I wrote this today, to get some thoughts on paper in regard to Hazing. It's all over the news, and it's very important to some of the work I do at Bloomsburg University. A download seemed like the best way to present such a massive treatise, so you can use the button below for that purpose.
I have also written out the entire piece below for your reading pleasure
David Decoteau Greek Life Advocate
March 16, 2015
A case for Hazing
A multipart discussion of hazing in 2015
Part I - What is hazing?
Part II - Why have Greeks at all?
Part III - Why is there hazing?
Part IV - Present Environment
Part V - What are the Goals?
Part VI - How do we achieve it?
Part VII - Greeks grow up and give back. Sources and further reading
Part I - What is hazing?
The news is full of topics about hazing and fraternities behaving poorly these days. From the racism allegations against ΣΑΕ in Oklahoma(1) to the women’s lacrosse team allegations in Maryland(2), to the Bloomsburg baseball player, you can’t seem to open a newspaper or website today without hearing about these terrible students. There are even timelines of bad student behavior(3), for those that would like to see how prevalent it has become.
On the flip side of the hazing news barrage are things like the Academy award winning movie Whiplash (see this movie!) and other “ Character testing” and “performance challenge” events like Spartan Races and Warrior Dash that have never been more popular in the history of American culture. To the U.S. military - who’s “hazing” tactics can not be denied for producing generation after generation of outstanding results.This side of the argument seems to support using adversity to produce outstanding results and individual.
This is why now seems like a really good time to dig in REAL DEEP into this topic and how it pertains to organizations of higher learning and our future generation of graduates and citizens in the most general terms.
I have conducted most of my research myself and most of it directly relates to the Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania. I chose Bloomsburg, because it’s my Alma Mater and I’m involved in various activities there in an Advisory capacity, including advising Greeks and Greek Alumni Associations. I did the research because I was curious and anxious for some answers: and no pertinent research seemed to exist or was shared or public.
Step one in this process has to be dividing all the “bad behaviors” into accurate categories. What we recently saw in ΣΑΕ and in Bloomsburg, is not “hazing”: it is racism. This is not to say that racism isn’t a bad behavior: it is. And apparently more disturbing is that it may be systemic in these organizations, with one generation teaching the next. As bad as that is, it was not hazing.
2 Lacrosse Maryland3 Greek timeline
So what is “Hazing”? Turns out, there are many definitions of “Hazing” and this in itself is very enlightening, because it begins to unravel the problem. Hazing is a very broad, confusing and frankly, unrealistic condition as presently defined. Here are some of the definitions I found:
hazing - noun: the practice of playing unpleasant tricks on someone or
forcing someone to do unpleasant things
PENNSYLVANIA STATE HAZING LAW:
[P.S.] § 5352. Definitions : The following words and phrases when used in this act shall have the meanings given to them in this section unless the context clearly indicates otherwise4:
"HAZING." Any action or situation which recklessly or intentionally endangers the mental or physical health or safety of a student or which willfully destroys or removes public or private property for the purpose of initiation or admission into or affiliation with, or as a condition for continued membership in, any organization operating under the sanction of or recognized as an organization by an institution of higher education. The term shall include, but not be limited to, any brutality of a physical nature, such as whipping, beating, branding, forced calisthenics, exposure to the elements, forced consumption of any food, liquor, drug or other substance, or any other forced physical activity which could adversely affect the physical health and safety of the individual, and shall include any activity which would subject the individual to extreme mental stress, such as sleep deprivation, forced exclusion from social contact, forced conduct which could result in extreme embarrassment, or any other forced activity which could adversely affect the mental health or dignity of the individual, or any willful destruction or removal of public or private property. For purposes of this definition, any activity as described in this definition upon which the initiation or admission into or affiliation with or continued membership in an organization is
4 PA state hazing law
directly or indirectly conditioned shall be presumed to be "forced" activity, the willingness of an individual to participate in such activity notwithstanding.
BLOOMSBURG UNIVERSITY DEFINITION
(As found in the Student policy document: The Pilot)5:
“Hazing is defined as any action or situation created, whether on or off campus, to produce mental or physical discomfort, embarrassment, harassment, fright, humiliation or ridicule. Any mental or physical requirement, request or obligation placed upon any person which could cause pain, disgrace, or injury, or which is personally degrading or violates any federal, state, local statute or university policy is also considered hazing.
