Hazing Is A Good Thing

November 5, 2011

Political Theory


As the middle of the fall pledge term for fraternities role around, the amount of time and hazing that occurs increases. More and more colleges are on the lookout for any hazing that is occurring during pledge terms. In the past, fraternities would do extreme activities that were physically and mentally challenging. Today, for most fraternities, hazing has somewhat decreased but more colleges are still on the lookout for anything serious that could be going against the rules of hazing. Let’s face it, all fraternities haze to some extent even though colleges might not allow any hazing at all. The type of things brothers might ask for and have the pledges do can be very time consuming. Having the pledges clean all the houses a couple times a week and run errands for the brothers can take up time from school work and other college activities. Having pledges come to the house at random hours of the day or night can detract from the sleep that is needed for a student to function properly for class. Overall hazing is almost like trying to join a social contract with the brothers in the fraternity. The individuals joining want to be a part of something as a whole and become part of the authority as a brother. According to Locke, explicit consent is required for a social contract. This means that for pledges to enter a social contract they must go through certain activities set by the brotherhood to enter. Locke also states that a contract can be broken if members cease to consent. You can be kicked out of a fraternity for doing something out of the norm of a contract. Joining the social contract of a brotherhood and going through hazing is good thing because it increases accountability, helps create equality between everyone, helps make arrangements predictable, and it is good for regulating friendships.

Becoming a part of the social contract of a brotherhood involves hazing. Hazing is not always chugging alcohol and staying up late at night, which is considered what it is by most people. Instead, it involves activities as a pledge class that brings the group together. During times of hazing, one may feel like they have no one to reach out to, except your pledge class brothers. During activities that the group does together, each individual beings to trust one another where it increases the accountability of one another. These activities make individuals learn about each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Everyone always helps each other out when your pledge brother needs it the most. Going through hazing allows pledges to show that they will consent to the social contract of the brotherhood.  It is a way to generate initial consent, which is the process into the social contract. When in middle school or high school, it might take all those years to know everything about some of your best friends, but in a pledge class, it only takes a semester to know everything about everyone, which is why hazing and pledge activities are alright because it makes the most out of joining the social contract of a fraternity. Amy Qualls states in an article, “When you haze someone, you see how much they can take, and how loyal they are to the group. Through these “tests” imposed on the new members, cohesion and positive conformity to the group can grow, and bring the group closer together. Hazing is almost a way of humbling someone: it puts them in their place and makes them equal to everyone else in the group.”  This article,http://fhn.fhsd.k12.mo.us/studentpublications/November05/Opinions/hireorfire.html, gives the positive and negative effects of hazing. The positive effects explain that hazing makes people show respect towards others and does not keep people from being overly confident about everything they do. From this, pledges learn respect towards others and form equality between each other. Locke would agree that this explicit consent is required. But from these acts of hazing to enter the fraternity, there is great enjoyment in the end.

The choice made by an individual to enter this social contract and go through hazing with their fellow pledges is a completely free choice. Locke tells us that people enter into contracts with one another because it is in the individual’s state of nature and that they are independent while being able to live peacefully and safe with one another. It is a free choice because the individual can either choose to enter a pledge term of hazing to have consent to join a social contract or not. The hazing they go through will lead them to the good things and enjoyment that comes in return once they finish their hazing as a pledge and enter the brotherhood.

After hazing is complete, entering the social contract of a brotherhood provides a tremendous amount of accountability and equality between everyone and it creates a greater network of friends that will last a lifetime. A fraternity is able to do this because pledges go through events that no one else knows about or ever will know about except your brothers you are entering with in the contract. Should hazing be monitored more by colleges and should there be stricter rules and punishments? Or does hazing help pledges enter a social contract of a strong brotherhood that can never be broken? Which social contract theory do you think applies to relationships between fraternities and pledges?

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15 Comments on “Hazing Is A Good Thing”

  1. andgoldberg Says:

    I completely agree with your stance on hazing. The pledge term I personally went through has taught me a lot. I have learned many life values and to not judge people before getting to know them. The time and effort put into pledge term made me realize that I am not “better” than any of my pledge brothers, but we are a single group of guys who will be friends for the rest of our lifetime.

    Each person comes into college with an overwhelming feeling that they are lost in a sea of people. Especially at a school like Michigan where there are 40,000 people. With this in mind, many incoming freshmen try and get involved to get to know people and establish their friend circle. Greek life is where many kids turn to. Fraternities offer incoming freshmen a way to make friends with people who they will be friends with for the rest of their life. The bonds and friendships you make all come from pledge term. The difficulties and time spent with your pledge class creates the bonds that will last a lifetime. Cleaning and doing tasks for the fraternity may be considered a form of hazing, but I do know all the time I spent performing those tasks made me much better friends with my fellow pledge brothers.

