The Top Five NHPW Blogs

We hope you’ve enjoyed this year’s National Hazing Prevention Week blog series. Many thanks go out to our authors for taking the time to share their experiences, knowledge, and stories with all of us. To cap off the blog series, we would like to bring back a few blogs from the past. Below are the Top Five National Hazing Prevention Week Blogs from the Phi Delt Blog over the past few years.

To see the entire National Hazing Prevention Week blog library, please click here.

Looking for Some Heroes

By Dr. Sparky Reardon 

“This is your brain.  This is your brain on drugs.”

Years ago, in an effort to fight drug usage, those words were blasted relentlessly on television screens.  The commercial first showed an egg (This is your brain) and then showed an egg perfectly frying in a skillet (This is your brain on drugs).  I think I know what the government was trying to convey with this public service announcement, but I have to agree with the comedian who said, “Yeah, and there’s some stoned guy out there thinking, ‘That egg sure looks good.’”

I don’t expect fraternity men who haze to read this blog and change what they are doing.  So, if you are a hazer and are looking for arguments, ideas, or faults in what I say, stop reading.

This blog is intended for men of character.  Men who believe in the teachings of the Bond.  Men of substance.  Strong men, courageous men.  Men of action.  Men of strong faith. Men who might be heroes.  Men of character.  So, if you think that you might fit one of these categories, read on.

I had the privilege to hear fellow Phi Gary Bender (Wichita ’62) speak at convention a couple of years ago, and he ended his talk with a quote that has stuck with me.  He said, “Fame is a vapor, popularity is an accident and money takes wings. The only thing that endures is character. Reputation is what man thinks us to be. Character is what God knows us to be. Reputations are chiseled on our tomb stones, character is what the angels of heaven say before the throne of God. If God knows he can trust you, He will enlarge your territory.”

Wow, that’s a powerful statement.  Character is what compels you to contribute, to challenge, to grow, to change yourself and others.  Character is the quality that determines whether you address the wrongs in your chapter whether they be apathy, alcohol abuse, drug usage, a culture of violence, poor scholarship, or HAZING.

If you are a man of character, you should be compelled to stop hazing in your chapter if it exists.  Here are some tips.

Align yourself with other like-minded men of character.

These might not be your best friends, but you know who they are by their actions and words.  Have a meaningful discussion about how the new members are treated in your chapter and what you think about hazing.  Select only men of character to be your Phikeia educators.

Work overtime to develop Phikeia programming that builds men up, not breaks them down.

Frederick Douglass once said, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” Don’t concern yourself with what others will think of you.  If you conduct positive Phikeia programming, in a couple of years, the other fraternities will be emulating you.  Be courageous and creative.

Have the courage to confront the hazers in your chapter.

Anyone who hazes is a coward.  There I’ve said it.  Don’t be afraid to gently confront a brother who wants to haze and ask him to explain his motivation for hazing.  Be unwilling to accept “tradition”, “it was done to me”, etc.  I have often found it impossible to reason with someone who is committed to hazing (especially when using words of two syllables or more!), but give it a try.  Confront hazers with like-minded brothers by your side.  Confrontation is not a bad thing.  If you see a situation that is dangerous (especially involving alcohol), confront quickly, forcefully, and physically if you have to.  You won’t get in trouble for doing the right thing.

Rely on GHQ, Province Presidents, University Officials, and Alumni.

First realize that these are not bad people or people out to get you.  No one gains when a chapter closes, goes on probation, or when a Phikeia is injured, or leaves with ill feelings toward the fraternity.  People who go to Alcoholics Anonymous know that the first step is realizing that there is a problem, standing before others and saying, “Hello, my name is XXX and I am an alcoholic.”  If you want to get well, be willing to admit, “My chapter’s name is XXX and we are a hazing chapter.”  Doing this puts you on the right track. Please know that there are many people willing to help you.  All you have to do is ask.

And, finally,

Look in the mirror and ask yourself, “Is this a man of character at whom I am looking?”

If the answer is yes, you have no choice.  You have to stop hazing.

Dr. Sparky Reardon is the Assistant Vice Chancellor/Dean of Students at the University of Mississippi. He has worked in higher education for 34 years. His primary areas of responsibility have included advising fraternities and student government, leadership development, crisis intervention, organizational discipline and teaching. He has a M. Ed. from Delta State University and a B.A.E. and Ph.D. from Ole Miss. Brother Reardon has spoken to thousands of students at numerous universities, conferences, and conventions. For this, Phi Delta Theta recently honored him with the Legion of Honor Award. He has also been awarded the Robert Shaefer Award for significant, long term service to Greek Life. In 2008 the Ole Miss senior class honored him with a scholarship in his name and in 1995 he was awarded the initial Thomas Frist Award for his outstanding service to students. He has appeared in the History Channel‟s “Frat Boys”, a history of fraternities in America. He enjoys Ole Miss sports, reading, cooking, and traveling.

I Refuse to Believe

By Mike Dilbeck

Phi Delta Theta is proud to be a founding sponsor of both the RESPONSE ABILITY Project and the Every|Day Hero Campaign. This blog was created for sponsors of the project and will be shared by a number of (inter)national organizations throughout the day in support of National Hazing Prevention Week, and to raise awareness of how bystander intervention can combat hazing.

As we honor National Hazing Prevention Week, I want to challenge us all to think about the unnecessary and harmful act of hazing from all angles. While there are certainly the two obvious parties involved in, and impacted by hazing — the victims and the perpetrator(s) — I want to address the rest of us who may see, hear or even know about these acts. Much has been, and will be, talked about this week in regards to those impacted directly by these unnecessary acts.

However, I will argue that we don’t talk enough about the third party to hazing — the bystanders. While we are certainly shining the spotlight this week on hazing, it’s also important to include other often related problem behaviors like bullying, alcohol and drug abuse, sexual violence, discrimination and everyday life issues. By including these, it’s safe to say we are all bystanders. We have all witnessed problem behaviors in our lives and, while there have certainly been times where we intervened, there are way too many times we didn’t.

We stayed silent. We laughed along. We walked away. We participated. We froze.

When it comes to these actions — or inactions — from ourselves and others, I refuse to believe this is what we actually want to do in that moment of time. I refuse to believe that we don’t care and want to make the difference for those being impacted. I refuse to believe that we don’t know the difference between right and wrong. I refuse to believe that we don’t want to intervene in problem situations.

