Category Archives: personal servitude

A tale of two chapters – the opportunity cost of hazing

While your chapter was designing this year’s recruitment t-shirt (another beer logo, of course), my chapter was having lunch with prospective members and their parents.

While your chapter was creating demeaning nicknames for each pledge, my chapter was taking the time to learn each candidate’s name, hometown and life story.

While your chapter was debating what embarrassing costume each pledge should wear for this weekend’s party, my chapter was helping each candidate set personal goals for the semester.

While your chapter was out buying family drinks for Big Brother night, my chapter was arranging a mentoring program for each candidate to work with an alumnus in his field of study.

While your chapter was holding the weekly line-up in the basement to grill pledges on arbitrary questions they can’t answer, our brothers were at the library studying with the candidates (our candidates learn Fraternity history from the brothers).

While your pledges were out stealing road signs, defacing property, and breaking into campus buildings during the annual scavenger hunt, our candidates were listening to a guest speaker talk about time management skills and effective study habits at our weekly chapter meeting.

While your pledges were running errands and performing arbitrary tasks to complete their interview books, we were hosting a parents’ dinner to learn more about our candidates and their families.

While your brothers were harassing pledges in front of their dates at last weekend’s mixer, our chapter was hosting an etiquette dinner with the top sorority on campus.

While your chapter was trying to coordinate manufactured stories for the upcoming “nationals” visit, my chapter was updating our strategic plan to free up time for feedback and guidance during the leadership consultant’s visit.

While your chapter was searching for loopholes in the risk reduction policy for this weekend’s off-campus party, my chapter was hosting a speaker on alcohol education open to the entire campus. (We hosted a party that weekend too, except we followed our insurance guidelines.)

While your members were swapping stories of drunken female conquests from the previous night, my chapter was hosting a campus-wide program on preventing sexual assault.

While your chapter accepted mediocrity, we sought excellence.

While your chapter slowly fumbled everything away, we gradually earned our way to the top.

And while your chapter looked for someone to blame, we resolved to reach for the next level.

Rock Chapter recipients proudly display their awards during the 64th Grand Chapter in Boston.

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“We can’t just let anyone into the chapter.”

Just a few of our favorite responses to today’s #40Answers hazing excuse:

@KeithEllis02: “A bid is an invitation to join, not an invitation to be hazed. Make better decisions on the front end not 6 weeks into pledging.”

@bgibson27: “We can’t let just anybody in.” Doing pushups, tolerating yelling, memorizing your interests. Quality new members there…

@David_Stollman: “If u REALLY believe in hazing, promote that u do it & stop lying! Then see who joins. I dare u. At least ur not hypocrites then.”

@KPezzella: “A well-articulated recruitment plan and training for your chapter will ensure that you get quality new members without hazing.”

@TJatCAMPUSPEAK: “Challenge hasn’t been to keep the unworthy out. It’s getting the worthy in & they have better things to do than tolerate hazing.”

@SigmaNuDrew: “Riiiight. Who needs grades and character when we can have a chapter full of people with good memory and no self-worth.”

Read all of the outstanding responses to today’s excuse here.

Will rookie hazing help the Titans win more than six games?

The Tennessee Titans finished the 2010 season tied for last place in their division. With such a disappointing record, you’d think the team would be spending precious training camp hours on activities that actually contribute to winning football games (e.g. reviewing blocking assignments, watching film, timing routes, etc.).

But the “team,” if you can call it one, seems more interested in taping rookies to the goal post and dumping ice-cold water all over them.

Will the Titan’s rookie hazing help them suck less than they did last year? Not likely. As the Dallas Cowboys learned last year, rookie hazing failed to deliver on its promises. (It’s no surprise that the Cowboys took a decisively different stance on rookie hazing this year.)

Meanwhile, Peyton Manning, though currently recovering from recent neck surgery, is focused on getting rookies involved in the team as soon as possible:

“You’ve seen all the highlights with the rookie hazing and haircuts,” Manning said, per John Oehser of FanHouse. “We don’t do that around here, because we don’t treat the guys like rookies. We expect those guys to play this year and to play well.”

“Hazing builds better members by instilling toughness.”

A few of our favorite responses from today’s #40Answers excuse, “Hazing builds better members by instilling toughness.”

@fraternalthoughts: Teaching someone to be submissive and take orders instills toughness? Let’s create leaders, not subordinates.

@TJatCAMPUSPEAK: Know what’s tough? Being a good husband, father, student, citizen, professional. Prepare them for that. Hazing doesn’t do it.

@bgibson27: Hazing instills toughness? Stop acting like you’re a military Drill Instructor–it is disrespectful to those who serve.

@GullsGoGreek: Be tough and accountable on what is important: values, grades, campus involvement. Hazing is for the weak!

Are you a fan or a fanatic?

