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Hey greeks, little 'h' is big ignorance

Illustration by Cody Angell
By Sabrina Noble
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday, September 29, 2003

When Chain Gang Junior Honorary President Marc Viscardi said last week at a hazing forum, "There is a difference between capital 'H' and little 'h' hazing," he hit the nail on the head, all right. In a single sentence, he managed to illustrate the stubborn ignorance that has made hazing a steadfast tradition in all too many organizations.

If greek life weren't so fixated on saving hazing by justifying it by degrees, maybe rigid state laws protecting students

wouldn't be necessary. Delta Tau Delta's maple syrup-covered ravioli and Kappa Sigma's cupcake sprinkles got them into trouble. Now they're made out as being persecuted by the university.

They're just testing pledges' commitment to their organization, right?

Wrong, and here's why:

Sabrina Noble

First, we must ask what these initiation processes are testing. Proficiency in sorting sprinkles does not shed light on what contributions a pledge can make to an organization. Rather, these tests show that pledges will forfeit their time and dignity to complete a tedious task that is obviously pointless in other words, that they can be molded by the organization into whatever form it wishes. Eating syrup-covered ravioli does not show what creativity and insight new members might bring. It shows that pledges will cheerfully let peer pressure force them to do things they'd otherwise never do.

Those who pass these "tests" with flying colors only prove they'll do what they're told, no matter how stupid or humiliating. If this is the definition of little "h" hazing, it's hard to see how it contributes to a

positive greek identity much less to the personal integrity of its members.

And they wonder why they're stereotyped as "phony."

The second major problem with hazing is that it's so easy to dismiss mild cases as "fun" or "tradition," though they have the tendency to lead to trouble and often inflict psychological or emotional damage in and of themselves. Contrary to popular opinion, harm doesn't have to be visible to exist. If organizations could control their more primal urges to dominate and shape the "newbies," hazing wouldn't be the epidemic it is. Unfortunately, it takes only a moment for little "h" hazing to become the capitalized, scary breed.

After all, unless capital "H" Hazing means intentional death or sexual assault, every organization that ever lost a member or faced criminal charges had little "h" hazing in mind. You never hear in the news that they meant to paddle a guy to death or that they knew a pledge would drown in his vomit or that they suspected some dude meant to kill himself after being ridiculed. And for what?

The university is certainly not trivializing a serious problem by coming down on the "little" infractions. Rather, it is carefully following its guidelines to eradicate all hazing, regardless of degree. Clearly, it's been left no other option. What would hazing organizations have the school do? Let them run unchecked while continuing to grant them university funding for their events? Then greeks wouldn't have to worry about getting into trouble until someone really got hurt, after the damage was irreparable. You know, this isn't the innovative concept greeks likely think it is. It's called "Lord of the Flies," and perhaps it should be required reading during mandatory study hours.

If cracking down on hazing means that greeks are getting a bad name, that's only because the public is finally getting a clear idea of the atrocities occurring behind closed doors. If that means greeks have to let go of their precious and demeaning traditions, that's only because they've been using a harmful recruiting system for far too long. If greeks resent the university for reinventing their identity, that's only because their identity was built on the degradation of others and they refused to reinvent themselves and ironically, the very initiation process they are protecting has likely left very few innovators to bring reform.

If greek life refuses to let go of the little "h" once and for all, the university will have to step in and take it away.

If differentiating between Hazing and hazing is permitted, organizations will not only perpetuate a bad tradition, but will do something worse: By calling this practice acceptable, they'll weaken the definition of "I," the proper pronoun they so often ignore.

So while we're playing games with the alphabet, here are a few other words greeks should put the capital "I" back into: Integrity, Individualism, Identity, Involvement and Idealism.

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