And, I refuse to believe that every single one of us doesn’t want to be a hero for others, for organizations we love, and for issues we care about.

I choose to believe that we do care and that we want the best for each other. I believe that every person has values of love, compassion, caring, respect, and acceptance — and these act as our moral compass. I believe that we really do want to intervene and make the difference for others — to keep each other safe and protected — to show dignity and respect.

And, I believe we all want to be heroes in one way or another.

We are all committed to being a certain kind of human being in life and there are actions we want to take as a demonstration of who we say we are and want to be for others. In our own respective and unique ways, we actually say “this is who I am and this is what you can count on me for!”

So, here’s the question: do your actions in life match what you say? Is the “you” that shows up in life — especially in critical momentary situations — a match for who you say you are and the commitments you have?

If I gave you a hypothetical scenario — one where someone was in trouble and needed your intervention — and asked you what you would do, would you say you would intervene in some way? I believe you would. I believe we all would. If you take all the reasons, justifications, excuses, doubts, fears, and rationalizations away from the equation, we all believe that we would intervene in that situation. It’s the noble thing to say and this matches who we say we are in life. But, not so fast…

Let’s look at the Penn State sexual abuse case — already one of the most layered cases of bystander behavior. I believe Coach Mike McQueary really did want to immediately intervene. Yet, what he did and didn’t do became water cooler conversation for days — many of us being armchair quarterbacks for what he should have done.

Here’s my take: what happened to Mike McQueary can happen to all of us on some level — our alter ego takes over. There is the person we are all committed to being in life. Then, in the reality of a situation, there is the “you” that shows up in that moment of time. Unfortunately, it’s not the “you” that you wanted to show up. It’s a “you” that lets fear take over. It’s a “you” that listens to your naysayers, even to your own internal voice. It’s a “you” that does nothing — or doesn’t do enough.

I believe there are times when most of us are no different than Mike McQueary. While we want to believe otherwise, we don’t know what we will actually do in the reality of a momentary choice. We simply want to believe we will do what is right.

How do I know this? What evidence do I have? As I travel the country and speak, I invite audience members to text me and share their stories. I have received thousands of stories on the impact of bystander behavior — as a bystander or as a victim to others being bystanders. The stories are heartbreaking. So many of us have had at least one moment that made a lasting impact on our lives — one that we have never forgotten; one where we have never forgiven ourselves or others.

To the positive, I have had conversations with many of these same people and they share that they do care and they do want to do what is right. I also receive texts, emails, Facebook messages and submissions on our website where people are now taking actions that match their values — they are actually intervening in problem situations. Many of them share they literally would not have done what they did without hearing the message of the RESPONSE ABILITY® Project and holding themselves accountable.

I hope you are now asking, “How do I ensure my actions match who I am committed to being in life?”  Great question!

We want to provide you the three critical tools I have put together as a framework for being equipped and empowered in life — no matter your age, roles in life, or gender — to make the difference you want to make and to be a hero. These are three life skills you can use for the rest of your life — in any moment when you say there is a problem.

To get these critical tools, go to the Phi Delta Theta page on the RESPONSE ABILITY Project website and take the Every|Day Hero™ pledge. Once you take the pledge, you will immediately receive an email from me with a link to download a PDF of the three tools and also view a special training video.

In closing, I refuse to believe you don’t want to make this difference. I refuse to believe there is anything you want more than to live out this pledge in your life. Go ahead, try and convince me otherwise — I just refuse to believe we are anything less than caring, loving, extraordinary human beings who just want to make the difference for others, for our organizations and for issues we care about.

I refuse to believe.

And this is what allows me to believe in the good in all of us.

Mike Dilbeck is Founder & President of the RESPONSE ABILITY Project and also Founder of the Every|Day Hero Campaign. Every year, Mike speaks to thousands of college students as a CAMPUSPEAK speaker and member of the National Speakers Association. When he is not traveling, he works on expanding the RA Project, writing articles and blogs, conducting training and workshops, and appearing in the media. 

Want to Fix a Hazing Problem in Your Chapter? Start by Fixing Your Brotherhood Problem

By Gentry McCreary, Ph.D. and Joshua Schutts

Hello members, friends, and fans of Phi Delta Theta. In honor of National Hazing Prevention Week, my colleague, Josh, and I want to talk about brotherhood, but first, you need some background.  About this time last year, I reached the halfway point of my doctoral dissertation.  I was studying the impact of moral judgment and moral disengagement on hazing attitudes, and I was putting the finishing touches on the third chapter and preparing for my proposal defense.  My study, in a nutshell, was investigating the environmental variables that support a pro-hazing culture.  As I sat and thought about my study, I came to ask myself the question “What matters?”  Several fraternities have shaken things up in the last few years and significantly changed the environment in which hazing occurs.  Phi Delta Theta has the “Don’t Tarnish the Badge” campaign.  Sig Ep has the “Balanced Man Program. “Beta Theta Pi has the “Men of Principle Initiative.”  Alpha Gamma Rho and Zeta Beta Tau got rid of pledging altogether.  As I sat and pondered these changes, I asked myself “If we wanted to know if any of these changes have had any impact, what would I even measure?  It’s hard to measure hazing, so what do we measure?  What would we expect the impact of these changes to be?”  As I sat and thought, rolling around different possibilities in my head, I kept coming back to the same idea – brotherhood.

What is brotherhood?  How do students define it?  Are there different kinds of brotherhood?  How do you measure it?  I pondered these questions and more for several days, and I decided that the best way to get an answer to my question was to ask students.  So, I sent out an email to my fraternity member listserv and asked for a few volunteers to come meet with me to talk about brotherhood.  On the day of the meeting, a dozen or so guys showed up, and I asked a simple question: “What is brotherhood?”  I sat and listened, scribbling notes furiously trying to keep up with the conversation, as the young men bounced the question back and forth.  Several themes emerged from that conversation, but when I coded my notes, the students discussed four separate and distinct definitions of brotherhood.  They were:

  1. My brothers support me and “have my back” because we’ve been through a lot together.  They would do anything for me, and I would do anything for them.
  2. My brothers and I do almost everything together – they are the people I prefer to spend most of my time with and we always have a blast, whatever we’re doing.
  3. My brothers and I are drawn together by our similar beliefs, values and backgrounds.  They are my best friends and will be the groomsmen in my wedding.
  4. My brothers help make me a better person by holding me to high standards based on our shared values.