For the purpose of this definition, any activity as described in this definition which the initiation, admission into, affiliation with, or continued membership in an organization/group is directly or indirectly conditioned shall be presumed to be "forced" activity, the willingness of an individuals to participate in such activity notwithstanding.”
(Fraternal Information Programming Group): Facts about hazing:
If you have to ask if it's hazing, it is.
If in doubt, call your advisor/coach/national office.
If you won't pick up the phone, you have your answer.
If you haze, you have low self-esteem.
If you allow hazing to occur, you are a 'hazing enabler.’
Failure to stop hazing will result in death..."
Will Keim, Ph.D., "The Power of Caring”
As you can see by these definitions above, just about everything can be considered
hazing. In the next section, I will attempt explain why hazing continues to be a problem.
5 Bloomsburg University Hazing policy
Part II - Why have Greeks at all?
Now that we have defined hazing, and briefly illustrated that there seems to be a national (if not international) problem with young men and women of organizations (most notably Greek) practicing hazing, the very first question you have to ask is: “So why have Greeks at all?”
There is a long history of greek hazing. There is also a long history of punishments not resulting in meaningful change over time. Based in these facts, why not just ban Greek life at universities all together? It seems like Universities have been trying to fix this problem for a long time with poor results: why not just end it?
To answer that question takes some time and some data. The rest of this section of this paper will be devoted to supplying some of that data. I’ve decided to make three subcategories as follows:
A. It’s more than Greeks B. Follow the money
C. Traditions / legacy
A. It’s more than Greeks - As I said, Greeks are “most notably” the biggest offenders of hazing policies. But does “most notably” equal “the biggest offenders”: I’m not so sure. As the recent University of Maryland Lacrosse and Bloomsburg story shows us: it’s not just Greeks. If you look at the history of hazing violations, they range from greeks to sports to even the marching band. The movie Whiplash, puts hazing by the band leader in a prestigious Jazz school into the spotlight and the movie asks the time tested question: do the ends, justify the means? An argument could be made, that the movie Whiplash is saying, that indeed, the ends CAN justify the means, regardless of how extreme. And that controversial rhetorical question is one of the reasons why it was nominated for an Academy Award.
So if you are going to consider getting rid of greeks due to hazing violations, how do you not also consider getting rid of the marching band, the athletic teams and all other organizations that have been accursed of hazing? All of which are historically also guilty.
B. Follow the money - For this one, we need to incorporate some data. In 2010, I created two online polls: one for Students and one for Alumni. The goal was to separate fact from fiction and measure both students and Alumni opinions in regard to Greek Life at Bloomsburg. The links to both of these surveys can be found in the “additional reading” section of this document. The Student survey collected 271 replies, the alumni survey collected a sampling of 204 replies. The chart below came from the Student survey when they were asked this question:
“Look at the list below and rate how important each of these factors were in your selection of Bloomsburg University as your College.”
Only COST, at 65.39% of
respondents, was more important to student’s selection of Bloomsburg U. than Social life.
Even “feeling of belonging”could have connections to Greek life.
64.11% of respondents say “social life” is of CRITICAL IMPORTANCE to their selection of Bloomsburg U.
So what does the chart of survey results mean to Greek life and hazing at Bloomsburg University? Well, I’d conclude that the school knows these numbers too, and if Bloomsburg University decided to eliminate an item that accounts for at least 64.11% of their enrollment, the financial hit might be very significant.
C. Traditions/legacy - Tradition and legacy are a big part of the University identity and experience. I do not have data on how many Bloomsburg Students are “Legacy” (meaning their parents went to school at Bloomsburg) but I do have a few friends that fit the description. And the traditions that the parents have been talking about for years in the home, need to be in place for the children in order to build that cohesive experience and keep the Alumni donations and new students, flowing into the school.
Greek life is a HUGE part of the traditional “College Experience” with most schools reporting greek membership in the 10% to 60% range, and about 95% of the student body have routine exposure to aspects of greek life during their entire college experience. As a result, Greek Life is synonymous with college to many graduates.