    Obviously I do not completely condone hazing. Many fraternities have taken hazing too far. At the same time, it’s a “social contract” and people have the opportunity to leave whenever. If someone feels as if a fraternity is forcing them to do too much, they have the opportunity to say no. Hazing should still be monitored on the level of the fraternity, but not forbidden because it does instill solid values and create friendships that last a lifetime.

  2. verlong Says:

    This is a very interesting post and take on hazing. I am in a fraternity myself, but it is not part of the typical Greek system (it is service based, but does function in some similar ways to social fraternities). In my fraternity, no hazing of any kind is allowed. They go so far as to say that a scavenger hunt is considered hazing. While I think that this is a little extreme, I also believe that they have a point. I attended a workshop on hazing this past spring, and they shed an interesting light on how actions may hurt people in an unexpected way. You may not know someone’s background, and think that something like blindfolding a pledge class to lead them one block away is fine. When in fact, one of the students may have been physically abused in their past, and it may bring back traumatic memories. I had never thought of hazing in that way before.

    Last spring, I was voted in to my fraternity as my Chapter’s Vice President. Over the next couple of months I will be leading the new pledge class and teaching them how to be good Brothers. Having been in the fraternity for several years, I can tell you that I did not need to clean or run errands for the fraternity in order to feel close to my class (and the fraternity as a whole). I will not use any form of hazing to help acclimate these students to the fraternity. I believe that there are different ways to teach students to feel equal to each other and like a part of a family within this large University.

    Although you willingly enter into a social contract with the members of your fraternity, I think that something extremely important is mutual trust. I know that the type of hazing that you’re saying is okay is not the kind that causes physical harm, by taking up people’s time you’re hurting them academically and maybe emotionally. It is the job of the fraternity to protect their Brothers, not to take advantage of the members’ acceptance of anything that is thrown at them.

    I understand what point you’re making, and I completely respect it. I just wanted to share a different view of hazing from yours. Thanks for the new viewpoint and interesting read!

  3. Jason Cohen Says:

    Excellent connection to social contracts and the topic of hazing in my opinion is quite blurry. I know for certain some fraternities’ guidebooks do encourage housework and cleanings. And quite frankly, “hazing”, when done correctly is truly the most fun you never want to have again. As long as you are not threatening the lives of those pledges, it is hard to argue against a pledge term. I truly feel bad for the houses that do not provide any structure or rigorous schedule or tasks and events because ultimately, they’re losing out. The way most houses seem to work is bringing a pledge class together by forcing them to complete errands, and cleanings together. Due to the toned down nature of it, I really don’t see why there is an outcry against it. Pledging a fraternity is a commitment to learn the values of the brotherhood as well as be trained to run the house the way it traditionally has been run. Obviously, I don’t condone dangerous and physically damaging behavior, but when done correctly, pledge events actually can have metaphorical meaning.

  4. zschmitt17 Says:

    Fraternities should be allowed to haze their pledges, only as long as it is not dangerous. If there is potential for one of the pledges to be killed or to get seriously ill or hurt then that hazing should not be allowed. But for things like cleaning the houses and running errands there is nothing wrong with that. The pledges are in no way forced to do any of these things, it is entirely optional. If they do not want to do something then they can stop pledging.

    I think that it does form a bond with other memebers of your pledge class. You are working together with them for a common goal through any challenges you might face. Since I understand that pledges are not supposed to talk to people outside the fraternity about their hazing actions, members of the pledge class can confide in each other and let of some steam forming even a closer bond.

    Since all of the current Fraternity members have already completed the hazing then I see no reason to stop it. It is entirely optional and all the good things in life you have to work for. In order to get into Michigan I had to get good grades and show that I was worthy, just like everyone else that goes here, graduated from here, or will go here. I wouldn’t expect someone who hasn’t completed high school to go to college just like I wouldn’t expect someone who doesn’t complete the hazing to be in a fraternity.

  5. jrmeller Says:

    Hazing is nothing new to the Greek System in all schools around the nation, and I agree with your stance on the topic. It does make sense for hazing to be frowned upon, however, I see no reason for it to be abolished from Greek Life. Yes, schools want to see their Greek Affiliates to be active in the community and demonstrate good moral standing, but being in a fraternity is a privilege that must be earned.