At this point, my head was spinning.  Four completely different themes, sometimes used in combination with one another, sometimes not, had emerged from that initial conversation.  My next step was to try to make sense of all this new information, so I called up the one person who I consider to have the ultimate combination of fraternity and nerdy quantitative research skills – Josh Schutts.  Josh, I’ll let you jump in here and  help us make sense of all this.

Admittedly, I came into the fold in many conversations with Gentry about his work with hazing and moral judgment.  He mentioned brotherhood and I was immediately hooked.  I presume that for many of you, brotherhood is the reason you joined your chapter, and is likely the reason you are still affiliated.  My background is in business, so I tend to view our fraternity chapters much like “mini businesses.”  In saying that: fraternities don’t have a profit-motive, we have a brotherhood motive.  If Apple or Microsoft is for-profit, then Phi Delta Theta is for-Brotherhood.

Conceptually, brotherhood is the currency of fraternity.  It is sold to potential members, traded between brothers and alumni, and deposited within our thoughts and memories for all time.  As an alumnus of my organization, I recall those memories from time to time – the things we did as friends and brothers.  The trouble we got in, the relationships we made, the times we laughed, and the times where we were there for each other.  Perhaps a brother could be thought of as “more than a friend, but no less than someone you love.”  I heard a wise past national president of Sigma Alpha Epsilon say that once (Jim Pope, Southern Mississippi).

Theoretically, the research is frankly scant in relation to brotherhood.  It’s kind of funny that something that means so much to so many is largely unstudied, undocumented, and unanalyzed.  I mentioned earlier about brotherhood as a currency. If you buy that, then when we trade or sell it, we are completing a transaction – let’s call it a social transaction, or maybe even a social exchange.  Near as I can tell, the best theoretical framework that exists comes from Blau & Scott (1962) who coined “social exchange theory” and talked about mutual benefit associations.  I think of fraternities as mutual-benefit associations, so I think there is some wisdom to be found there.  Further, Clawson (1989) talks about masculine solidarity and touched on loyalty through race, social class, and gender.

With this theoretical framework in mind, we sat out to devise a way to measure brotherhood.  A list of questions was developed that corresponded with each of the four definitions of brotherhood, with a five-point “agree/disagree” scale.  We constructed some initial testing on the instrument, determined that it was good, and set to work.  We had to put a name to each of the four types, based on the definitions from the focus group and the questions in the instrument, and here is what we came up with (numbers corresponding to the definitions that Gentry described above):

  1. Brotherhood Based on Gang Mentality (BROGM)
  2. Brotherhood Based on Shared Social Experiences (BROSSE)
  3. Brotherhood Based on Common Interests (BROCI)
  4. Brotherhood Based on Accountability to Shared Values (BROASV)

We measured brotherhood with our instrument, and we also asked students about their alcohol use, attitudes towards hazing, attitudes about the purpose of the new member process, questions about the importance of social status in their chapter, and a scale that measured their moral development.

What we found amazed us.

Student’s scores on BROGM had strong and significant correlations with pro-hazing attitude.  Those correlations became weaker as they moved up the scale, and a high score on BROASV had a negative correlation with hazing attitude.  The way students defined brotherhood was predictive of the way they perceived hazing and the amount of hazing they stated they would tolerate in their chapter.

We also measured students’ perceptions of the purpose of the new member process (with statements like ‘the pledging process is an opportunity to weed out weak new members’ and ‘it is important that pledges demonstrate their loyalty to the fraternity before they are initiated’) and had similar findings.  Students that measured highest on BROGM were much more likely to have an antiquated view of the purposes of the new member process, and again, the relationships became weaker as they moved up the scale.  BROASV was negatively correlated with the scale measuring the perception of the purposes of the new member process.

So, conceptually we have many ideas about what brotherhood is.  Most of what we know so far is anecdotal, qualitative and contextual. We tell stories to others, and somehow in our mind, we understand what brotherhood means. . . what it means to us anyways.  But does it stop there?  What if brotherhood means different things to different people?  How can we merge what it might mean to you with someone else’s concept?  Wouldn’t it be easier to ‘sell’ that to an interested prospective member? We think you can.  And we think that if we could quantitatively measure it, or at least most of it, then we would have a common language to talk to our brothers about.

When we begin to understand what brotherhood is, we can then take the leap to see how it manifests and changes.  We first begin by understanding its nature.  What it is comprised of, and equally, what is it not comprised of.  We think about where it comes from, and we think about the best way we measure it.  Next, we begin to see it as the ‘cause’ and search for the symptoms or effects it has on people, chapters, institutions, and communities.  We measure it over time, and we see if differences exist between race, or age, or number of years as a member of a fraternity.  We see these symptoms as antecedents, and we ask questions about what aspects of brotherhood correlate to that are both positive and negative.  We look at hope, and commitment, and unethical behavior, and citizenship behavior, and engagement, and moral judgment, organizational learning, and a host of other things that are related to things that occur in our chapters every day.

What good is all of this?  Well, for starters, we could diagnose issues in chapters. We could get to the cause, and quit treating the symptoms. We could leave our campuses better than we found them.  We could make a difference in someone’s life.  We could be more relevant tomorrow than we were yesterday.  In sum:  We could become the greatest version of ourselves, and help our Chapters achieve a new level of greatness as well.

Gentry McCreary is the Associate Dean of Students at the University of West Florida in Pensacola, FL.  He served four years as the Director of Greek Affairs at the University of Alabama, and two years as Director of Greek Life at Middle Tennessee State University.  He is a member of Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity from the University of Tennessee.  He completed a master’s degree in Higher Education and Student Affairs from the University of South Carolina, and a Ph.D. in Higher Education Administration from the University of Alabama.  His research interests include moral development and the social-psychological causes of hazing.  Gentry is an avid outdoorsman who enjoys backpacking, canoeing, golf, fishing and upland bird hunting with his German Shorthaired Pointer, Ellie.

