Why is Hazing Still a Problem?

A fraternity and sorority at the University of Connecticut reminded us on Wednesday that hazing rituals are alive and well.

UConn suspended the two organizations, Sigma Alpha Epsilon and Kappa Kappa Gamma, after a sorority member reported having to “sizzle like bacon” and consume dangerous amounts of alcohol at Sigma Alpha Epsilon’s off-campus house. The national offices for both houses released statements explaining that they do not condone this behavior from members—even though this branch of Sigma Alpha Epsilon has been placed on probation multiple times for similar antics.

It’s nothing new, unfortunately—stories about hazing have been reported for at least a century. Rituals like body shaming, strength tests, overconsumption of alcohol or other substances, verbal harassment, and beatings still make headlines. Measuring one’s worth for an organization by how much worth they can remove from themselves can lead pledges into short-term injuries and long-lasting psychological distress.

SigmaAlphaEpsilon

Aside from horrific hazing rituals, the desire to join a fraternity or sorority makes sense. New students on campus want to feel like they belong—and would be willing to do almost anything to have a tight group of friends right away. Not everyone in the Greek system enforces hazing with pledges, most of whom are likely just looking for a social outlet.

But imposing harmful conditions for membership into the group poses problems. Outrageous behavior that physically or mentally damages people does not reflect well on students primed to enter the adult world… and nobody would dare pull these stunts in a professional setting after college.

So why is it still a problem?

There are a few theories: schools can’t regulate their Greek systems consistently, bystander behavior (or a need for acceptance, or downright fear) prevents pledges from speaking up, competition between fraternities and sororities raises the stakes for hazing, family histories of passing through the Greek system pressure younger generations to tolerate it, or misinformed students view it as a rite of passage and perpetuate the rituals. Take your pick.

Thankfully, some fraternities and sororities (Sigma Alpha Epsilon included) have opted to completely eliminate pledging from their initiation processes—though as far as fraternities are concerned, only 75 nationwide have made similar bans. Organizations such as Hazing Prevention have provided additional programs to spread awareness such as webinars and National Hazing Prevention Week.

It’s a step in the right direction, at least—hopefully one that will prevent further harm to students that only seek acceptance.

What’s your experience with hazing, and how should fraternities, sororities, and colleges approach it? Leave us a comment!

-Amanda

 

Amanda Suazo, editor, joined BSB in 2010 as the writing guru for the organization’s website, official documents, and documentary before focusing a bit on philanthropy. Now a graduate of Gonzaga University, she is currently an MBA student and freelance writer. Between Zumba classes and downing espresso, you might catch her attempting to be a vegetarian. Find her on Twitter.

Spotlight: Jumpstart

This summer I’ve spent quite a bit of time visiting with my family in Connecticut. These kinds of trips to my hometown inevitably make me nostalgic; side effects include stuffing myself with home-cooked meals and watching more Disney movies than I care to admit. I was even inspired to do a throwback-drive-through of my old high school.

However, if I kept driving a bit farther into a neighboring district, what I encounter would be vastly different. Compared to the state high school graduation rate of over 90%, school districts in Connecticut’s poorest cities face graduation rates hovering just above 50% – a pretty stark contrast for a twenty-minute drive. This example is only one part of a larger national pattern, most often termed the achievement gap.

Jumpstart, a national supplemental preschool program, believes that part of the solution is to tackle this gap early on. Research agrees, as studies have shown that preschool can have long-term effects on learning. By the time they start kindergarten, children in low-income neighborhoods may already be behind their peers, a gap that widens over time.

Jumpstart

The Jumpstart model combines volunteers, largely consisting of college students, and preschool classrooms to create an optimal learning environment. With activities like reading and “circle time,” the program aims to not only promote development in children but also to encourage a sense of community.

Just following its 20th anniversary, Jumpstart has come a long way since its New Haven origins in 1993. Today, the organization also heads numerous national campaigns to celebrate a love of reading and to advocate the importance of early education.

The achievement gap in the U.S. is one of the most prominent issues in education today. Although research indicators often focus on later statistics, such as high school graduation rates or SAT scores, the fight to close the gap can start much earlier. And so far, Jumpstart has been at the front lines of this battle.

 

-Serena

Serena Yin graduated with a degree in English from Johns Hopkins University in 2013. She is joining the Washington Reading Corps to promote literacy in local schools. A New England native, she loves ballet, beaches, and hamburgers. When she’s not on the hunt for the nearest Starbucks, she’s working on realizing her lifelong dream of meeting J.K. Rowling.

A Homeless Bill of Rights: Necessary or Not?

Last year, Rhode Island lawmakers introduced a Homeless Bill of Rights, the first of its kind. Although homeless individuals receive some protection under federal law, such as the right to emergency medical care, there are currently no state laws which prohibit discrimination against the homeless.

With Connecticut legislature following suit, the idea behind the bill appears to have taken hold. However, opponents of the bill claim that the rights mentioned are already upheld in other parts of the law. Is it really necessary to reestablish similar rights specifically pertaining to the homeless?

Contrary to common belief, homelessness is not usually a permanent condition. Many people experience homelessness for a certain period of time as a result of the increase in unemployment or decline in public assistance. However, these people often report discrimination and harassment on the direct basis of their homelessness.

Living in Baltimore, I often heard disparaging remarks about “bums on the street” and their “laziness” that keeps them from jobs. One homeless man was, quite un-affectionately, deemed “crazy Mike” by students. This is not an uncommon phenomenon. Homeless people are often reduced to stereotypes defined by their homelessness.

In reality, once homeless, it is increasingly difficult to secure a job and other basic needs. Imagine applying for positions without the benefit of a computer or attending an interview without the appropriate attire.

Regardless of whether or not it can be effectively enforced, the Homeless Bill of Rights does well to draw attention to the prejudice that often accompanies being homeless. The bill reminds us that these people are still part of our community and should accordingly be afforded equal treatment under protection of the law.

-Serena

Serena Yin graduated with a degree in English from Johns Hopkins University in 2013. She is joining the Washington Reading Corps to promote literacy in local schools. A New England native, she loves ballet, beaches, and hamburgers. When she’s not on the hunt for the nearest Starbucks, she’s working on realizing her lifelong dream of meeting J.K. Rowling.