    The most important aspect of hazing is the tradition behind it. Every single brother in the fraternity was in the same place pledges of the fraternity are in during the pledge term. Every event that would qualify as hazing, is carefully thought out and planned to ensure that it runs smoothly and safely despite the obvious faults with the event.

    Being put through “tough” hazing events is also essential to building chemistry amongst the pledge class, and also helps the pledge class earn the respect of the brotherhood, all of whom have been through exactly what the face. Putting the pledges through the same thing the older brothers went through helps place them on an equal social standing as the brotherhood.

    Hazing is merely a right of passage that all members of the fraternity are subject to go through. Hazing helps bring the pledges and all of the brotherhood together, which is the most important aspect of a Fraternity: closeness. As many horror stories as you may have heard about hazing, in reality those examples do not define the entire process. It may seem extreme, profane, and unnecessary, but in reality it is for the greater good of the entire Greek Community, encouraging closeness and brotherhood.

  6. lkpeacock Says:

    I am not involved in Greek Life in any way, so my view of hazing and fraterities/sorotites lacks experience. I never wanted to be a part of Greek Life, but I by no means think it is a bad or negative experience for college students. Especially at such a large school, it is a great way to meet people and create lasting friendships. Some of the things said in the previous comments just sound completely strange to me though. Why would you want to get closer to others in your fraternity by going through hazing together? I can say that I have made some extremely good friendships since I have been at school, and I did not need to go through that process. Wouldn’t living with your brothers alone allow you to get to know one another? I’m sure not everyone that goes through the hazing process feels it is fair, and some pledges might get singled out. Again, I’m not sure how it exactly all works, but it really does not sound ideal.

    I’m also not sure how it relates to Locke’s definition of a social contract. He states that fear leads to the creation of a social contract when people are in a state of nature. Well, I do not think it is that positive to start a friendship from a state of fear…

    However, partaking in hazing is completely voluntary, so I’m sure it is “fun”, and does allow pledges to connect to one another very quickly. Marx would like the idea of hazing because it does equal the playing field among the members. If all the upperclassmen had to go through the same process, they incoming pledges should have to do the same I guess.

    Overall, Greek Life is strange to me, but I have seen that it does create lasting friendships, and what better way to start than by going though the hazing process?…

  7. walirajat Says:

    As an international student, coming from Dubai, I have heard quite a lot about hazing and it has always been portrayed in negative light to me. Hence, it was extremely refreshing to read about a contrasting view and interesting take on how hazing can actually have a positive effect on the lives of people and help foster the important bonds of camaraderie and brotherhood.

    Having said that and having heard both sides of the argument, I personally believe that it comes down to the trade off between the short term of engaging in difficult maybe embarrassing activities right now versus the long term gain of developing a strong support group and network in the future. I am now a senior and do not regret one bit for not having joined a fraternity my freshman year simply because my beliefs are different and I did not feel the need to engage in short term tribulations in order to make my current group of support and networks. That doesn’t mean I didn’t have my own difficulties in establishing the mutual trust and inspiring confidence in each other, but it was something I was more comfortable doing and knew was more in align with the kind of individual I am.

    Furthermore, I am truly glad to have read about this post regarding the positive impact hazing could have on students since it would be unfortunate if I was to have graduated college without hearing the other side of the story.

  8. ianbaker2041 Says:

    I can see both sides of this argument. I’m one of the pledges in the same fraternity as verlong (commented above), and there is no hazing. Although I’m not far into the process, I can already sense the community feeling that the organization has. There does not necessarily have to be hazing to make community. The other night, I was at an apartment off campus with some brothers and other pledges just watching an old Ohio State-Michigan game to get ready for this weekend’s game. As most of us who were there are members of the Michigan Marching Band, we wanted to get as hyped up as possible for the best game of our season. The activity had themes of brotherhood and closeness running through it, and none of it involved hazing. We ate pizza and drank soda-not beer or liquor-and just enjoyed each other’s company. The environment was comfortable, not intimidating, and I think there’s something good to be said for that.

    On the other hand, I personally know how hazing and tough experiences can bring people closer together. I am a member of the US Air Force Auxiliary, and I’m trained in ground search and rescue. When I’m home and when I was in high school, I would go out at all hours of the night and chase beacons all across the west side of Michigan trying to save lives and protect property. Getting to that point, however, took a lot of very hard work. Twice, I went to a specialized 9 day training session to learn the skills, and some of the things we went through were pretty hellish. I know how it feels to run up a sand hill with full BDU (camouflage uniform with black combat boots) uniform and my entire pack with food and supplies for 72 hours in the woods. I know how it feels to pitch a tent, be told it isn’t done right/ isn’t lined up with other tents/ was not done fast enough, rip the thing down, put all components back in their respective places, and start the entire process over again. Repeat for what felt like hours. Get up at 5am and run for an unknown distance-just keep running until someone tells you to stop. Someone fell out of formation? Circle back, push them along, and keep running. Push ups hurting? Do more; it’s about getting as physically toned as possible to perform our mission quickly and effectively.