Joshua Schutts is the Assistant Dean of Students at The University of Southern Mississippi and a 2000 initiate of the Delta Mu chapter of Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity.  He has a B.S.B.A. in Marketing and a M.Ed in Student Affairs Administration from the University of Southern Mississippi.  He is currently pursuing a Ph.D in Research, Evaluation, Statistics, and Assessment at the University of Southern Mississippi.  He enjoys playing golf and fantasy football.  Josh and his dog Roosevelt live in Hattiesburg, MS.

From Broken Pledges to Lives of Fulfilled Promise

By Hank Nuwer

The year was 1978, the date the 26th of February. It was a post-dawn Sunday morning and cold as only a city on a Great Lake can be. I was visiting my parents in Buffalo. Coffee percolated on an oven burner as I spread out an issue of the Buffalo Courier ExpressThe Courier’s front page sucked the wind out of me. The lead headline was big and black. My mother, wearing her oft-washed robe and plastic curlers, asked me what the story was about that dismayed me so.

“A young man named Chuck Stenzel had perished at a fraternity party,” I said. He’d died of alcohol poisoning.

I’d belonged to a fraternity at Buffalo State College that once had been connected to a national. But by the time I pledged in 1965, the then-chancellor of the State University of New York had converted all national fraternities and sororities to local chapters.

The local chapters kept the traditions, bylaws, and secrets of their previous nationals but lacked the important oversight the parent organizations had provided. The Chancellor would abandon his crusade but eventually unregulated, wild local SUNY chapters would endure hazing deaths at Plattsburgh and Geneseo.

My own local fraternity at Buffalo State College had more guidance than most because of strong faculty and alumni involvement. Nonetheless, our pledge period included the sort of pranks that caused my working-class, no-nonsense father to roll his eyes. He’d driven me to campus and dropped me off just as a brother confronted me verbally and handed me a concrete block with Greek letters.

“This is what I send you to college for?” he said at supper that night.

He was a wise man, my Dad. But I shrugged off the hazing nonsense, got in, and had a wonderful fraternity experience. Through the fraternity I would find my life’s calling as a writer.  My mentor was and is a faculty brother named Fraser Drew who had interviewed the likes of Ernest Hemingway to make his English classes more intriguing. He and I co-wrote a book together when he was 97.

Thus, my impetus to write about hazing never occurred until graduate school when I attended the University of Nevada. There I frequently observed alcohol-fueled hazing by a wild bunch of athletes. Some of these students were high-status guys—not only good ballplayers but good students who were active in student government. A minority, unfortunately, were dangerous and would mock their pledges when they got drunk and vomited.

Their hazing consisted not only of crazy pranks but dangerous amounts of alcohol. Their liquor-guzzling made anything I’d experienced at Buffalo State seem like choir practice.

In the spring of 1975 I chanced to enter a Reno bar called the Little Wal on a Hell Night. I observed a pledge half-conscious under the pool table who foamed at the mouth. I nudged an acquaintance and asked him to walk with the young man until he sobered up, which he did without hesitation. But that’s all he did. He lacked the foresight to see a close call and go back to his brothers demanding an end to the dangerous drinking.

In October of 1975, another Hell Night was held far from campus. Unbelievable quantities of alcohol killed a giant Wolfpack football player named John Davies and left another pledge with brain damage. The incident ignited a wakeup call in me.

I learned that alcohol can and does kill. I watched previously well-regarded students become  “killers” in the minds of student body members.

I had another revelation in time. As a bystander, had I taken more action such as writing an expose for the student paper, John Davies might not have died.

The death of John Davies came back to me as I read about the death at Alfred University. There in my mother’s kitchen I made a decision. I would write a serious article about fraternity hazing. The next time I traveled to Los Angeles, I approached Human Behavior editor, Marshall Lumsden, with a proposal and he accepted.

Lumsden was a writer’s editor, a veteran of journalistic wars at the Los Angeles Times and Saturday Evening Post. He didn’t care a hill of beans about my own little hazing experiences. He wanted to know the stories behind the deaths of kids like John Davies and Chuck Stenzel.

I wrote the first draft and then a second and third. Lumsden met with me at a coffee shop on Santa Monica Blvd. in Los Angeles. We met there so often I thought Lumsden must keep his typewriter there.

Always he wanted more sources, more documentation, more research. I had taught a continuing education course at UCLA. I plunged into scholarly research in a big way and found the few available studies on hazing. They were all in abnormal psychology or Higher Education.

Then I read a breakthrough book called Groupthink by Yale University professor Irving Janis. I rewrote my article once again employing this theory to explain Davies’s death and took it to Lumsden at the coffee shop.

“Well, good,” he said. “Interview him.” Interview the legendary Janis?  I was intimidated, but I said “OK.”

I sought Janis out. He only turned out to be Buffalo-born and a wonderful and brilliant scholar, but he grasped immediately how the Groupthink theory applied to fraternity hazing.

What was the Groupthink theory?

Basically, in the interest of maintaining camaraderie and good will, a group won’t challenge individual members that display reckless tendencies such as hazing. They put aside moral qualms and piss all over their national’s and founder’s moral values and put newcomers in harm’s way, covering all up when the risky behavior causes injury or death.

I remember my relief having one last cup of coffee with Lumsden when he pronounced my article finished.  It appeared in print in October of 1978.

The result was a response like no magazine piece I’d ever done or would do. Human Behavior was deluged with letters from readers.

One came from the mother of Chuck Stenzel, the pledge whose death I had read about in my mother’s kitchen. (Unknown to me until much later, Eileen Stevens had photocopied my article and sent it to anyone she could think of–prompting many of those letters). Eileen wrote me from New York that she had read my story and was starting an anti-hazing organization called the Committee to Halt Useless College Deaths. She wanted to meet with me the next time I was in the city on publishing business

We met for lunch in Manhattan. She brought a computer printout of hazing deaths she had paid for out of pocket. I began studying hazing in earnest, applying for a Gannett Foundation fellowship to write a book on hazing. Its title was Broken Pledges: The Deadly Rite of Hazing. University personnel and even members allowed me to interview them, lending their resolute anti-hazing messages to the book.

But that was then and this is 2012.

Some amazing things have occurred to me. I write a column for Stophazing.org. I am writing my fifth book on hazing and maintain Twitter and Facebook sites on hazing.