And Greek alumni historically give 75% more donations to their Alma Mater than non- Greek Alumni. This make the Greek “tradition” also a monetary factor for the school.
Between all these factors, It is pretty clear why Greeks have not been completely banned from university campuses. It’s a big part of the University experience, it’s a big part of marketing and it’s also a giant ball of yarn, that will begin to unravel if just one organization is singled out - while multiple organizations are equally guilty of hazing (especially sports teams).
In the next section of this paper, I hope to explain, “Why is there hazing?” And after that has been explained, attempt to explain what some organization is attempting to create with differing programs in the section called, “What are the goals?”
Part III - Why is there hazing?
This is really the question; isn’t it? Why do people in groups WANT to do mean things to one another? This has been tested extensively over the years, from the famous Stanford Prison Experiment6, to reality shows. I’m not sure if we will be able to fully answer that question in this paper either, but what I can do is explain what I’ve seen in 35 years experience: as a pledge in 1983 to a long-term advisor and advocate for greek life to the present day. Again, I can boil the top reasons down to three, that I call “The 3 T’s of Hazing”:
Tradition Topping Testament
Tradition - This is the belief that as a new member of an organization, you need to uphold certain “traditions” that you were subjected to as a pledge to a new organization. Even if you are the kind of person that didn’t like the experience, you become convinced that it’s happened since the beginning of the organization, and as a result, you are a kind of “steward” to make sure it continues to the next generation of brother.
What is particularly ironic about “tradition” is that when coupled to the next bullet point “Topping” it become mute and ridiculous. In reality, it’s just a destructive fallacy that perpetuates due to the transient nature of students and members of social groups. More on this subject later, but the good news is: tradition is easily rectified with clear understanding, for the same reason is easily created without understanding.
Topping - This is the process of building upon the last layer of “tradition” you experienced as a new member. It’s what happens in a boastful culture, when each story has to be larger than the preceding story. If I did 50 push-up when I pledged, the next bunch of guys will have to do 51 to top the extreme nature of my group. Eventually, this
“topping” will lead to “traditions” that no longer even slightly resemble the original traditions as intended. Instead, they become grotesque monuments to extremism that are dangerous and pointless.
Testament - this is a slightly less easy to define phenomenon that really has two sub levels: Level one is the member trying to make a name for themselves. They want to be known as the person in the organization that is “tough” or “hard core” This leads directly into level two: they want to be the test of the new members resolve. They want their abusiveness and the new members ability to withstand the abuse to be a “testament” to their resolve to become a new member. This endurance is to be a symbol of the new members strength or motivation or ambition. It’s rooted in such ideas as, “Nothing worth having is easy” and “That which does not kill us, only makes us stronger”.
After reading the “3-T’s” above, you could say, “how horrible” or you could say, “Those “3- T’s” are just trying to motivate, teach and to take new members and make them better. It’s trying to top the accomplishments of the members before. As Americans, we like that, “Preserve the past, but take it to the next level” kind of stuff.” But at what cost?
This is the point where this paper stops explaining the past, and begins questioning our procedures. At this point, we look to the future and ask questions. Should the “3-T’s” be eliminated or do they simply need to be “tweaked”? Are the “3-T’s” dangerous, or do they need to be looked at, updated and made into “3-T’s 2.0”?
Remember, that the “3-T’s” are nothing new. The military creates heroes using these principles. Greek life has created all but three of our U.S. Presidents, most Fortune 500 business leaders, celebrities, and a large percentage of all newsworthy and notable people in history using these principles. Based on these facts, one would necessarily have to be open to the possibility that the “3-T’s” may have some merit at some level worth investigation.
The next section of this paper will deal with the present environment for Greeks and Greek Life at many campuses around the country, with a focus on Bloomsburg University.
Part IV - Present Environment
This section tries to explain the present environment at college campuses when it comes to Greek Life, hazing and new member programs. It tries to explain why organizations need new member programs at all, and why they don’t just say, “Hey, you want to be in our organization - come on in!” If I want to join the Community Center, or the Library, all I need to do is sign-up and pay some money, right? Why should joining a social organization be any different? What do respected post college social organizations like the Masons or Knights of Columbus do?