    When I got out the first time, I was covered in dirt and wearing the same clothes I’d worn for the last 48 hours (yes, I mean exact same clothes), but I was so proud to have made it through. Other people quit, but I didn’t, and I still talk to some of the people with whom I survived those two hard weeks of nonstop physical pounding and intensive training. Although I thought that some of the physical activity and mental stress was unnecessary at the time, my first time commanding a team on an actual sortie after an actual emergency beacon made me realize that it wasn’t. Such hardships taught me a lot-how to lead, how to motivate, and how to understand my own limitations as THE person in command. I’ll never forget how good McDonald’s tasted after 9 days; I’ll also never forget the lessons that those trials taught me, and for that, I am grateful to the men and women who pushed me through it. For me, immense hardship (along the lines of hazing) created a different person and made me rethink what I perceived to be my limits. While creating brotherhood may be possible without hazing, some hardships can be very useful for creating confidence and unity.

  9. marckarpinos31 Says:

    Hazing is a touchy subject among the greek communities around the country. While most agree that hazing is tortuous and sometimes meaningless, in the end everyone looks back upon the tasks they have accomplished and realize that they have made lasting bonds with the people they just went through “hell” with.

    While I believe that hazing is probably useless there are some aspects of it that having the university monitor it or taking it away entirely will ruin. I believe that going through difficult times with your pledge class as the author alluded to can make it easier to form bonds. These bonds are at times forced as pledges may go through mentally and physically challenging events and nights with no support system other than their pledge class brothers.

    Additionally, when I was pledging a common phrase I had to repeat in my mind was I am giving up 1 semester, 1 kind of bad semester for 7 incredible semesters. I can only speak from what I know from personal experience but our pledges are treated almost as if they are brothers. I have heard from many of my friends around the country that pledges are not allowed to come to parties they are only expect to come at the end to clean the parties. In my fraternity, there are pledges who become the life of the party and have become infamous for their incredible dance moves and party antics. Our attitude gives the pledges a reason to continue through difficult times and look forward to brighter days.

    As a result, I believe that hazing can not change. Unfortunately it is not the most enjoyable semester for anyone but it has its values and it is important. It brings people together that may never have come together at an accelerated pace. Additionally these secret experiences gives this collective group something to look back upon together that nobody else can truly understand; some of my best memories of college thus far came through pledge term and I would not advise a change in the system.

  10. jps3520 Says:

    Your title is sort of misleading, but your point is good for the circumstances. Hazing in a frat is different from hazing in a lot of different situations, because hazing isn’t just apparent in frats. There are hazing rituals in many groups, and it ranges from verbal to physical hazing. While hazing may be alright in frats, the other groups may not be as acceptable for a couple of reasons.

    First of all, you talk about entering a social contract with the other brothers of the fraternity. In other instances it could be seen as entering a social contracts too, but with some changes. First of all, it isn’t a secret that fraternities often haze the pledges. This is something that the pledges know going in, and they recognize this as a means to the end of joining the frat. In other groups when people join they might not be expecting hazing rituals, so it’s more one sided in that regard. So in this instance, why not just get out of the group that is hazing you? In high school, many marching bands have been known to haze the new incoming members. It’s difficult to quit because it’s a class that you’ve chosen to take, so in a way the new members are stuck being hazed with no prior idea that it would happen and no real way to get out. Many times this happens at band camp, which is sometimes a trip that takes the student away from home with no way to get out.

    Another difference is in severity. In my eyes, the severity of the hazing, if there should be any, should be proportional to the new member’s idea of the amount of hazing that will be a part of entering the group. For instance, if the member is not expecting any hazing there should be little to no hazing. In the fraternity situation, the fact that the pledge is expecting hazing gives them a little bit of leeway in the severity of hazing that they should be able to get away with.

    So, in conclusion, I think the social acceptance of hazing has something to do with the difference between express consent (think fraternity) and tacit consent (love it or leave it, think other organizations) and the ability for the person being hazed to leave.