HazingPrevention.org named its anti-hazing hero award the Hank Nuwer Award in my honor, and Phi Delta Theta took over the funding of the award.

My Alma Mater, Buffalo State, hosts the Hank Nuwer Hazing Collection, my philanthropy, and it is a repository of all available hazing research for students and scholars to use.

But I am unsatisfied. Hazing still claims one or more deaths a year as it has every year from 1970 to 2012. I am in awe of an amazing network of Greek leaders all coming together in the interest of putting an end to hazing.

However it is not enough. Ending hazing should be simple, really. Stopping hazing isn’t like finding a cure for cancer where so much needs to be DONE. All you, I, Greeks and athletes and band members everywhere need to do is nothing, really. Just don’t haze, and you and I will put an end to the more than 160 deaths overall from hazing that exist on the list I still keep.

My Dad was right. He didn’t send me to college to haze. He sent me to acquire a set of values and a mentor and a trade. I won’t give up fighting against hazing in part because fraternities such as Phi Delta Theta won’t give up and motivate me.

Let us work together to make hazing a best-forgotten relic of the past. Just imagine what an amazing undergraduate fraternal experience there would be if hazing were ended, and all the time spent fighting an illicit practice were put into service to one’s chapter, school, national–and society itself.

Hank Nuwer teaches journalism as an associate professor at Franklin College. He resides in Indiana and has property in remote Alaska. He is the grandfather of two and roommate to a Labrador retriever named Dogzilla. His last book was The Hazing Reader for Indiana University Press. Phil Delta Theta supports the Hank Nuwer Antihazing Hero Awards given out each year by HazingPrevention.org.

In Defense of Hazing – Part Two: An Undergraduate Perspective – “Why I Believe in the Value of Hazing”

By Scott Mietchen – General Council President

Last month, I wrote a blog post for National Hazing Prevention Week titled “In Defense of Hazing” in which I invited undergraduate members of the Fraternity to write an essay for this blog series that defends and justifies hazing. The winner, if there was one, would have their essay published in the Phi Delta Theta Blog and be invited, as my guest, to the President’s Leadership Conference (PLC) in January, 2012 and given a prime speaking slot to make the case for hazing.

As is well known to everyone, Phi Delta Theta has taken an active stance against hazing for decades – and yet it continues in far too many places. This must be because there remain active believers in its practice as well as defenders of its continuing use. There must be Phis who simply believe that Phi Delta Theta’s efforts to end hazing are wrong.

Included in the several rules of the challenge that the writer of the winning essay would need to meet in order to be invited to PLC, were: 1) he needed to be a true believer in the benefits of hazing and; 2) he needed to be willing to sign his name to his essay – in essence not hiding under the cloak of anonymity.

Since the challenge was first offered one month ago I have received exactly two responses. One response was from an alumnus who wanted to write a piece defending hazing. However, this challenge was restricted to an undergraduate member and I informed the alumnus he could submit a separate piece if he so chose. To date, he has not submitted a piece. The second response was from an undergraduate member, and his essay is included below. While the undergraduate Phi was willing to be public with his name, he ultimately decided to forgo the ‘winnings’ of the competition and determined to remain anonymous so as to not bring unintended repercussions on his chapter by his school and/or his own Greek system. The anonymous writer is comfortable with the fact of having his essay made public while not being identified as the author for benefit of his own chapter. He simply wants to explain his point of view and inspire a discussion on this issue while protecting the identity of his chapter. Let me also state that this Phi is not a ‘back-bencher’ in his chapter.  He is an upperclassman who has held several key chapter officer positions.

Normally, I would not include such an essay in this follow-up blog post, but I am doing so now because I believe it expresses a view that, I’m sad to say, is most likely held by some others. The undergraduate author is aware that I, and the Fraternity, have a very different view on the subject from the position he advocates in his piece. The author is also aware, and is comfortable with the fact, that I would be writing this preamble to his piece outlining my personal views on the subject.

When I first offered this challenge through the blog series, I received one of two responses from friends in the Greek world. One response expressed the view that this was an important way to have an open and honest discussion about hazing.  The second type of response from others entailed being told that the challenge was a stupid thing to do because it just highlights and glamorizes hazing while, at the same time, giving others ideas and admitting that it was still taking place in the organization.

To those who hold the view that this was a dumb or even negative challenge, I offer this thought.  Phi Delta Theta has tried everything within its means to end hazing in our organization. Personally, having been hazed, I have seen the negative consequences of hazing and will keep working to end these practices.  But for us to think that by not talking about the realities and rationales for hazing, that it will simply go away because we have rules and policies, that to me is naïve. I believe that Phi Delta Theta is strong enough in our convictions and values to handle this discussion. I also believe that we will never be completely successful in eradicating hazing until we respond to and address the underlying reasons for the activities. While I disagree vehemently with the conclusions reached in this essay, I do believe it describes many of the core rationales that exist for the continued practice of hazing.

I also caution those readers of this blog from other fraternities or sororities (or athletic teams, or cheerleading squads, etc) who point to this and say, “Wow, look at Phi Delt – I’m glad we don’t have those issues,” to reconsider their initial judgment. These views are not limited to Phi Delta Theta, or even fraternities in general. Similar views can be found in sororities, teams, clubs, marching bands, etc. These are some of the key rationales and defenses for why hazing still continues in a wide array of organizations.

Phi Delta Theta has been actively combating hazing for nearly four decades and yet, sadly, it still continues in some corners of the Fraternity. While I don’t believe hazing is wide spread in Phi Delta Theta, I am realistic enough to know that it still occurs regardless of the countless hours and dollars spent on education, workshops, officer handbooks, enforcement, lectures, alternative activity planning, etc.

For Phi Delta Theta to completely eliminate hazing, I believe this essay describes some of the key underpinnings of the practice which we simply must address.  Phi Delta Theta will never stop our efforts at education and enforcement to end hazing. However, I hope this post helps encourage honest and sincere discussions about hazing in chapters across the Fraternity. I also have faith that there are undergraduate Phis who disagree with the conclusions reached by the author and are willing to share their perspectives with the Phi Delt Nation through future blog essays on the subject.

As promised, here is one undergraduate’s perspective on hazing.

