Would you wake up in the middle of the night to have a half a gallon of beer poured down your throat? Would you sit in numbingly ice-cold water while deafening howls of rage and insults pummel you? Would you swim in a pool filled with stomach-churning sludge made of vomit, rotten food, and fecal matter? These are just a few examples of the many heinous activities pledges are forced to partake in order to join a fraternity or sorority. And for what? To belong?
American fraternities date back all the way to the eighteenth century. They were prestigious societies with educational values, but as time progressed a more social aspect emerged and a sense of brotherhood surfaced. Initiation for pledges also dates back to the beginning of fraternities. They endured the same public humiliation and harmful acts as today.
Just recently at Penn State, 19 year old Tim Piazza died during his hazing. His blood alcohol levels were almost four times the legal driving limit, and his head and spleen were severely injured after a drunken fall down the stairs of the fraternity house. All 28 of the members of Beta Theta Pi were charged and on April 2, 2019, three received jail-time. Apart from slightly murderous qualities, hazing itself has become a felony in 10 states, and anti-hazing laws exist in 44 states.
As more fraternity disgraces flood the news, the million dollar question remains: why do people still want to join fraternities? Young university students are attracted by the idea of brotherhood full of rowdy behavior and kumbaya spirit. The act of hazing provides a rush of adrenaline that makes pledges feel special because they are part of something special. But why?
Since the beginning of time, humans are hard-wired to want to be in a group. No matter gender, race, religion, or age, we all desire social activity. In the US today many struggles to become a part of a group, whether it’s obtaining citizenship and claiming their national identity or finding a place to sit at lunch. This is prominent in academic environments, where students long to be approved and accepted.
In a scientific study at UCLA, it has been proven that the brain produces the same response to losses and gains in social interactions as it does to materialistic values. For example, the brain receives the same pleasure from a successful social endeavor as it does from receiving a gift.
Think about the words we use when we lose social connections. Broken. Separated. A part of our identity is missing.
Social interactions don’t have to be a detriment. Not in fraternities and not in life. The problem is the lengths that we go to achieve them. In summary, be kind. Reach out to others and form a safe community, rather than floundering around till you end up in a dangerous situation. To quote the New York Times: “We are what we join, individually and as a people.”
Burkman, David. “Why Frat Boys like Hazing, If They Live through It.” USA Today, Gannett Satellite Information Network, 9 May 2017, www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2017/05/09/hazing-death-penn-state-timothy-piazza-frat-boys/101426522/. Date Accessed: April 5, 2019
Chappell, Bill. “Former Fraternity Member Gets House Arrest In Penn State Hazing Death.” NPR, NPR, 1 Aug. 2018, www.npr.org/2018/08/01/634524678/former-fraternity-member-gets-house-arrest-in-penn-state-hazing-death. Date Accessed: April 5, 2019
McGowan, William. “A SENSE OF BELONGING.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 23 Aug. 1987, www.nytimes.com/1987/08/23/magazine/a-sense-of-belonging.html. Date Accessed: April 5, 2019
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Press, The Associated. “LIer among Those Sued in Penn State Pledge Death.” Newsday, Newsday, 2 Feb. 2019, www.newsday.com/long-island/suffolk/penn-state-frat-death-daniel-casey-ronkonkoma-1.26767115. Date Accessed: April 5, 2019
Woodyard, Chris. “Police: DKE Frat Members Arrested for Hazing, Urinating upon LSU Pledges.” USA Today, Gannett Satellite Information Network, 15 Feb. 2019, www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2019/02/14/9-lsu-fraternity-members-arrested-hazing-charges/2872824002/. Date Accessed: April 5, 2019