Category Archives: integrity

Update: Dallas Cowboys Rookie Hazing Didn’t Work

Remember the hullabaloo from last summer’s Dallas Cowboys training camp when  rookie Dez Bryant refused to carry Roy Williams’ shoulder pads?

“I’m not doing it,” Bryant said. “I feel like I was drafted to play football, not carry another player’s pads.”

“If I was a free agent, it would still be the same thing. I just feel like I’m here to play football. I’m here to try to help win a championship, not carry someone’s pads. I’m saying that out of no disrespect to [anyone].”

The story made national news and ESPN analysts were quick to criticize Dez Bryant for neglecting the time-honored tradition of rookie hazing.  “Shut up and carry the pads,” said Mike Golic, co-host of ESPN’s ‘Mike and Mike in the Morning.’  Golic went on to brag about holding rookies down to perform unpleasant haircuts and throwing uncooperative rookies’ clothes into the shower.

Posting the story to the Sigma Nu fan page received an outpouring of criticism even from some of our own members:

Dislike, pay your dues Dez…humbling rookies out of college is definitely necessary for new ego-centric players like him. This post is most disheartening.

This post doesn’t exactly make me proud to be a Sigma Nu. That tradition isn’t arbitrary at all. It would be arbitrary if only certain rookies had to do it. It might teach Dez to appreciate where he is and what he has.

where I come from when someone older more experienced tells you what to do….you say yes sir!

There’s nothing about carrying somebody’s pads that even remotely resembles hazing. It’s a simple way to show respect for guys that have been there before you.

Nothing wrong with Hazing. Thank you Sigma Nu Nationals for adding to the continual feminization of America. I know you have to do it for liability purposes but it doesn’t mean I have to agree with it.

Proponents of Tim Tebow’s infamous haircut and Dez Bryant’s personal servitude promised to create “team chemistry” and “a fun time for the rookies,” which would in turn produce a successful season.  But with both teams sitting at last place in their respective divisions, and a Dallas Cowboys record envied only by the Buffalo Bills, we can safely conclude now that this failed experiment in rookie hazing didn’t result in a team chemistry that wins football games.

Hazing’s “true believers” will be quick to blame the coaches, or a lack of talented players, or Tony Romo’s fractured clavicle or anything other than the training camp antics.  There’s no doubt that a team can fail for any number of reasons and no one–not even the ESPN analysts–can say why with certainty.  The point is not necessarily that rookie hazing caused their bad season but, rather, that rookie hazing failed to fulfill its promises, namely, that personal servitude would create a team culture conducive to winning football games.

In any case, this story sheds some light on the true nature of hazing: Though always justified with the best of intentions, hazing is not much more than a form of entertainment for veterans who take pleasure in embarrassing their teammates.

Does carrying a veteran player’s shoulder pads risk personal injury?  Doubtful.  What about the potential for psychological harm?  Probably not.  So what’s the big deal in a little harmless rookie hazing?  It’s an utter waste of time and a distraction from the team’s core purpose.

The time spent duct-taping a rookie to the goal post, giving embarrassing haircuts and bickering over who should carry the veteran’s shoulder pads could have been spent on activities that are actually relevant to winning football games, like practicing audibles, studying film or even reviewing blocking assignments to protect the quarterback from injury.  (Too soon?)

Rookie hazing may seem harmless on the surface because most of it probably is harmless.  But the unseen harm comes in the form of distracting a team from its mission to win a championship (or in our case, teaching ethical leadership).  Hazing is harmful because it’s insidious.

Hazing is often perpetuated by the Brothers who contribute nothing to the chapter, leaving coerced respect as their only way to feel relevant.  Similarly, it’s not uncommon for the third and fourth stringers to be the loudest proponents of hazing.  They can’t earn respect on the field, or by embracing their role as a valuable backup teammate, so they’re compelled to demand respect by bossing around the rookies.  If you want respect from the new members, earn it the right way by holding a leadership position and moving your chapter forward.