“Why I Believe in the Value of Hazing” – By ‘Anonymous’

It was a brisk night my freshman year. My Phikeia Educator was yelling at me and my Pledge Brothers as we sat in a line and did wall sits in the chapter room and passed a heavy weight back and forth.

“Why do you think you guys are down here right now?” he asked, semi-rhetorically.

His question was met with silence other than the grunting of my Pledge Brothers and I as the weight we were passing began to take its toll on our arms and legs. The question seemed to echo, although I couldn’t tell if it was echoing in the room or just in my head.

“90 degrees!” he yelled. Referring to our legs being 90 degrees to the wall and our arms held out at 90 degrees.

Eventually our Pledge Class President spoke up, “…because we screwed up?” He said, somewhat uncertain.

“How did you screw up?” Our educator retorted. I began to feel like a dog that was having his nose rubbed into the carpet for being bad.

Another Pledge Brother comes to his aid, “we drank on Saturday.”

“Exactly,” is all my Educator responds with. And again, silence falls.

That previous Saturday we had held our annual Pledge Party. Every year the Phikeia are expected to throw a party for the Brothers. The party is supposed to be cleverly themed, the Phikeia generally make exorbitant amounts of Jello shots, and every year the Phikeia are forbidden to drink. And every year, they drink anyway.

My Pledge party was themed as a Black Light party, a party where you put up black lights and everyone wears white clothes and passes around highlighters that you use to write on people. The party was a huge success if judged only by the first two requirements of the Phikeia. Lots of people came, everyone had a great time, the Brothers-and some of my Pledge Brothers and myself-got pretty intoxicated. All in all, a typical Saturday night.  But then Monday night meeting rolls around and we all know we’re screwed.

“You know you guys aren’t allowed to drink tonight?” An older member asked me that fateful Saturday night.  “We aren’t?” I tried to play coy, but I knew. And behind me were dozens of empty little Dixie cups that had at one point held Jello shots I had made just the night before. My Pledge Brothers and I decided to hold a competition to see who could have the most without tipping off the Brothers that we had been drinking. It failed miserably.

Once the wall sit portion of the night was completed we went on a jog to the university track and were instructed to run a mile. The only stipulation being that we stay together the entire time. As the most out of shape pledge, this was a daunting task for me. After the third lap I began to slow down and trail behind. My Educator was a few feet behind us and had instructed us that if we fell behind him we were “really screwed.” No one wanted to see what constituted “really screwed.”

“You’re Pledge Brother is falling behind!” he yelled from what felt like 2 inches behind my ear. After a few moans and grunts as well as words of encouragement from my Pledge Brothers, we changed pace and I was suddenly at the front of the line leading us the remainder of our run around the track.

But the night was not over. We exited the track and began another run to an area of the campus known as “The Quad.” Named, of course, because it sits in a key area of campus. We reach the base and form 2 lines per my Educator’s instructions.

“We’re running stairs tonight guys. All the way to the top, I want to know how many there are.”

There are 100 stairs leading up to the top of the Quad. A number I won’t soon forget.

We ran those stairs 4 times. We did wheelbarrows up the last flight 4 times. And when it was all done we ran back to the house. For the next week I cringed in pain whenever I had to walk up or down stairs. From an outsider’s perspective, it was a bad way to spend a Monday night. From my perspective, it was brotherhood bonding. It was me paying my dues to the chapter I so desperately wanted to join. It was me proving myself, to everyone.

And a short 3 years later I stood at the top of that same Quad; panting, lecturing a new batch of Phikeia who had just completed running up those same stairs. I looked them all in the eyes, and told them the importance of their pledge process. I told them the importance of hardship, physical labor, and proving themselves.

That’s what the pledge process is all about. A probationary period for both the Brother and the Phikeia to see how well they fit together. And the way I determine if a Phikeia will fit as a Brother is by gauging his commitment. Any act I have ever participated in involving my chapter that could ever be considered hazing, or Brotherhood Bonding as I like to refer to it, has been driven by my passion to test my Pledges and their commitment to my fraternity.

Commitment is what separates a “worthless” Brother from a productive one. A lesson I learned from my Educator. Another lesson I learned was the importance of the bonds you build during pledging. As a young freshman, the boys we choose to invite to join our chapter are easily impressionable and need to be molded into the men we are proud to call our Brother.

The hazing I have participated in as both a pledge and Brother has yielded some of the best friends I have ever had. In the grand scheme of any act of hazing, the main goal is to bring the Phikeia together. It is a proven fact that people who go through hardships together form close bonds with one another through a shared, common obstacle. It is because of this that I have taken such an active role in the hazing of the Phikeia that have pledged my chapter. Every class that has come after me has had to deal with whatever task I have dished up to them. And they are wide ranging, I’ve made a Phikeia write an essay on why he felt he belonged in my chapter, I’ve made Phikeia dress up like Bart Simpson  and reenact a famous scene from the show. The icing on the cake being that this reenactment took place during a 400-person lecture. I had a Phikeia duct tape his Pledge Brother to a tree and get sorority girls take pictures with him while wearing their letters. And more recently, I had the entire pledge class do wall sits while I lectured them on their place in the chapter. A recent slew of complaints had come in from Brothers saying that the Phikeia had not been demonstrating the respect we demand as Brothers. I decided to demonstrate to the Phikeia their position in the chapter by lecturing them for 10 minutes while they did wall sits without a single break. During this time I held side conversations with Brothers, quizzed the Phikeia on their knowledge, yelled at them, berated them, all to show them that at this point in their lives they are beneath me and all active Brothers. In this one instance in their collective existence, respect would be demanded and not earned. The respect I demand as a Brother was earned when I was a Phikeia, and I respect all men who have done the same. But until that time has come I will not show any Phikeia the same respect I show a Brother. The point of these examples is to demonstrate that hazing should not always bring up the stereotypical image of an intoxicated 20-year-old beating a pledge, or forcing a pledge to finish a fifth of whiskey in an hour.

When a pledge class is hazed properly it can bring them all together and form a solid base for the chapter. To me, proper hazing means physical exercise, humorous pranks, house cleaning, really anything that doesn’t involve forcing them to drink alcohol or physical violence. If a Brother is knowingly harming a pledge I consider it crossing a line that has made hazing such a hot button issue in our society.