As a matter of fact “no pledging programs” are actually what most national Greek organizations propose today. Organizations are instructed to ask who wants to join, and then give them the insignias and rights and responsibilities that go with the membership immediately. Sure, an organization can ask them to learn a little history, or maybe even the names of the members; but that is all. And you better “ask nicely” (not tell) because if you make those things“a requirement of admission or continued membership”, then it becomes hazing (go back and read the definitions in Part I, if you don’t believe me). And this is a problem.
So to comply to the hazing laws and definition (at least in PA and at Bloomsburg University), you can ask an individual to please learn some of the rules, regulation, and procedures: but you cannot require it. And frankly, the new member has no real reason to comply. Because if the potential new member feels like they might be being hazed, “by being required to learn things”, they can call the anonymous “Hazing Hotline” set up by the school. Most all schools have one. And if the hotline receives a call, charges will be levied against the organization - immediately - without so much as a hearing before disciplinary actions.
The “Hazing Hotline” is a wonderful idea. Of course, we want to protect all young adults from dangerous hazing practices. People have been killed by dangerous hazing practices, and there is absolutely zero tolerance for such acts of malicious abuse. However, as with all good intentions, the Hazing Hotline has proven to also be a great tool for various people with nefarious intentions. Because it is anonymous, it can (and has) also been used in the following ways:
• Rival Organizations - Got a problem with another organization? No problem!Gain a competitive advantage between organizations with one easy call! Get your competitor organization IMMEDIATELY suspended from further activities. This allows your organization to go after their members or show superiority (over the now suspended organization).
• Blow off steam - Didn’t get into a party? Don’t like someone in a fraternity or sorority? No problem! Simply call the 100% unsubstantiated Hazing Hotline number, and an entire organization will be immediately punished - without so much as being informed of the charges.
• New Member Expediency - Want your new member program to end more quickly? Tired of having to do the extra tasks and learning required to join a Greek organization? No problem! Simply call the Hazing Hotline on yourself. It’s anonymous, and therefore you get your program ended immediately. Sure, the organization now has to be suspended and wait for a hearing, but hey, they are innocent, so they will get off. You know that to be true, because you were the one that made the false claim in the first place (to your own immediate benefit).
The two factors above comprise some of the basic foundation of the Greek system at Bloomsburg and other schools. Organizations are not allowed to require their new members to perform any tasks, and even if they comply, they are constantly in a state of fear produced by the implementation and subsequent questionable use of a completely anonymous Hazing Hotline. In effect, and practice (as further outlined in the Pilot - code of student conduct manual) the greek organization are guilty until proven innocent, and they don’t get to prove innocence until after the damage is done.
So one has to ask themselves, “How would I behave in such an environment?” How would I behave if my neighbor (who might not like the length that I cut my grass) could make an anonymous phone call to the police, and that phone call alone allowed the police to come to my
home, and stop all operation? You can’t go to work. You can’t talk to your family. All your activities are “suspended” for an undetermined amount of time, based on the phone call. And when the hearing does happen, you don’t get to face your accuser, or even know the details of the accusations. How might you behave?
Do you think it possible that an environment like the one outlined above might make you become even MORE SECRETIVE? Maybe put up a high fence around your property, or at least keep your blinds drawn all the time? Even if you weren’t doing anything wrong, simply being SEEN could be enough to initiate an anonymous call from a neighbor to a hotline number that is 100% guaranteed to produce a guilty charge - until the accused has an opportunity to try to prove their innocence. How would you behave?
The Environment from the Coordinator herself...
A few years ago, Gretchen Osterman, then Greek Life Coordinator at Bloomsburg University, told me in a meeting about Greek Life at Bloomsburg University that, "Greeks presently appeal only to a low caliber of students on the Bloomsburg University campus: and then the Greeks bring them lower." She went on to tell me, “It’s not like it was in your day, Greeks don’t attract the best and brightest anymore.”
That was a harsh statement for me to hear, especially considering that I was there meeting with her and considering getting involved with Greek Life. This assessment of the present environment was coming from the Greek Life Coordinator! I'm thinking to myself that this lady is painting a pretty gloomy picture. Today, I thank her for doing so, and being honest with me. Like most people, I guess I enjoy a challenge.