Thankfully, sensible Brothers who want to lead their chapter to excellence are taking a stand against arbitrary tradition as evidenced by one of the more uplifting Facebook comments:

I’ve never felt admiration or respect for someone while being their servant. Listening to advice and learning from the elder is a better way to show respect. Saying, “no thanks, I can carry my own pads” is a better way to get respect from the rookies. The rookie who works hard and learns is going to get more playing time than the rookie who carries shoulder pads the best. It is a pointless tradition with little to no benefit and much bigger risks such as resentment and spite.

Simplifying the Hazing Debate

All hazing debates can be settled by asking two simple questions:

How do you earn your badge and when do you earn your badge?

Membership is earned through vigilance and dedication to the founding principles (i.e. your behavior), not by demonstrating subservience to the older members.  If the activity has no clear connection to Sigma Nu’s purpose then it’s time to find an alternative.

Similarly, membership in Sigma Nu is not earned one time during the pledge process; membership is earned every day–during the new member process and beyond–by remaining committed to the voluntary oath each member accepted during initiation.

By perpetuating the myth that membership is earned one time during the pledge process by performing arbitrary tasks, hazers are creating a culture of apathy and mutual disrespect–everything Sigma Nu is not.  Earn your badge every day by remaining dedicated to your Knightly vows.  Period.

Day 37: “But I don’t think ____ is hazing.”

One cannot claim to be a Sigma Nu and simultaneously participate in or allow the mistreatment of another person who happens to be new to the group.  Period.  Hazers are often confronted with this reality that their actions are misaligned with their words.

Psychologists have a term to describe people who lack integrity: cognitive dissonance (George Orwell called it doublespeak).  Boiled down, cognitive dissonance (or doublespeak) occurs when a person holds two contradictory views simultaneously (the precise definitions are well worth studying).  For instance:

A person who believes in Sigma Nu’s history and the founding principles of Love, Honor and Truth and preaches a firm opposition to hazing.

And also believes…

…that hazing is a harmless, honorable and legitimate way to test new members for initiation and teach respect and discipline.

So what can you do when your actions don’t match your words?  There are two options: change your words or change your behavior until the two are aligned.

The former is far easier; the latter is far nobler.

For the hazer the solution is simple: just change your words to match your behavior.  In other words, just convince yourself and everyone around you that it isn’t hazing and…*bingo*…problem solved!

The honorable man, however, will do the right thing and change his behavior to match his words.

Which will you choose?

This post is part of a series dedicated to providing answers to common excuses for hazing.  The #40Answers in 40 Days campaign aims to promote National Hazing Prevention Week (September 20 – 25, 2010) and to ultimately create the definitive collection of crowdsourced knowledge to eliminate hazing.

Random Thoughts

If fraternities are supposed to stand for such values as honor, integrity and respect then why must every national office employ a full-time Director of Risk Reduction?

Why are marketing campaigns to eliminate hazing almost always directed at our our own members rather than the general public?  Isn’t it pathetic that we should have to convince our own members that the mission of our organization is in fact good?

The few chapters that are either too cool or too dysfunctional to attend Grand Chapter will inevitably complain the most about the new bylaws and policies they didn’t bother to vote for.

If chapters are so proud of their diversity, loosely defined, then why do pledge programs insist on making everyone the same (“our #1 goal is to mold a united pledge class”)?

If hazers are so confident that arbitrary harassment builds brotherhood then why not advertise every activity and expectation during recruitment?

And if hazers are so confident that hazing has an ounce of relevance to real life then why don’t they list “endured hazing pledgeship” on their resume?  Or do they understand that no employer would take them seriously?

Why do some chapters spend more time developing marketing campaigns to make themselves look good rather than actually being good in the first place?

Why do chapters spend so much time trying to motivate members for recruitment rather than just recruiting people who don’t need to be motivated?

If hazing is supposed to teach respect then why are the loudest proponents of hazing always the least respected members in the chapter?

Integrity Means Having Self-Respect

Br. Jim Thomas’ column on integrity in the most recent issue of The Delta is a must read.  Here are a few of my favorite parts:

In the abstract, however, the virtue is puzzling. Often quoted—the word crops up everywhere—but rarely defined, it is frequently interchanged with the cardinal virtues of courage and honesty of which it is neither. Ask for definition; a dozen are forthcoming. Moreover, in this frantic age, few pause to reflect on integrity and its value in everyday life.

