Grade school bullying and fraternity hazing share many of the same root causes. While the activities might change from one age group to the next, the underlying philosophy of coerced respect remains the same.
As such, fraternities can draw insightful parallels from efforts to eliminate grade school bullying. One such program, Roots of Empathy (ROE), aims to eliminate bullying by teaching empathy to students as early as preschool.
TIME magazine reports:
One of the most promising antibullying programs, ROE (along with its sister program, Seeds of Empathy) starts as early as preschool and brings a loving parent and a baby to classrooms to help children learn to understand the perspective of others. The nonprofit program is based in part on social neuroscience, a field that has exploded in the past 10 years, with hundreds of new findings on how our brains are built to care, compete and cooperate.
So maybe we’re not going to place a mother and her baby in every chapter home. But the lesson here is about teaching empathy and living the golden rule. What are some innovative ways your chapter can teach empathy? Here is one possibility, the reverse parents’ weekend:
Send every initiate home with a new member for one weekend each semester. Get to know his family and learn about his background. When the would-be hazers have a deeper connection with the new members and their families, they’re more likely to form relationships based on common values and shared [positive] experiences rather than faux relationships built on intimidation and coerced respect. Maybe this would pose logistical problems for large chapters but variations are available.
Greek Life professionals have two favorite reasons for eliminating hazing:
1) Someone could die or be seriously injured.
2) Hazing is against the law and the members responsible could face jail time.
Unfortunately these serious consequences are not compelling to many hazers. Why? Because the probability of someone suffering serious injury or going to jail are probably relatively rare for the seemingly harmless hazing. This, however, should not undermine the importance of eliminating all hazing, not just the pernicious hazing. Respect yourself and others regardless of age or tenure and the perceived need for respect through coercion disappears.