  11. nasearc Says:

    I like this post and I agree that certain kinds of hazing can be good, but if the line is crossed it can be harmful. Often hazing can be mentally and physically damaging. Pledges of fraternities often are forced to drink alcohol, do random physical activities, stay awake for long periods of time and memorize information. As a student these tasks can take a toll on your schoolwork, extracurricular activities and social life. However some Fraternities use these methods more than others. As a member of a Fraternity I know that there are methods of hazing that can be beneficial.
    Through hazing pledges are able to create friendships, learn time management, and become part of a Fraternity that can provide support through the rest of college. So I would say that Fraternity’s can provide a social contract of a strong brotherhood, and the regulations on hazing should exist but should be limited.

  12. #jasonschwartz Says:

    Locke’s call for people to form social contracts has absolutely nothing to do with networking friends, it is soely based on peoples desire to secure the longevity of their livelihood. “The only way, whereby and one divests himself of his natural liberty, and puts on the bonds of civil society, is by agreeing with other men to join and unite into a community, for their comfortable, safe, and peaceable living”. People come together to protect themselves from the dangers of the outside world. We are already in a society at the university that provides us with this security. As a result, there is no need for people to go out and join a fraternity for our own preservation. Because of this, Locke’s principles do NOT apply to the situation regarding a fraternity.
    You join a fraternity because you want to gain a better college experience, not out of necesity for survival. So, when you “put on the bonds of [fraternal] society” and pledge, your acctually not abiding by Locke’s principles at all. I perosnally am involved in a fraternity, and I definately didn’t do it for protection from the outside world.

  13. ldahbour Says:

    I love the application of Locke-ian political theory and the hazing process in fraternities. I agree completely that the difficult tasks that pledges need to do during the hazing season create a sense of accountability and equality among brothers once they are initiated into the fraternity. However, it should be noted that these tasks should not result in physical or psychological harm the individual. Although consent is given, the acts they are expected to perform are not apparent upon the delivery of consent, which is true in any social contract, but in the case of politics there is a voice to the majority. Also, on the note of social contracts, fraternities, as organizations, have social contracts they must uphold with established universities. By being allowed to have a chapter on a given university campus, it is up to the brothers of the frat to maintain a certain social order that complies with university standards. These standards are explicit in their condemnation of any form of harmful hazing.The social contract that exists between brothers should be a confidential one that exists through honor, respect, and dignity. Hazing should definitely be a part of fraternities as they do support accountability and equality, however it should be maintained in a manner that respects the social contracts of all affiliates of the chapter.

  14. bmauto21 Says:

    Belonging to a fraternity is not something that can be taken for granted. I am part of a brotherhood and the status of a “brother” is something earned, not given. Hazing may very well be part of earning that brother status. While hazing is horrible and frowned upon among other problems with it, it is something that is part of every fraternity in America. Colleges do check on hazing and I know that if hazing is occurring in any frat on the University of Michigan campus that they are kicked out of IFC and are under investigation. This happened here last year. SAE was accused of hazing and they were under investigation by their nationals and IFC. They got kicked off campus and are no longer a part of IFC. While there are penalties from hazing they have yet to actually disband a fraternity on Michigan campus. Both SAE and ZBT are kicked out of IFC but they are currently recognized by their nationals even after hazing allegations.Belonging to a fraternity is not something that can be taken for granted. I am part of a brotherhood and the status of a “brother” is something earned, not given. Hazing may very well be part of earning that brother status. Hazing, in fraternities, is meant to strengthen the bond between pledges so that when they are brothers they are actually brothers with each other and have a strong connection with them.

  15. maryblee Says:

    Last year, the boys swim team at my high school held a party. They snuck alcohol in and pressured the new freshmen swimmers into drinking. One boy drank so much he passed out, was rushed to the hospital and had his stomach pumped. This year, a few parents of the younger swimmers complained about hazing, and managed to implement harsher rules outlining what was allowed and, more importantly, what was not. As a result, every senior member of the team quit, basically destroying the team.

    In the case of the swim team, dangerous hazing had become a tradition and the seniors couldn’t wait to take their turn torturing the freshmen in the same way they had been tortured, and when that was taken away from them, they saw no reason to continue in the team. When a group stays together solely because the members are waiting to harass new members, there is a problem.

    I know that this is not always the case, but hazing is an umbrella term that can encompass anything from cleaning to chugging alcohol and the line between camaraderie and abuse is blurry. In order to prevent the dangerous aspects of hazing, I think it is necessary to do away with the whole system. This is not to say that I’m against bonding, I think that there are plenty of other ways to organize events that are conducive to group cohesion that don’t fall under the term hazing and that sports teams and Greek life are perfectly capable of carrying them out, if they don’t already.

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