What unseen forces motivate a person to practice this virtue? It has many motivations, including pride, individualism, the insistence on independent thought and action. All, however, are outranked by one imperishable inducement–a determination to maintain one’s self-respect.

The quest for integrity is neither an easy nor an ending task. Sometimes the price for self-respect is higher than many will pay. However, the benefits are enormous. For integrity leads inevitably to the priceless assets of trustworthiness, good reputation, reliability, fairness, square dealing, truthfulness, and forthrightness. Among the brotherhood, at the fraternity house, on campus and beyond, such assets are of value beyond measure.

The Shocking Reality of Irony

Irony can oftentimes be humorous, but in many other instances it can be disappointing or downright sad.

How would you feel if you opened up your local newspaper and read the following headline:

“Anti-hazing fraternity closed due to hazing.”

‘Living our Values’ isn’t just a catchy phrase or some arbitrary title for a LEAD session.  It’s what we’re supposed to do on a daily basis.  To live our values, we must understand them, lest we’re forced to swallow the bitter pill of irony.

Rule #76: No Excuses. Bake Like a Champion

Carol Tice at the BNET blog has a short post comparing and contrasting Panera and Cosi.

Two bakery-cafe chains have been in the news recently — Richmond, Mo.-based Panera Bread (PNRA) announced growing sales despite the downturn, while Cosi (COSI) of Deerfield, Ill., said its sinking sales have led to a delisting warning notice from the Nasdaq. Both chains began around the same time, and Cosi certainly got as much positive initial press and consumer raves. Some of the key differences that made Panera the winner:

The parallel with fraternity life should speak for itself:

Sticking with the concept. For years, Cosi toyed with being a bar by night and a bakery by day, or just selling liquor along with its food, possibly creating customer confusion and disappointment as they evolved. Panera just kept being a great bakery-cafe.

Chapters that “stick with the concept” of a brotherhood based on shared ideals and positive experiences will always outperform the chapters with a faux brotherhood based on unearned respect, personal servitude and partying.

I like this example because it also offers a lesson in not making excuses.  Cosi probably tried to tell their investors, “We’re in a recession, you know, so our plunging stock is just a reflection of the bigger economic climate.”  We often hear chapters rationalize poor performance with similar rhetoric.  “Our recruitment effort may appear like an utter failure but numbers were down for everyone this year.”

So what.  When their competitors’ stock was taking a nosedive, Panera embraced the environment and increased value despite the recession.  Next time campus recruitment numbers are at an all-time low, you be the chapter to defy the trend.

Sigma Nu History Isn’t Just For Candidates

Many of you have probably noticed that we started posting a Sigma Nu trivia question-of-the-day last week.  So far it’s been a fun way to engage our Facebook fans and Twitter followers about the early days of our storied organization.

A select few of the comments, however, have been disappointing in a subtle way.  Apparently for some, Sigma Nu history is merely a collection of arbitrary information for quizzing candidates.  “…well thats [sic] good trivia to stump candidates with,” read one comment.  Several others echoed a similar sentiment.

I know what you’re thinking: “What’s the big deal?  We expect our candidates to memorize history as a requirement for initiation.  Every chapter teaches history.  Don’t you think history is important??”

Of course history is important.  It explains why we were founded and it helps us understand why Sigma Nu’s mission is still relevant over 140 years later.  But seemingly harmless comments like these only perpetuate the pervasive myth that membership is earned only once during “pledging,” inevitably creating a culture of apathy and entitlement.

It seems harmless at first–a written test here, a verbal quiz there–but this paradigm of pledging is insidious.  Before long, verbal quiz sessions become line ups where deadbeat brothers attempt to gain unearned respect under the guise of “teaching history.”

Oddly, our history is often misused in this way as an arbitrary means to badger new members–the very behavior Sigma Nu was founded against.

