and acceptance into the fraternity. To be accepted into the fraternity, one must put aside personal interests to help out their brothers. Hazing is the chief tactic applied to create this bond and make it stronger. By banning hazing, this bond is made weaker each semester because the fraternities are not able to do anything that makes their pledges unite. Fraternities are merely able to speak about the importance of unity but can not demand a display of it or even have the pledges show their desire to join. It is wrong to destroy a bond that runs this tightly between brothers. Hazing done for constructive purposes does not hurt anybody and produces uncountable benefits. Pledges who rush a fraternity go in on their own free will and are free to drop out ant any time if they do not feel like they can handle it. There are many cases of hazing that are done for entertainment purposes only and jeopardize the safety of the new members. It is this kind of behavior that has brought laws against hazing and weakened the fraternity system as a whole. Forbidding hazing, as a whole is not the right way to solve the problemone should not look down upon the system as a whole just because it has a few bad seeds. We do not kill every person in this world because there a re a few rapists and murdererswe merely punish those who cause harm people. A fraternity without hazing is like a bird without wings, it can not fly.
The military has not stopped its hazing but has controlled it so that the people who wrongfully haze to cause harm are prosecuted. On December 13, 1997, two male cadets were suspended for their involvement in the attacks of women at the Citadel (Guernsey, A32). The military continues to line up cadets and makes them do physical tasks (i.e. push ups, sit ups, run, etc.) when they disobey a command or break a rule. This hazing develops a level of stress that the soldiers must learn to control and work with because in wartime situations, there is an incomprehensible amount of pressure put upon a soldier that must be dealt with to live. This form of constructive hazing is treasured by the military and continues to keep it strong. The same practice should be applied to greek life hazingkeeps the positive and punishes the negative. Approximately 80 percent CEOs of Fortune 500 companies were in a fraternity (when hazing was legal) and many of them attribute their success and work ethic to their fraternity life. Fraternity life develops every aspect of a person’s life from the social aspect with peers to a business sense with community and school leaders. The results of a survey compiled of 300 actives and 100 alumni all from a variety of fraternities shows that 77 percent of the fraternity members believe that hazing served a valuable purpose (Baier, 302). In a fraternity one learns how to communicate with a variety of people, show respect for others and also one’s self, develop a productive work ethic, and also to enjoy life. If laws were designed to only punish those who attempt to wrongfully harm new members, then fraternities could continue to produce model citizens that benefit the world as a whole. There are many criticisms of hazing in both military and fraternity life. The Russian army is notorious for brutal hazing of those enlisted. It is a military that has mandatory enlistment and failing to serve is punishable by law. Many Russian men willingly go to jail instead of serving in the under-funded military. The majority of deaths in the Russian military are self-inflicted, meaning they were either suicides or soldiers killing their commanding officers. Russia’s military applies violent hazing techniques of starvation, brutal beatings and other horrible acts. Their poor training became apparent in a war with Chechnya, where Russia lost to a military that is only a small fraction of their size. “Russian and Western analysts attribute their loss to the low morale and poor training of the Russian forces, which has spawned a name for hazing and harassment of new recruits”( Filipov, A28). In 1997, a pledge at Southeast Missouri State University died of a beating that was a result of his initiation into a fraternity (Roark, 368). Another pledge from a different fraternity died of a bacterial infection as a result of eating uncooked meat during a ritual activity (Roark, 370). Fraternities that force their pledges to drink excessive amounts of alcohol or to perform any other task that puts a pledge’s health and life on the line needs to be stopped. The results of Baier’s survey shows that only 2 percent of pledges are forced to drink alcohol. Paddling and other violent forms of abuse, nudity, and eating unpalatable foods occur with less than 5 percent of pledges (Baier, 303). The methods of hazing most used are line-ups, yelling, house duties, and sleep disturbances (Baier, 303). Baier’s survey also analyzed whether the fraternity members considered hazing to be a problem in their chapter, at their university, and nation wide. The results show that only 10 percent thought hazing was a problem in their chapter, 33 percent believed hazing is a problem at their university, and 47 percent considered it a problem in the fraternity system as a whole. Media has taken its toll on hazing in that it reports all the negative cases and not a single positive display of it. People hear about a pledge dying of alcohol poisoning because of hazing but not the work ethic that Ted Turner received from it to become a multi-billionaire. In light of the survey, the brothers know what goes on in their chapter because they see it first hand and the number is low. At the university level, school newspapers jump on fraternities when given the chance, and hear-say runs wild through dormitories spreading news whether it is true or false. When national television plays clips of pledges getting harmed or runs a full special on fraternity hazing, the public can only come to one conclusion about hazing. The fraternity members surveyed also see this footage and begin to believe fraternities across the nation apply poor hazing methods. The more media that present, the higher the percentage goes for negative feelings of hazing. Media has always been notorious for distorting and taking the side of an issuethis is no different. “It may seem incomprehensible to an outsider that the initiates actually participate voluntarily in these rites, but the importance of the ritual is, in part, a reflection of the nature of the requirements of the unit at this stage. Initiates are strangers to each other and to the Airborne. The bonding of the initiation pulls them together in a very short period of time. This phenomenon was noted in the 1950s Aronson ; Mills, who remarked that an initiate who endures severe hazing is likely to find membership in a group all the more appealing. In these rituals, soldiers prove their readiness to participate in the group regardless of personal cost, thus gaining peer group acceptance”(Winslow, 185).
Winslow’s quote gives a direct representation of fraternity hazing. The bond that is built can not be explained nor comprehended unless it has been experienced. Hazing done to maximize a person’s potential, not to endanger them, can be an extremely effective method in teaching and molding an individual into a model of what is expected. Thirty people have died as a result of hazing since 1980, and it is these cases that give hazing a poor reputation. Admittedly, organizations that haze need to take more precaution in the health and safety issues of the hazed. Hazing done correctly is an excellent means of bonding a group of people so that they think and act as one, which is a necessity in certain roles. It teaches trust, responsibility, respect, and other qualities that can not be consistently met in other forms of facilitation. Constructive hazing gives individuals a drive for learning and acting in the way that is expected of them. This drive can be carried by one’s own self through their life and lead them to success. Hazing has made the military a force that protects the freedom of every individual in this country. It has also kept the fraternity system alive since the 1400s despite attempts from the church and schools to destroy them. Hazing should not be banned due to the actions of the few looking to degrade people for their own entertainment. The positive aspects of hazing can not be understated. Hazing needs to be used constructively for the betterment of the individual and society as a whole. Laws need to be made simply to punish those who use hazing to harm so the others can use hazing in a positive fashion to produce model citizens to lead this country.