Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

What is hazing, anyway?

A column in the Monday edition of The Crimson White entitled “Don’t haze me, bro” linked a lawsuit against the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity with other rumored acts of hazing on campus to paint a picture of a greek system and a university ripe with disrespect for other human beings.

“The idea that a student organization…can so openly flout the anti-hazing policy and the University doesn’t so much as bat an eye is disgusting,” the author wrote.

The University’s anti-hazing policy “includes any act which inflicts extreme physical, emotional, or psychological pressure or injury on an individual or which purposely demeans, degrades or disgraces an individual.”

That policy does not take into account individuals who want to participate in new member education programs on their own initiative. Anytime a student is asked to do something in order to become a part of an organization, he or she has a choice: do it, and become a member of the group, or don’t do it, and leave the group. If they ever experience extreme pressure that could legitimately endanger their health and safety, they should probably leave the group.

It is true that in 2008, some ignorant, cruel soul told someone to sit on a torched chair. It is also true that an equally ignorant soul sat on it.

Like politicians on the national level who blame banks for giving loans to people who wound up unable to repay them, there are those on campus who always blame organizations for individual mishaps. It is always an institution’s fault, never an individual’s responsibility.

If college should teach us anything, though, it is that we, as individuals, are responsible for our actions. Not ten Pikes at a swap. Not the members of a fraternity who host a party at which we choose to overindulge in alcohol.

The columnist went on to say that he “was served and consumed alcohol inside multiple fraternity houses at the ripe old age of 18. Hell, that was the reason we went to fraternity parties in the first place.”

That self-incriminating admission of hypocrisy is admirable, but it renders the rest of the argument meaningless. Some students may go to fraternity parties as minors to try to get alcohol, but the vast majority of people who actually join fraternities are there to meet other people and take an active part in student life on our campus.

Overall, our greek system does a remarkable job of taking pledges and introducing them to other students, allowing them to enjoy college in a controlled and disciplined atmosphere. A lot of students want to drink and party when they come to college. In the greek system, they can do so at events with security present, designated drivers available, and upperclassmen on hand to watch out for their well being.

New members in the greek community are also required to attend study halls and encouraged to get involved on campus, maintaining discipline and structure in the lives of newly liberated college students.

Occasionally, accidents do happen. Unfortunately, greek students don’t always live up to their expectations. Sometimes, pledges are put in inappropriate situations. Sometimes, students drink too much.

In most cases, the individuals responsible are disciplined by their chapter, as is appropriate. The overwhelming majority of greeks don’t condone irresponsible behavior, either. That is why the greek system has mechanisms in place to punish people for wrongdoing and provide security, which most of campus does not.

Fraternities and sororities are registered student organizations and should rightfully be held to a high standard of conduct. But the greek community at large should not be blamed when one student has a bad experience at a fraternity house.

The University isn’t faultless. Instead of refusing to comment on a major issue affecting a major student organization, the administration could use this as a teachable moment.

Currently, UA officials stress that there is no tolerance for hazing. This creates the false expectation among some students and parents that joining a student organization isn’t challenging. Sometimes, it is.

The University should be honest about the fact that different organizations have different membership requirements, but there are enough organizations on campus that every student should be able to find a group where they feel comfortable.

We should never be cruel or disrespectful to our new students on campus. But it isn’t a lot to ask that they take some responsibility for their own actions, and that the University do a better job of preparing them for the realities of student life.

It isn’t a lot to ask that we all work together to resolve the realities of alcohol abuse on our campus instead of turning it into another wedge issue that will only further divide our student body.

Tray Smith is the opinions editor of The Crimson White. His column runs on Thursdays.

More to Discover