So, I was going to share another article today, but I personally just had to write up this opinion piece today. Yesterday a Twitter moment showed up on my Twitter feed. This moment stated, "Is this the end of Greek life on college campuses?"
This breaks my heart.
As a proud alumna of Sigma Sigma Sigma, I couldn't imagine my collegiate experience without my sorority. I have always been outspoken on my blog about my anti-hazing stance. It's frustrating that some members of the Greek community don't share this stance with me.
Today, I wanted to reach out to others in this community (new members, members, and alumnae alike) to share my personal thoughts on this and provide some solutions.
Not only should we chat about hazing but also the other things happening that are giving our organizations a bad name. It's not just the hazing, it's the insensitive parties, the underage drinking, and general negative experiences.
Colleges and college presidents are left wondering, "Is Greek life on our campus really worth it?"
So many people think that these things shouldn't concern them if their organization isn't doing anything wrong, but you definitely should. Before I joined Tri Sigma I knew nothing about the Greek alphabet. Now that I am not in college anymore, all the Greek letters are starting to blend together if it's not a Sigma or something really obvious like an Alpha or a Tau. Unless you can read the Greek alphabet, it's all Greek to you.
Bad sororities and fraternities impact EVERY GREEK ORGANIZATION. It doesn't matter if you are a nationally recognized organization or a local one. You are impacted by what is happening. Having one bad organization on campus can impact every organization on campus, especially if Greek life gets shut down because of them.
Before I share my thoughts I want to open with this. Here is a quote from Emily Pualwan, the Executive Director or HazingPrevention.org. Emily is the sweetest and last year she answered a few questions for The Happy Arkansan. When I asked her what students can do if they feel like or know they are being hazed she answered:
"If you witness a hazing incident or someone is in danger call 911!
If you want to report a hazing incident or a suspected incident that is not immediately putting someone in danger contact your campus security office, your organization’s headquarters, and/or other state or local designated reporting authority. Many schools and organizations require that you report what you witness!"
Please, please, please follow her advice! If you are concerned and want to report anonymously, there are also resources for that (although I am sure the local police officers can offer some sense of anonymity.) There is a hotline you can call to share anonymous tips about hazing incidents you know details of. The hotline number is 1-888-NOT-HAZE or 1-888-668-4293. You can learn more about this hotline by checking out the Fraternal Law page for it.
So, now that I have gone through that, let's chat about what we can do to stop hazing and other negative behaviors happening in Greek life right now.
1. Take Any Allegations Seriously
One of the worst things you can do as a member of a sorority or fraternity is to dismiss allegations happening on campus. What does a sister or brother have to gain from coming forward? Most of the time, coming forward ends in losing the members of their organization they are actually closest to and being ostracized because we have not come far enough on being understanding when people come forward. Instead of scoffing and ostracizing, take a second to listen and believe someone's story.
Don't take someone's coming forward as a slight against all Greek life. They aren't slighting you, they just want Greek life to live up to and exceed our Founder's expectations.
2. Report What We Know
I know that reporting can be super scary. I mean, no one wants to be the person who rats on someone. You have to get out of that mentality if we want to stop these things from happening. If you see something or know something, say something. There are anonymous ways to report hazing incidents if you know of any.
3. Stop Standing Up For Greek Organizations Who Haze
CHAPTERS OR CHAPTER MEMBERS WHO HAZE ARE NOT WORTH YOUR SYMPATHY.
Hazing incidents don't just affect the student and the chapter who hazed them. They impact the parents who worry about their child (and potentially lose their child), it impacts friends of that student, it impacts the entire university, and it will impact your chapter too if it's serious.
Don't have sympathy for members who haze and don't stand up for them. It just makes Greek life as a whole look bad when we have people who are sending thoughts and prayers to the chapter hazing and not the members being hazed.
In May, I wrote a similar op-ed on LinkedIn, where I shared this:
"We have to be the people who make the distinction. We have to be the people who step up and take our anti-hazing stance seriously. We can't look down on students going through these issues and ask them, "Why didn't you just leave?" Instead, we must weed out these chapters so that they can either change their ways or stop recruiting members."
We have to be the ones who stand up against this because if other people have to stand up for us, we won't be able to control our own narrative as members of Greek organizations.
4. Stop The Cycle Of Hazing If It Is Happening In Your Organization
If hazing is occurring in your organization, stop the cycle right now. Obviously, behaviors and thoughts on hazing take time to change, but you need to move forward on stopping these toxic behaviors.
