A few days ago a video surfaced that revealed members of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity reciting a racist chant. The president of University of Oklahoma took immediate action and expelled two members of the fraternity. The SAE chapter at the university was disbanded and members were forced to vacate their fraternity house. During this time investigations are underway at different universities with SAE chapters. The nine second video has sparked serious outrage amongst the public. It has initiated a discourse about the inner workings of fraternities and sororities. This is not the first time a greek organization has been accused of exhibited repulsive behavior. In the past greek organizations have made appearances in the news concerning hazing. It is not secret that members of greek organizations often participate in reprehensible activities in order to be initiated. Fraternity or sorority hazing are rituals or traditions that harass, abuse, or humiliate potential members. Hazing can take a number of forms. Physically assaulting members, encouraging members to consume excessive amounts of alcohol, or forcing members to parade around nude. Some hazing horror stories end in serious injury or death. Drowning while intoxicated and continuos physical exertion without rest are a few hazing incidents in the past that have ended in death. Despite the deep-rooted hazing traditions embedded into greek life there are ways to prevent hazing within your organization or chapter.
- Encourage a positive and receptive environment within the organization. When communication flows between members and leaders decisions can be made that appeal to everyone. Members who are uncomfortable with hazing may be less inclined to speak out if they feel a gap in the lines of communication.
- Decreasing the power gap between new members and leaders can diminish the feeling of helplessness most members feel. Generally, when new members are initiated they do not participate in hazing activities voluntarily. In most cases they are placed under immense pressure and forced. Possibility of punishment for themselves and other members as well as other threats push members to participate. These feelings of coercion members feel often stem from the imbalance in power between new members and existing members.
- New member initiation does not have to include physical or verbal abuse. It does not need to entail publicly humiliating members. It is possible to eradicate harmful hazing activities and establish more positive initiation rituals. New traditions can be created at anytime; creating new traditions does not threaten past history. Establishing new traditions will not disrupt the organization mission statement. However hazing that leads to death of a member will harm the organizations reputation.
If you have been a victim of fraternity or sorority hazing, feel free to contact us at Byrd Davis Alden & Henrichson, LLP.