Over the next few weeks, thousands of women across the country will be extended bids to sororities and begin the new member education process at thousands of chapters across the country. One of the scariest questions young women encounter as they enter into a chapter is the looming question “will I be hazed”. One of the scariest thoughts as a someone who is a member of two sororities (one PHC and one local) is that some girls will enter the chapter terrified of hazing and others will enter the chapter hoping it happens to them.
As I mentioned before I am a member of two sororities. One sorority hazes as a part of their new member education process, one doesn’t. I feel like I am in a unique situation having been a sister to both organizations and being able to witness how it impacted the strength of the chapter and the maintenance of chapter unity.
The Chapter that Hazed
I was initiated into my first sorority the fall of 2012 after a 6-week new member education process which involved hazing. I spend 6-8 hours a week meeting with active members cramming information on my organization’s history and another 4-6 hours a week studying on my own. On Sunday nights while the active sisters of our organization were in Chapter, my pledge class would be administered tests by our pledge mom. We were required to score a 90% or above on the weekly tests (which usually took 45 minutes to an hour to complete) or we would be dropped from the new member education process. In addition to the weekly tests, we were required to carry with us a binder packed with study materials everywhere we went. In addition to the hours of studying and weekly meetings with every active sister we would gather in our Chapter Room once a week on Wednesday evenings for ‘bonding activities’ which often included scavenger hunts (spanning across the city and into various fraternity houses), impromptu crafting of gifts for the active sisters, and the creation of songs and skits to be performed for the active sisters. Prior to initiation we were also required to take a final exam (which lasted 3 hours) and without a score of 100% we would be dropped from the process the night before initiation.
At the time I repeatedly denied all allegations into hazing (including during an investigation done by the University in an attempt to get us removed). I believed the activities I partook in were helping to bond me to the sisterhood and in a way, they were. Just not in the way I had anticipated. When I transferred schools and left that Chapter behind I also left behind my experience. I didn’t keep in touch with any of the sisters who had been active when I was there. It wasn’t until alumna were asked to offer support in bringing a legal case against the University in which the Chapter was held that I realized how complicated my relationship with the sorority had become. The tests and hours of time spent learning about the organization had bound me to the founders in a way I never anticipated. I longed to know the women who started the organization but assumed I would never have an opportunity to get to know them in person. When the legal battle began I was the youngest contributing alumna member and in turn was reached out to by several of the founding sisters.
The night I received the first email from one of the founders I started crying uncontrollably, this woman who I had looked up to for the entirety of my college experience was extending a hand to talk to me. This woman who I had spent 3 years wondering about was now wondering about me. In that moment I realized that my hazing experience had been worth something, if not to bond me to individual active sisters then to bond me to the women who had started the foundation to which I now believed in. The legal battle was ultimately won and as a result, I have stayed close with the alumna network that reunited in the process. Spread across the country we are a group of women who empower each other constantly. However, the hazing I experienced was not intended to cause me physical harm. It was intended to stress the importance of the history of the organization I was seeking to enter into and an opportunity for me to prove I cared enough about their values to ‘earn my place’.
The Sorority that Didn’t Haze
When I transferred I found myself longing for the experience I had at my previous University and then some. I wanted an experience where I would be closer to my sisters then I had been in my previous organization. I wanted a place where I would stay close with my sisters after graduation. Most importantly I wanted to do it without hazing. When I began seeking the next chapter to call home I had not yet fully grasped the extent to which my hazing experience had connected me to my other organization (as the legal battle had yet to begin). I did however, understand that hazing is a time-consuming event that as an upperclassman I didn’t feel I had the time to devote to.
Ultimately when I accepted my bid I accepted with the full intent to once again undergo a process of hazing. I assumed I would be required to learn extensive amounts of history (as this organization has a history extending 73 years longer than the history of my other organization). I also accepted my bid assuming I would be committing myself to living out the history of the organization on a daily basis the way I had in my previous chapter. To an extent, I was right. To another extent I was dead wrong. I was asked to familiarize myself with the history of the organization however, I was never tested with the threat of termination of the new member process. I was asked to bond with my sisters however it was in social settings as opposed to being locked in the Chapter Room for hours on end one night a week.
My Thoughts on Hazing
Hazing is a hot button topic in America right now and with good reason. While I personally see the value in my hazing experience I also am a strong anti-hazing advocate. I personally believe the current definition of hazing as used by colleges and universities across the country is far too specific and eliminates certain activities from the new member process that add value, strength, and knowledge to membership. However, my positive outlook on my hazing experience has a lot to do with my initial expectations. I knew I was going to be hazed, I trusted the women I was seeking membership from, and I knew I was not going to be put in a situation hazardous to my safety (even if the intention at times was to give the illusion of such). It wasn’t until my organization was in trouble that I realized how strongly my hazing bond has been made and while it has helped keep our chapter alive it did nothing to bond me with the sisters who were active when I was. Hazing doesn’t bond you to the people committing the hazing, it bonds you to the organization you are willing to be hazed for. It bonds you to the values you are willing to undergo hazing to uphold. As a result, the true way to bond with your sisters has nothing to do with hazing and everything to do with getting to know them as your friends. Greek dues are not there to pay for your friends, they are there to pay for the activities you do with your friends. Which means if you want to have friends in greek life, you have to make them yourself because hazing won’t do it for you.