The more I learned about the situation and the more I thought about it, I had to say to myself, “Of course they do. It’s the self-fulfilling prophesy of a PC/AYSO world!” And as I learn more, I find that certain policies that are in place (like the broad hazing law) actually create situations that prevent greeks from recruiting better students and taking them higher.
There is flawed logic at work here. The present environment at Universities is one created from limiting liability and plausible deniability. These policies are not being put into place out of a genuine concern for the students, but rather from a desire to be able to stand up in court and say, “Well your Honor, it says right here on this document. We told them not to do that, and here is our policy.”
Just having a policy that gives you plausible deniability in court is not good enough for our children. I understand that we live in a litigious time, but when a policy is legally practical, yet creates an unhealthy environment of secrecy and ethical pragmatism as a result - in a place where we claim to be shaping the minds of young adults - is unacceptable. We simply must do better, and we must use sense, and honor and proven methods to attain our goals.
Other post college social organization like Masons and K of C seem to be able to institute a certain code of honor and expectations without putting members into dangerous situations. Universities need to also demand high expectations, created by using models that work at this lever of brain development and maturity.
I will state that the present environment and climate at institutions of higher learning presently does more to degrade the ethics, honor and character of a young person: than to enhance that person. Bad policies like the arguably unenforceable and probably unconstitutional hazing law are a big part of the problem.
Until our institutions of higher learning and society itself begin to value our young people more than they value their legal position; this decline will continue. That is not to say that the schools are the sole cause of this decline; but only that they are ignoring a perfect time to help correct it.
The hazing law is an example of knee-jerk reaction to some very dangerous and deadly tragic situations that needed to happen to prevent further abuses, but that now has to be refined to make sure we don’t “throw the baby out with the bath water”. The definition of hazing has
become too broad and inclusive of practices that allow Universities and their associated recognized organizations to “bring people higher”. If you understand hazing law and how it is applied on campuses around the country, the more bizarre it becomes. When you understand the law, you start to understand how these secretive situations are happening all across the country and why graduates seem to be losing their moral and ethical compass.
According to the hazing law: “it is hazing to require any type of behavior from an individual as a requirement for inclusion or continued inclusion in an organization”?
Think about this for a moment: according to the hazing law as understood in Pennsylvania law and more specifically at enforced by Bloomsburg Universities Pilot code of conduct document, EVERYONE READING THIS RIGHT NOW IS BEING HAZED!
You are being hazed by your employer, spouse, and all other people in your life. Employers REQUIRE you to show up for work as a condition of your employment. My wife, REQUIRES me to not seduce other women as a condition of our marriage. In fact, all the students at Bloomsburg University are being hazed by the University itself, because the University REQUIRES a certain grade point average (and for them to abide by the HAZING LAW) as a requirement to graduate! It’s ludicrous!
• In football you can make students do push-ups all day, to make them stronger and better. You can do drills all day to make them physically and mentally faster. But if a sorority has a girl do a push-up, to improve the girl’s basic fitness: it's hazing and everyone involved can be expelled. What is the difference between the two push-ups?
• In an engineering major or prelaw, you can require a student to learn and memorize complex formulas or case law. But if, as part of a fraternity new member program, you require them to go to a quiet, supervised room for two hours a day to study - that is hazing, and the entire organization can be punished.
Therefore, I contend that everyone is guilty of hazing at every moment of every day! And if that is true, isn’t this an example of an extremely poor law, that actually goes as far as to create the situations and environments, that it was supposedly designed to destroy?
If you haze (according to the present definition) you are subject to all the disciplinary options available to the University and the community (because it's a state law). Those actions include expulsion, suspension and then fines and legal action by the town and state. Does this seem like a workable solution? Does this law and policy do more good or more harm to the people it was created to defend? How many kids do we want to sacrifice in order to hold this unworkable and unproductive legal position?
In the next section of this paper, I will attempt to outline what I believe the goals of a good new member program should encompass and then, later in the paper, provide an outline for attaining those objectives.
Part V - What are the Goals?
