Fraternity recruitment process’s relationship with hazing

Tommy Kennedy

“Men of Principle.” “Friendship, Justice and Learning.” “Virtue, Diligence and Brotherly Love.” For those unfamiliar, these terse phrases are frequently associated with a few of this nation’s most prominent fraternities. Fraternity practices all too often contradict these sentiments.

It is common practice among fraternities to require new members to demonstrate their commitment to their chosen fraternities by completing demeaning tasks, also known as hazing. While its severity may vary, hazing in any form whatsoever is not only immoral, but also downright disgraceful to the concept of strong community that the University touts and has worked hard to create and maintain.

In this pledging season alone I’ve seen various fraternities require new students carry bricks in their backpacks, launder existing members’ dirty clothes and don fanny packs around campus, among other tasks.

Essentially, students are required to subject themselves to belittling trials in order to hang out with, associate with and be friends with certain other students on campus. Friendships and bonds should be formed on the basis of kindness and mutual respect, not one party subordinating and degrading the other. Any relationship formed on the latter principles is, frankly, disingenuous. If this type of situation were applied to an elementary school setting, one comprised of students who are much less mature than college students, students would likely be sent to the principal’s office for bullying, and rightfully so. Advance 10 or so years to a college setting, and people turn blind eyes. 

According to the University’s policy on hazing, “Hazing, in any form, is strictly prohibited by the University, the Interfraternity, Panhellenic, and Multicultural Greek Councils, and the local and inter/national offices of each recognized organization. New and active members should not tolerate such behavior, as it does not promote relationship-building and trust, and rather serves to break down morale and the notion of community upon which Villanova University was founded.” Yet, fraternities are so adamantly committed to humiliating new students before they are permitted to call themselves true members that they consistently choose to violate this straightforward no-tolerance policy. Hazing is such a despicable and indefensible practice, but even when told it is strictly forbidden, fraternities are unwilling to abandon it. That choice speaks volumes about the integrity of these organizations. 

Hazing is often justified on the basis of tradition. It has occurred for centuries, some may say, so it should be a non-issue—why stop now? However, it is alarming and reprehensible to justify treating people poorly simply because others have been treated poorly in the past—and, of all reasons, simply in order to allow them to be a part of a group of friends. Willingness to complete demeaning tasks may indicate dedication to the group, but students are most assuredly inventive enough to create new and non-humiliating standards for demonstrating commitment. Taking the time to attend specific events, or even just a certain quantity of events, for example, seems like a perfectly reasonable way to determine a student’s commitment.

Beyond being a sheer moral catastrophe, hazing also means that fraternities are outwardly representing themselves in a wildly dishonest manner. Fraternities frequently promote their strong bonds and ability to shape members into principled and honorable men. By contrast, new members are immediately thrust into an environment which flagrantly violates the basic principles of human decency. Degrading others so that they are permitted to be friends with members of the group is far from ethical and will not form genuine or righteous bonds founded on respectable notions such as benevolence, respect or kindness. Practicing hazing is an outright contradiction to the image fraternities advertise.

Fraternities have the potential to be wonderful and virtuous organizations that add great value to the University. Their current practices, however, serve to tarnish the University’s otherwise strong and morally upright community.