Make a mandatory and strict no hazing rule in your sorority or fraternity and enforce it. Obviously not everyone will be happy at first, but no one ever is with a change in an organization. Eventually those members who aren't a fan of the change will get kicked out for violating the order, leave the organization because of the change, or graduate.
Either way, you have made a strict stance against hazing, stopped the cycle, and put in place punishments for it all at once. It may be harsh to some members, but it's not actually harsh, and it will make your organization a better, safer place.
5. Be The Voice Of Reason In Our Organizations
Lately there have been many stories of senseless deaths happening in Greek organizations. A person will get hazed, drink way too much, and it will damage their body to the point of death. Usually it turns out that there were plenty of times for people involved to simply take the person to the freaking hospital and save their life. Alas, some idiot with basically just a high school diploma will state that taking them to the hospital would be bad and that leaving them to "walk it off" would be so much better so they won't get in trouble.
Newsflash, this never freaking works.
So, if you are ever in this scenario or a similar one, be the voice of reason. Say, "You know what, how about we take this person to the hospital and deal with the consequences like human beings who care about the people who join our organization."
Now, I realize that the probability of you finding yourself in this situation is slim to none, but I also realize that this is an important thing to say.
If someone is in trouble or too intoxicated from an event, get them help. Yes, you may have to deal with some consequences, but if things go seriously awry, the consequences will be tenfold. On top of that, if you have the chance to save someone's life, just do it. You don't want to have to go to court one day, look someone's parents in the eye, and tell them why you let their child die in your care.
6. Talk To Your Fellow Sisters & Brothers About The Dangers Of Hazing
Many colleges are trying to have these talks with their college students, but honestly that is not the best way to have these conversations. When a student receives a talk from their university it feels like a lecture, when they receive it from a fellow sister or brother it feels like a chat. So, universities should definitely still provide these talks across campus, but these should be followed up with chats within the organization and between members.
The same can be said about chats about the dangers of binge drinking, stereotypical Halloween costumes, and any other thing that can give Greek organizations bad press. Some people listen more when it comes from someone in their organization and not from some higher-up on campus.
7. Have Tough Conversations With Your University About Stricter Regulations
To be honest, some universities are better at regulating these incidents than others. When your university is relaxed and nonchalant about hazing incidents, it eventually impacts other universities.
University presidents may see what's happening at another school and decide that they want to investigate or further crack down at their school (which can be great if they find incidents) or they could go even further and decide to cancel an expansion of Greek life at their school or Greek life altogether. Don't let your school impact Greek life on your campus or across the country.
You have some bargaining power as an organization. Use that power to urge your council to take hazing and hazing prevention more seriously.
For these next few ideas, I am going to focus on shedding light on positive things. I do want to say that this shouldn't be like potpourri. Your goal isn't to cover the odor of bad things happening in Greek life. You should definitely use these in tandem with making positive progress on hazing prevention and other things plaguing Greek life today.
8. Get More Press About The Positive Things Your Organization Is Doing
If you have something positive happening in your organization invite the press to it. Once the event is done, send pictures and a snippet to local and state press. The more you can get your heart-warming and positive stories out there, the better.
9. Reach Out To Your Community And Give People Positive Interactions With Greek Members
Host community events as often as you can in your college town. Reach out and wear your letters. Make sure that people have more positive interactions with Greek members. When people are able to see Greek members doing great things, it can create a better case for why Greek life is such an important part of campus and community life.
10. Realize That You Are Always Wearing Your Letters
You are always, and I mean always, wearing your letters. This is a lesson I learned early on in my Greek career and it has served me well. You are a representation of not only your sorority, but Greek life as a whole. Once you wear your letters once, you are immediately seen as a representation of your organization, everything you have done or will do is automatically seen through the lens of Greek life. So, represent us well.
Greek life has made such a positive impact on me as a person since I joined in January of 2012. In a few months I will be celebrating six years of being Greek. I love my organization and I am so proud of my chapter and their continued success (shout out to Sigma Sigma Sigma, Alpha Omicron chapter.) I am so thankful that my organization and my chapter taught me love (one of our many values) as a new member. I was so pleased to see that continually being shown to other new members, even after I left.
As a whole, Greeks, we have to do better. No new or existing member should ever be hurt (mentally, emotionally, physically, etc.) while in our care. So, let's join together and make an impact. Let's take this Twitter moment and turn it on it's head. Let's make real change in our organizations and let's do it because we care.