What is realistic here? What do we want from our institutions of higher learning and their affiliated organizations? Do we desire mid-level standardization and uniformity or do we want our college graduates to be “brought to a higher place”? Do we want a generation of “also rans” in the human race, or do we want a generation of graduates from the University that are ravenous and bold in their desire to excel and contribute to an exciting, dynamic world?
I’m a graduate of Bloomsburg University, and I can say without a doubt I graduated in that second group. I graduated and couldn’t wait to get out there and bring my ideas into the world. And I can also say without a doubt that my fraternity experience (getting elected, running meetings, making budgets, managing a small apartment building of 36 tenants, etc.) was as responsible for my success in life, as anything I learned in the hallowed ivory halls of the University. The school gave me some tools that the fraternity gave me others. Together, it’s a potent combination, that even with all it’s hazing warts “back in the day”, graduated some very capable students.
That is not to say that I have ever condoned or appreciated the sometimes dangerous things that happened in new member programs (pledging). I’ve been a long-time proponent of reform, but not “throw the baby out with the bath water” reform. I’d prefer some thoughtful reform that does not make even the productive policies and procedures illegal under an overly broad, knee- jerk reaction hazing law that was created during times of emotional irrationality.
Since graduation, I’ve been involved with three Alumni Associations, and one University formed Committee. During that time, I’ve had time to consider and develop programs that keep the good, and eliminate the bad in new member programs. Here are my suggestion and reasons.
From 2004 until 2014 I was the Director of the River Towns Race Series (RTRS) Events. The series is a number of amateur athletic events of varying degrees of difficulty that encourage people to get involved in something active outdoors. The series then presents increasingly larger
challenges over time in which people can compete. Over time I noticed that the more difficult I made an event, the more people liked it. Why? Well, because it makes us feel alive and like we accomplished something. It gives us pride in ourselves. It gives us ownership.
These kinds of events are very popular today and I think it’s because our world has become so “safe” and “convenient” that people are longing for a challenge. Maybe people have always longed for a challenge, but in prior times, life itself was more difficult, so they didn’t have to go very far to find a challenge. Today, it seems to me, people are looking to fill in that void where the challenge used to be.
In social situations I pitched this theory to professional friends and colleagues over the past 10 years. Team building professionals, and psychiatrists, and councilors, and coaches and military trainers, and business owners all seemed to agree that they found merit in the theory. The theory is based in time honored traditions that are thousands of years old. Boiled down to it’s basics: building a program that delivers sound mind and a sound body. Thousands of years of history have taught us that this is a worthy goal indeed. And we seem to be forgetting this fact.
But how does one go about creating a “program” that delivers and produces “great individuals” and how does one person take another person “higher”, if they are not allowed to use the tools that build a culture of excellence? If no member is expected to conform to a code of conduct or to perform at a level consistent with the principles of an outstanding organization; how can anything less than substandard performance be expected as a result? How can the sum parts of a program be great, if the “parts” themselves aren’t even allowed to exist (because they are now considered hazing)?
It is my belief that a balance can be struck. In the next section, I’ll suggest some viable, realistic solutions that are proactive and revolutionary, vs reactive and putative. And then sadly, late in the next section, I will relay my experiences when these exact solutions were presented to the Bloomsburg Administration over 3 years ago - and their offhanded rejection citing “hazing” as the reason.
Part VI - How do we achieve it?
How do you get results? How do you create a strong organization? How do you build character? How do you “take a person, higher”? These are the questions we will attempt to answer here, knowing full well that there will be different opinions, and that there are multiple ways to achieve success. This will be just one path, that I believe to be the most direct, from where we stand today.
So because I wanted to fix the “Appeal to a low class of people, and bring them lower” situation, I called those professional friends of mine I mentioned earlier and applied the things I learned in River Towns, and business and in Team building to a new recruitment program and called the new document the Millenium Recruitment Proposal (MRP)7.
This is a program that is designed to appeal to a higher level of students at Bloomsburg University and take them higher. It teaches about all kinds of life things. It presents sports style monitoring and challenges. It makes a person better for having completing the program. It is a MIND AND BODY program that creates better members of the organization, school and society.
- It contains a physical fitness component that is overseen by Geisinger Sports Medicine (just like a sports team).