Memorizing history is well and good but understanding history is even better.  Instead of barking “WHERE WERE THE FOUNDERS BORN?” why not discuss “Why was Sigma Nu founded and how is this still relevant today?”  Or, “to what extent does our chapter actually practice what the Founders intended?”

Slowly but surely sensible chapters are adopting this not-so-new paradigm for candidate education: Earn your badge every day by living the mission and values of our organization.  They’re not changing because it earns brownie points from the Greek Advisor or because “Nationals” told them to; they’re changing because it works.  Members are realizing that a brotherhood based on fear, harassment and personal servitude isn’t really a brotherhood at all.

Deadheads, Frat Stars and Fraternity Men

The March issue of Atlantic Monthly is running a story on management secrets from the Grateful Dead.  I’m not really a Grateful Dead listener (no particular reason, they just never caught on for me) but, believe it or not, I found a few passages that relate to fraternity life.

What binds us together?

As the band’s following grew, the notion that it might have something to offer scholars, particularly in the social sciences, became somewhat less far-fetched, though still not without professional risk. In the late 1980s, Rebecca G. Adams, a sociologist at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, who studies friendships formed across distances, noticed deep bonds between Deadheads.

Today, everybody is intensely interested in understanding how communities form across distances, because that’s what happens online. Far from being a subject of controversy, Rebecca Adams’s next book on Deadhead sociology has publishers lining up.

Similarly (sort of), Sigma Nus from Orlando to Seattle and L.A. to Boston share deep bonds.  Hazers and true fraternity men agree that brotherhood is about bonding, but bonding around what exactly is where hazers get confused.

In a way, hazers are correct that people can bond together by enduring negative experiences together.  Surviving a natural disaster with your neighbor will surely bring you closer together; however, bonding through negative experiences is a backwards way to create genuine relationships, especially when the situations are created intentionally.

On the other hand, true fraternity brotherhood is built on the foundation of common ideals and positive experiences.  Those who have attended a Grand Chapter and recited the Ritual with hundreds of Sigma Nus from across North America understand what it means to be bonded by common ideals with otherwise complete strangers.

Enduring success relies on innovation

Recently, Barnes has been lecturing to business leaders about strategic improvisation. He’s been a big hit. “People are just so tired of hearing about GE and Southwest Airlines,” he admits. “They get really excited to hear about the Grateful Dead.”

The long-term success for any organization hinges on its ability (and its willingness) to adapt to constantly changing surroundings.  While it’s natural to be skeptical of advice from outsiders, we should also recognize that valuable lessons often come from unlikely sources.

Do You Practice Sustainable Values?

An interesting article in the NY Times this morning discusses the difference between situational values and sustainable values.  The theory comes from LRN – a consulting firm committed “to help inspire principled performence in business:”

Dov Seidman, the C.E.O. of LRN, which helps companies build ethical cultures, likes to talk about two kinds of values: “situational values” and “sustainable values.” Leaders, companies or individuals guided by situational values do whatever the situation will allow, no matter the wider interests of their communities. A banker who writes a mortgage for someone he knows can’t make the payments over time is acting on situational values, saying: “I’ll be gone when the bill comes due.”

Does this sound like members of your chapter?  Especially toward the end of an officer’s term or the final few months of a brother’s collegiate career, the drive to work toward implementing sustainable programs and ideas dwindles.  After all, it’ll be someone else’s job in a few months.

Your chapter must promote sustainable values.  Perhaps this will sound familiar:

People inspired by sustainable values act just the opposite, saying: “I will never be gone. I will always be here. Therefore, I must behave in ways that sustain — my employees, my customers, my suppliers, my environment, my country and my future generations.”

Sigma Nu is a lifetime commitment – you will never be ‘gone’ from the values of our organization – and accordingly, chapter leaders should practice sustainable values to ensure that the chapter is moving forward toward Sigma Nu’s vision of ‘excelling with honor.’

Where can you go to practice these ‘sustainable values?’  Why not start with the LEAD Program, Sigma Nu Fraternity’s primary initiative designed to develop ethical leaders.  Sessions that promote Values, Goal Setting, Strategic Planning and Accountability are readily available for your chapter’s implementation.

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