To address the points outlined in the prompt for this essay, I believe hazing helps embody the principles of The Bond when hazing is implemented properly. My Phikeia are expected to treat guests in our house with respect. They are expected to address their elders by “ma’am” and “sir.” They are expected not to smoke or dip in public. They are expected to wait on any female guests, including refilling drinks, holding the door open, and helping them in any way they can. In short, they are expected to be gentlemen.

My Phikeia are expected to fulfill a certain amount of study hours every week. They are expected to maintain a certain grade point average if they hope to be initiated. They are subject to mandatory grade reviews by our Pallas committee, of which I am on. In short, they are expected to be scholars.

My Phikeia are expected to keep pace with each other when they go on a run. They are expected to participate in intramural sports with the rest of the chapter. They are expected to complete all physical tasks that I do with them, including bows and tows, push-ups, wall sits, and our recent run to the top of The Quad. They are expected to be athletes.

When hazing is properly implemented it can be the perfect tool for molding the men we would all be proud to call our Brothers. And my Phikeia know that if they fall short of what is expected of them, they will face consequences. In the past, I have never personally punished on an isolated incident. A Phikeia not being able to do enough push-ups does not warrant any action be taken on my part. However, if I see a Phikeia failing these tests of commitment across the board then I confront them. I feel personally disrespected when a Phikeia does not abide by the rules I clearly lay out during their first meeting, because as previously stated the respect I demand from pledges begins day 1 of pledging. If no improvement is made I bring it to the chapter and we discuss the problem. And in a few cases we have blackballed a Phikeia or I have personally refused to sign their book resulting in their not being initiated. I believe it is these actions that will create a strong chapter and more importantly, one that exemplifies the teachings of The Bond.

To start a debate on the philosophical, ethical, and moral dilemmas of hazing would lead only to a circuitous yelling match. In my experience, a person expects the same amount of hazing that was done to them. And if it is not apparent by my argument thus far, I believe hazing can be philosophically, ethically, and morally right when implemented properly.

Per my explanation of hazing, I believe the risk/reward ratio to be favorable towards reward. The hazing I conduct and participate in has never brought a Phikeia close to any harm that he would not experience in a typical day. Granted, hazing can and does often go too far. Brothers make their pledges binge drink to the point they vomit, become unconscious, or worse. Pledges are tied up, blindfolded and beaten. And in one example at my own university from another fraternity, pledges were made to do bows and toes on bottle caps. The wounds they sustained eventually led to many of them developing Staph infections. I do not consider this hazing, this is just abuse. This is a man in power abusing his authority and harming those beneath him. My definition of hazing stipulates that there be a positive gain from the activity, and that the pledges must come out better than when they started. While some of my peers might laugh at this story, I do not find it entertaining. When I haze my pledges I expect they do exactly what is commanded of them when it is asked. And I expect them to trust me that whatever I ask them to do will not cause them any serious harm.  This is another reason I elect to do most of the things they are asked to do when being hazed with them. This mentality has lead to tightly woven pledge classes and a chapter in which I have friends in every age group.

To summarize the many points I have brought up in this essay, I do believe hazing is appropriate and when used properly can build a better man, a better pledge class, and a better chapter. I do not consider the things I have done in my time as a Brother of Phi Delta Theta in any way to have stepped outside the lines or put any of my Phikeia in harms way. And in my opinion, were a no hazing policy implemented and successful, it would lead to the ultimate demise of our great fraternity. To reiterate, hazing separates the “worthless” Brothers from the productive ones. If you don’t haze, you’re bound to end up with people in your chapter that just don’t care.

In Defense of Hazing

By Scott Mietchen – President of the General Council

As many readers of the Phi Delta Theta Blog have discovered, this week is National Hazing Prevention Week and Phi Delta Theta is doing all it can to raise awareness about the issue.  In the past I have written about my own experiences of being hazed, hazing others and stopping hazing in my own chapter.  Over the years I have sat on both sides of many discussions debating the pros and cons of hazing, definitions of hazing and hazing activities, and the appropriateness and desirability of having a culture of hazing within a chapter.  I hope that when others take the time to share their thoughts on hazing in these blogs that our undergraduate brothers give real thought to the ideas expressed. But I know that isn’t always the case.  I know that in too many chapters across North America there are a certain number of our brothers who simply roll their eyes and make some disparaging comment about yet another “lecture” on hazing.  I know that when leaders in some chapters stand up in a meeting and propose the need to end hazing, that there can often be loud and vigorous push-back to the concept of change from some in the chapter.

And sometimes I wonder why this continues to be an issue in the Greek movement and why some members feel the need to continue hazing to this day.

So, you’re not going to here a lecture from me today about why hazing is bad.   Today I am writing to extend a sincere and honest challenge to those who believe hazing makes Phi Delta Theta a better fraternity.


The Challenge

My challenge today isn’t directed at those undergraduate brothers who either don’t like hazing or have worked to end hazing in their chapter. My challenge today is to those brothers who rolled their eyes when they thought this was going to be one more anti-hazing lecture – another chance for the General Council President to yammer on about hazing one more time.  My challenge is to those who fight vigorously, and effectively, to keep hazing traditions in place.

Here is my challenge, and offer, to those brothers.

The Phi Delta Theta Blog has become a very effective communication tool not only for Phi Delts, but for the larger Greek community.  Blog posts are distributed over the Fraternity’s Facebook fan page to nearly 20,000 Phis.  The blog posts are also read by other fraternity, sorority and higher education leaders across North America.  Many blog entries are re-posted, re-tweeted and shared through email distribution lists.  Phi Delta Theta’s Blog has become a key source for some of the leading thought in, and about, the Greek community.

I am offering access to the Phi Delta Theta Blog to one undergraduate member who can write a powerful, thoughtful and well reasoned defense of hazing.  But there are some parameters and rules.


The Rules and Parameters

1.  This is a real offer.

2.  This offer is limited to current Phi Delta Theta undergraduate initiated members.  It is not open to alumni or non-Phi Delts.

3.  The author must write an appropriate-length essay defending hazing which the Fraternity will run on the Phi Delta Theta Blog next month.  Writers can read other blog posts to determine an appropriate length.