- It contains a pre-screening for pre-existing physical conditions (just like a sports team).
- It contains a waiver. Just like a River Towns event.
- It was created by a team of professionals in the fields of nutrition, fitness, team building,
and mental health.
- It does not allow for the usage of any controlled substances.
- It has a purpose, in that it stresses the importance of teamwork, honor and responsibility
to yourself and your fellow man.
- It raises money for the community.
- It honors fraternity traditions, but in a way that is modern, safe and public.
- Above everything else - IT IS 100% OPEN. Nothing is secret. You get a copy of the
program before you start and it is published online. Parents could read the program, if they were worried about their kid. Potential new members read the program, and if they like it: they sign a contract. If the organization does anything not included in the contract, they are in violation of the contract and (like in any other contract law) restitution would be made.
- And because it is open, it is modern. The open nature of the program allows for things like online progress reports and live monitoring by friends, family and administration as each new member progresses on their journey into the organization.
Sounds great right? So here is the thing that I don't understand:
One organization submitted this program to the University. They were very excited about submitting, as they felt it was ground breaking and positive and productive and the solution to the “lower class of people” and “hazing” problems as outlined by Greek Life.
The program was off-handedly dismissed as "hazing".
The organization pushed the issue and entered into talks with Greek Life and Student Life over the entire summer. At the end of the talks, the organization was told, "We'll get back to you." Nothing has happened since that point. That was 3 year, and 6 dangerous pledge classes ago.
What is confusing about this is that Bloomsburg University Administrators admit during our discussion that they know things go on during new member programs that are unsafe. Things like binge drinking, physically punishing rituals, and all kinds of secret ceremonies: but yet they do nothing. One can only conclude that the status quo is preferred to positive change.
The MRP document makes all these present problems HISTORY. Why would the University off-handedly dismiss something obviously new and better in favor of all the things they claim to not want on the Bloomsburg campus? Next up: why Greek Alumni matter.
Irresponsible Greek Students grow up. Most of them grow into responsible adults, parents, and community people. I know: it's hard to believe.
I run a Bloomsburg University greek alumni group on facebook. We currently have nearly 3000 members. The goal of the group is to reconnect with past friends and schoolmates, but it's also the springboard for a more formal group that we're going to call the Bloomsburg University Greek Alumni Association (BUGAA).
The group has been acting informally for 3 years now. During the flood of 2011, we raised $4,604.89 and presented it to the Bloomsburg Chapter of the Red Cross in April. That money was used in Bloomsburg for flood relief. We have also donated appliances, furniture and other needed goods. Greek people from a far as Philadelphia loaded trucks with appliances and drove here to donate to AGAPE. Do you remember any of this making the news?
One thing Greek organizations are very bad at doing is showing the other side of coin. Do the greek students make bad decisions: no question about it. Do they make more bad decisions than the typical student - that would be very debatable.
But what Greek students do during those bad decision making years is also learn about community service and provide a lot of support to local organizations while non-Greek students might be gaming on a Saturday morning. Community service is systemic in Greek life.
And as Alumni they are more generous than typical non-greek students in regard to contributions to their Alma Mater (as previously discussed, 75% more generous).
Part VII - Greeks grow up and give back.
And they are giving not only with money, but with their time. Recently, the Greek Alumni of Bloomsburg University have been trying to identify problems with the greek community at Bloom, (real and perceived) and create solutions. Some of our findings are as follows:
• For the past 40 years, Greeks have been a bunch of 18 year olds that have come to Bloomsburg, tasted their first freedom, and then are immediately tasked with running a 30 member organization. If this was any other organization; what chance of success would you give them?
• Bloomsburg University is finally old enough to have a good amount of Greek Alumni. We estimate there are approximately 10,000 Greek Alumni. Of those, may 25% are engaged Alumni. That is finally enough people to start to provide money and guidance to the active organizations. This is a new condition for Greek Students at Bloomsburg University and it's an opportunity the Greek Alumni are anxious and energetic to embrace.
• There are many good things happening in regard to Greeks at Bloomsburg University and many areas that need improvement. A new Greek Alumni Advisory Committee (GAAC) was created recently in an effort to get that ball rolling.
