By Leadership Consultant Adam Bremmeyer
“There are no offensive or hazing practices involved in a fraternity initiation.”
For the last couple of nights, I have sat and pondered what this statement means to me. As I have worked with various chapters, I realized the best resource is the actual collegiate members I talk with day-to-day.
I read this statement to members of Beta Beta Chapter during a recent Ritual workshop. Almost unanimously their response was “well we know OUR initiation does not involve any hazing practices but there is no way to know for sure if other fraternities follow this practice.”
This was the same thing that I thought about after reading the statement the first time. I started researching online what society thought of fraternity initiations and rituals and, not surprisingly, it wasn’t too favorable.
Many times when fraternities and sororities are in the public light, it is for reasons that the Greek community are ashamed of. A small percentage of misguided individuals make things a lot harder for those who do the right thing.
According to a simple Google search, most think of initiation as the completion of certain degrading, physical, and mental tasks throughout a semester or a week to eventually earn your membership without any reason or purpose.
It was difficult to find a factual description of what I feel is the definition of a fraternity initiation. The majority of fraternity initiations are sacred within that organization and it is something that is unique to the fraternity and that connects them with thousands of other people over the course of one hundred or so years depending on the organization. It defines the fraternity based on a set of values and principles and gives those members purpose as a part of something greater than each individual.
Because of the secrecy, the idea of initiation is that of Animal House, what we see in similar movies, and what we read in books and magazines. Richard H. Robbins, the author of Cultural Anthropology: A Problem-Based Approach, stated the following in his 2008 book:
The fraternity initiation ritual on most college campuses is the culmination of a period of pledging in which initiates are required to perform various demeaning acts. Particulars may vary from fraternity to fraternity and campus to campus, but in general the ritual stigmatizes the initiates as infants, children, or girls and then proceeds to cleanse them of this negative identity before incorporating them into the fraternity as full-fledged brothers.
I don’t remember any of this happening when I was initiated in the fall of 2006 and, sadly, this is the idea that even many of my friends who didn’t attend college always seem to mention upon learning of my fraternity membership.
I can’t speak for every fraternity but I am sure they will appreciate it when I say the official initiation ceremony of a fraternity is a momentous occasion that was a culmination of hard work, dedication, and strong brotherhood over the course of the semester, none of which was demeaning or made me feel like less of a person.
As many already know, Sigma Nu was founded in direct opposition to hazing and the act itself is not suggested anywhere in the ceremonies or The Ritual of Sigma Nu.
As with many fraternities, the Founders of Sigma Nu specifically made the initiation ceremony without acts of hazing. For those chapters and fraternities that choose to alter these ceremonies, they are not living up to the values they committed themselves to, and are in fact not actually performing the ceremony the way it is meant to be, thus stripping those individuals of a valuable experience.