It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it. -Aristotle

We all have strong convictions about something. It could be a political belief (“taxes hurt small businesses”), or a historical narrative (“FDR ended the Great Depression”) or even the eminence of a favorite sports team (“Chicago Cubs are the best baseball team ever”).

Maybe it’s something as simple as a favorite TV show (“Hands down, Entourage is the best show to ever grace the airwaves”). Whatever it may be, everyone is passionate about something.

In everyday usage, “fan” describes someone passionate about a sports team, a TV show, a musician, and so on. “I’m a lifelong Redskins fan,” one might say in casual conversation, or “I’m a huge fan of Tom Petty.

But the root word of fan carries a much different, and more harmful, meaning. Merriam-Webster defines fanatic as “marked by excessive enthusiasm and often intense uncritical devotion.” (Synonyms include “extremist” and “radical.”)

For a fan of the Detroit Lions a win brings him a sense of joy, but he can acknowledge, after observing the team’s record over the past ten years, that the franchise is not the best in the League.

For a fanatic, on the other hand, evidence doesn’t matter. The Detroit Lions are the best team in the League, period, and no amount of reason or logic will change his mind. It sounds silly in a sports analogy, but from time to time we’re all prone to such blindness in our decision making in other areas of our lives.

So what happens when we’re confronted with new evidence that conflicts with an existing worldview? How will you react? Will you take a big gulp, swallow your pride and change your mind? Or will you frantically search for stories that confirm your narrative and ignore anything that refutes it?

Thankfully for us Sigma Nus, the anecdote to fanaticism is right in front of us. Our founding principle of Truth expects us to make decisions based on sound information, even if it might not support our existing belief.

In short, Truth calls on us to keep an open mind–to consider the possibility that we made a mistake in our thinking. It requires us to walk away from a false paradigm no matter how psychologically painful it might be.

Which brings us to the #40 Answers in 40 Days Campaign. Beginning tomorrow, and continuing through National Hazing Prevention Week, hazers will be confronted with a steady assault of evidence and logic that questions a deeply rooted worldview—a worldview that regards the arbitrary mistreatment of new members as a legitimate way to build lifelong friendships and commitment to the fraternity.

For hazing’s True Believers we ask one thing: Consider the possibility that you might be wrong.

Four Reasons Ritual is Important to Sigma Nu

By Director of Communications Nathaniel Clarkson

1. Renewal of purpose.

There are plenty of practical reasons to begin every chapter meeting with The Ritual. Most chapters only convene for 1-2 hours per week so opening with The Ritual sets a serious tone for the meeting. The Ritual asks participants to wear coat and tie, which contributes to an atmosphere conducive to accomplishing the business of the fraternity.

Beyond fostering a professional atmosphere and providing other tangible benefits, The Ritual serves a much deeper function, namely, to remind us of Sigma Nu’s purpose. Between the hectic day-to-day activities of running the chapter, sometimes it’s easy to forget why we’re all doing this fraternity thing in the first place. The Ritual serves as a reminder of Sigma Nu’s purpose and a weekly renewal of the oath each Knight swore to uphold.

2. Articulates honorable action.

Without publishing any secrets of the ceremony, the opening of The Ritual essentially asks each Knight to renew the oath he took as a candidate. Moreover, the closing reminds us all that the passages recited each week are not just words; rather, they are a call to action.

While The Ritual is secret, non-initiates should be able to decipher our Ritual by observing our actions. The Ritual serves as a guide for honorable behavior.

3. Distinguishes us from other organizations; unifies all Sigma Nu chapters.

Sigma Nu maintains nearly 180 collegiate chapters throughout North America. Naturally, each chapter develops its own unique culture over time. Some chapters boast 200+ members, each involved in a bevy of other campus organizations, while other chapters maintain a smaller brotherhood all recruited from the football team.

Despite the menagerie of interests among different chapters and even members within the same chapter, each Knight is united by the same oath to live an honorable life.  It’s a moving experience to watch Brothers from Boston, Macon and Santa Barbara stand side-by-side reciting the same ritual during conclave.

While The Ritual unites tens of thousands of Sigma Nu Brothers who’ve never met, the fraternity ritual also distinguishes us from other (inter)national fraternities.  However, the differences are much smaller than most realize. In fact, a confidential study administered by the North-American Interfraternity Conference concluded that ritual ceremonies for the prominent social fraternities showed strong similarities.

4. Teaches us to eliminate hazing.

In a subtle way, The Ritual also presents a problem for the typical hazing logic. According to the hazing narrative, candidates must complete a series of arbitrary tasks to prove they are worthy of initiation.

As the opening to ritual shows us, however, we don’t earn our membership in Sigma Nu by submitting to activities that have nothing to do with ethical leadership. Rather, we “earn our badge” each and every day by remaining faithful to our Knightly vows.

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.