4.  The essay does not need to deal with the legality or illegality of hazing.

5.  The essay must discuss, at a minimum, the following issues.

6.  Why hazing should be allowed in Phi Delta Theta.

  • Why hazing helps create stronger chapters.
  • Why hazing helps us live up to the principles outlined in The Bond.
  • Why hazing is philosophically, morally and ethically right.
  • Why hazing helps build better men.
  • Analyze and defend the risk/reward ratio of hazing given that some hazing activities have lead to harm, injury or even death in some cases to those seeking to join Greek organizations.

7.  The essay cannot use the following excuses:

  • The military does it (they are professionally trained).
  • Others do it (c’mon, that’s the “Why can’t I mom, Johnny’s mom lets him). Just defend why it is good for the betterment of Phi Delta Theta.

8.    In the essay, you can’t parse words or hazing activities. This is not a defense of whether or not doing interviews to meet the older brothers or having house chores, etc. is hazing.  This needs to be written as a full-throated defense of the benefits of hazing and defend the positive nature of things such as, but not limited to:

  • Line-ups (night time or any other time)
  • Big Brother night with liquor shots
  • Pressure to consume alcohol
  • Wall sits, calisthenics, push-ups, etc.
  • Wearing funny clothes and pranks and eating gross or bad tasting food concoctions
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Kangaroo Courts or other mental games
  • Late night runs, swims, etc.
  • Servitude activities for older actives
  • You get the picture.  In other words, don’t use your essay to debate and argue for whether or not getting signatures is a good or bad thing.  Keep it intellectually honest and focused on the items that everyone would understand as hazing.

9.    It must be understood that your essay, if selected, will be published under your name. Anonymity won’t be accepted – we all need to be willing to publically stand by our words.


How It Will Be Judged?

I will reach out to others in the Fraternity for their input, but I will take responsibility for choosing the winner.


Is a Winner Guaranteed?

In short, the answer is no.  If no essay is submitted that follows the rules and parameters, or doesn’t follow the common rules of logic, then there will be no winning entry.  However, if a thoughtful, well-reasoned essay is submitted then yes, there will be a winner.  I don’t have to agree with what the brother writes, it just needs to be well written, argued and reasoned.


Neither You or Your Chapter Will be Disciplined for Submitting an Essay

As General Council President I offer my word that no brother who submits an entry will be subject to discipline by the General Council or General Headquarters.  I also offer my word that any entry will not result in an investigation into activities in your chapter as a result of an essay submission.  For those who know me, you know that I stand by my word.  This is not a trick or trap.  This is a sincere offer.


Only True Believers in the Benefits of Hazing Need Submit

The purpose of this challenge is not to encourage a brother to write an essay defending a point of view they may not believe it – this isn’t looking for someone to be a devil’s advocate.  This is a challenge to those who believe that the Fraternity’s long-term effort to eradicate hazing is simply wrong and that hazing should be allowed to take place in Phi Delta Theta.


If You Win – I’ll Hand You the Fraternity Megaphone

A winning essay will have two significant opportunities to publicly make the case about the benefits of hazing.

  1. The winning essay will run on the Phi Delta Theta Blog, that reaches well over 20,000 people, in October, 2011.
  2. The writer of the winning essay will receive an all-expenses paid trip to St. Louis in January, 2012 as my guest at the President’s Leadership Conference.  At PLC I will yield my primetime speaking spot to the brother to present his essay and make the case for why Phi Delta Theta should allow hazing.
  3. The winner, however, must also willing to engage in discussion and debate with responders to the blog post, and with their peers and faculty at PLC in a public debate format.
  4. So, you’ll have access to the Phi Delta Theta megaphone – but you need to be prepared to take part in a two-way discussion about the subject with your peers across North America.

How to Submit an Entry

Essays can be submitted directly to me through my personal email account. My email account can be found on the Phi Delta Theta website under the “Contact Us” section.  The deadline for submissions is October 1, 2011.  Please include your name, chapter, and contact phone number in your submission so I can contact you with any questions.  The winning essay will appear on the Phi Delta Theta Blog not long after the deadline.


Why This Challenge?

In some ways, this challenge harkens back to the early days of the Fraternity when a great deal of time was spent in chapter meetings debating the significant issues of the day.  This was how the early members of Phi Delta Theta developed their minds, analytical skills and persuasive debating talents. This is where Phis learned to take a position, defend an idea and become a leader.

Phi Delta Theta has taken an active stance against hazing for decades – and yet it continues in far too many places.  I can only conclude that it continues because there remain active believers in its practice as well as defenders of its continuing use.  There must be Phis who simply believe Phi Delta Theta’s efforts to end hazing are wrong.  If Phi Delta Theta is wrong in working to eradicate hazing than it would be much better to bring the debate out in the public light and let it face the scrutiny of active discussion.

Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas once wrote; “The way to combat noxious ideas is with other ideas.  The way to combat falsehoods is with truth.”

This is an opportunity for defenders of hazing to make their case to the Phi Delt Nation that Phi Delta Theta should reconsider our position on the subject.

I encourage Phis, who have brothers in their chapters who defend and protect hazing practices, to share this challenge with those brothers and encourage them to submit an essay.  It shouldn’t be acceptable to defend hazing behind closed doors, but not be willing to make a public defense for its use in our Phikeia education programs.

I think it is clear where I, and the entire General Council, stand now and have stood for many years.  Personally, I believe our vigorous effort to end hazing is the right decision for Phi Delta Theta.  However, I also understand that not all brothers may not agree with this position.  It is those brothers I challenge today with this genuine offer of challenging the Fraternity’s current position. The microphone is yours.

Brother Mietchen is the General Council President. Scott is a 1984 graduate of the University of Utah where he earned both his B.S. and MPA. He has served the Fraternity as a chapter consultant, chapter adviser, house corporation president, province president, delegate to the NIC and member of the General Council from 1994-2000 and 2004-Present. Scott became an Iron Phi in 2010. Professionally Scott is President and Managing Partner of Fund Raising Counsel, Inc. (FRCI), the oldest fundraising consulting firm in the Intermountain West. He was recognized as Fund Raiser of the Year in 2006 by the Utah Society of Fund Raisers. Prior to joining FRCI, he served as Vice President for University Advancement at Utah State University. Scott, his wife Lisa, and their children, Abby (17) and Alex (14) live in Salt Lake City.