By Ryan C. Bortner
Arizona Daily Wildcat
May 5, 1998

Hazing ruins true brotherhood


Arizona Daily Wildcat

(U-WIRE) HARRISONBURG, Va. - What is a fraternity? At the time of creation, a fraternity's purpose was to unite friends into a common bond of lifelong friendship.

The first brothers in my fraternity, Theta Chi, never went through a "pledge" period. The brothers who followed in the future only went through minimal education sessions to learn the basis on which the fraternity stands. They were men who were strong leaders, respected as both friends and brothers, and genuinely cared for by other members who were initiated into fraternities. They were given the obligation to keep the fraternity moving forward, maintain the ideals of the founders and provide leadership to the younger members once the elder members graduated and moved on as alumni. However, I believe if our founders could see what today's fraternities have turned into, they would be quite saddened.

I'm very proud to be Greek. I'm very proud of my fraternity and everything we've accomplished this year. I'm also proud to be part of the Greek system at JMU. Although every group has it's own personal rituals, I feel that just by being Greek, one becomes a brother or sister with the other 2,100 Greeks on this campus.

My decision to pledge a fraternity was indeed one of the greatest and most important decisions I've made in my life. Being Greek means getting involved with the campus and the world around us. The purpose of most general fraternities is to build the "complete" man. Fraternity membership gives a young college man the opportunity to interact with fellow brothers, the JMU campus and beyond. The Greek grade-point average is higher than the rest of the student body at JMU. Fraternities also provide brothers with excellent business training and experience in running an organization.

With all the great things that fraternities provide, why is the Greek system still looked upon so negatively? Why do some men who would make excellent brothers avoid the opportunity to become ones? Why do strong fraternity chapters around the country lose charters? While I'm sure many will agree there isn't one single issue that makes or breaks a fraternity, I feel hazing is destroying the Greek system.

According to Theta Chi's International Headquarters, hazing can be any form of physical or mental mistreatment of a new member. I don't understand how fraternity pledges can handle being emotionally scarred by brothers, be forced to consume quantities of alcohol much larger than any other brother can handle and then be called a wimp for not completing a given task.

Several months later, the same guys responsible for making your life hell expect you to call them your friend and your brother. That's not how true, lifelong friendships are made! While I don't think a person should join a fraternity to "buy friends," I do think joining any student organization on campus, including fraternities and sororities, can provide excellent opportunities to make lifelong friendships.

Finally, another devastating result of hazing is losing a fraternity charter. Hazing forced our chapter to shut down in 1989. Since then, we've come to realize the benefits of having a "haze-free" chapter. By not hazing pledges, we're finally taking a step in the right direction toward where our founders intended us to go almost 150 years ago.

I realize many fraternities on this campus haze pledges. Every brother who hazes a pledge can probably give a very good explanation as to why he feels it's necessary to haze a person simply because the person is not an initiated brother. However, hazing is illegal in the state of Virginia. Most national fraternities also outlaw hazing.

Hazing gives a person a sense of power because pledges seem to be willful servants. Hazing is probably also done simply for fun.

However, fun has its price, and it's up to us to decide if losing charters, losing fraternity houses and earning bad reputations is too expensive of a price to pay for a little bit of fun and power.

Ryan C. Bortner is a sophomore at James Madison University and vice president of Theta Chi fraternity.

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