Greek Alumni conducted the Survey that was previously mentioned and sited above. The results of the survey will continue to be used and have recently been used for two purposes:
1. To build a Greek Branding Campaign in the Bloomsburg area.
2. To develop programs for students that teach the things they need to repair the negative stereotypes.
The Branding campaign uses ads to highlight aspects of Greek life not normally discussed at parties. For example:
- It communicates that Greek Scholarships are the largest non-athletic scholarships available on the Bloomsburg campus.
- It educates that all but three Presidents of the USA were Greek but three. Do you know which ones weren't Greek?
- It talks about greek gold medal winners at the Olympics, famous people, Fortune 500 company CEO's.
- There are ads that inform students that nationally Greek students are 20% more likely to graduate than non-greek students and that 98% of Greek alumni report that they made the right decision when they decided to join a greek organization.
The student educational aspect is more complex.
Many of the National Organizations already have large scale, national programs that are intended to teach members the critical information about the organization, recruitment, anti- hazing and many other topics of interest to the organization.
Last year, one Bloomsburg local organization created a new member educational program. The idea of the program is to provide organizational information to new members, but also some of the things they don't teach in school. Life lessons that everyone should know, and that can be used well past college years. The program has six units entitled: Meetings, Identity, Accountability, Financial, Pledging, and Rush and they teach the following things:
Meetings - teach how to run a meeting using Roberts Rules.
Identity - teaches our 50 year fraternity history (not rumors).
Accountability - taught by a local attorney and covers behaviors and consequences. Financial - teaches how to prepare a budget for an organization and keep books. Pledging - Teaches about our new member program. It dispels rumors or false traditions. Rush - Teaches proper new member recruitment procedures.
Some of the ads generated by the survey results and campaign can be seen below:
This local organization launched this program in 2011, and it was so successful that we have expanded it, so that the Accountability unit is now taught to all Bloomsburg University students that care to attend. Free to members, $5.00 to nonmembers.
In short, what is happening is that the older generation cares about the situations they are reading about at other schools and organizations around the globe. Hazing being of special concern. The Alumni are presently working with Greek Life Administration at Bloomsburg University towards solutions. However, those solutions seem to be difficult to implement with the slow moving gears of a large institution run directly into the quickly changing and dynamic needs of the real world, as it pertains to college students.
Alumni feel like the solutions do exist. We have taken the time to create programs and solutions that are modern, goal oriented and consistent with the world we live in today. Everyone wants the same thing for these organization: both in Bloomsburg and at campuses across the nation, and that goal is a safe, smart, fun college experience for as many students as humanly possible.
Alumni hope that the Administration will give this pressing and literally life-changing subject the priority status it needs and deserves and can have the foresight and moxie to do whatever it takes to allow dynamic, maybe outside the box, solutions to these seemingly difficult problems, without taking away all the features that have allowed these organizations to graduate outstanding generations of students.
Alumni hope to never read about a Bloomsburg University organization in the same traumatic conditions as we read about so many other institutions of higher learning around the nations. We believe the solutions are there. We believe they have been outlined. Now it just takes some clear thinking, individuals, that realize that the present trajectory is not productive, to allow those more modern solutions to take root and bear fruit.
Sources and further reading
3 Racist greeks timeline: http://college.usatoday.com/2015/03/15/timeline-list-of-recent-sorority-and-fraternity-racist- incidents/
1 ΣΑΕ Gets death threats:
2 Lacrosse Team: UMBC suspends five women’s lacrosse players accused of threatening to
kill their freshmen teammates -
See more at: http://baltimorepostexaminer.com/umbc-suspends-five-womens-lacrosse-
Student SurveyMonkey Survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/VPDL9JY
Alumni SurveyMonkey Survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/GDM5JL8
PA hazing law: https://www.bloomu.edu/documents/dawn/HazingLaw.pdf
Bloomsburg Universities Hazing policy (Pilot): http://www.bloomu.edu/ policies_procedures/4650
Millenium Recruitment Proposal: https://drive.google.com/file/d/ 0BxcmdEb5vmK3Ukt4OHFadnpqQms/view?usp=sharing