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Cornell Administrators Write Anti-Hazing Opinion Piece

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Every day when I get home from work, I like to do a quick search of the web to see if there’s anything out there that’s TFM newsworthy. I’ve got a pretty complex series of formulas that are a personal secret, but just for you, I’ll let you in on part of how it works. I obviously can’t go into specifics, but it generally involves going to Google News and searching “fraternity.” In case you didn’t know, the term “fraternity” is used to describe any group of like-minded individuals in some places. Seriously, the majority of the results are involving a death in the Mumbai cricket fraternity. Very sad stuff, of course.

Where was I?

Oh, yeah. So, no shit, there I was, searching the Internet for something to write about. Miraculously, the top article was actually fraternity-related. I came across an article written by Susan H. Murphy, VP for Student and Academic Services at Cornell and David J. Skorton, the university’s president. The article, titled “Hazing is Never OK” was trying to convey the idea that, well, hazing is never okay. Nice try, nerds. I’ll take it from here.

Murphy and Skorton describe their initiative to “end pledging as we know it and develop in its place a system of recruitment and initiation that does not involve demeaning or dangerous acts.” Of course, when you think about it, this seems like a decent idea, on paper at least. Hazing deaths, while rare, are obviously tragic. As university administrators, it makes sense that they’d want to prevent that. I get that. I’m not knocking them for their intent. We should obviously be trying to keep people from being killed. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s their execution that’s flawed.

After all, you can’t hold all of Greek life responsible for the behavior of a few sick, twisted individuals. For if you do, then shouldn’t we blame the whole fraternity system? And if the whole fraternity system is guilty, then isn’t this an indictment of our educational institutions in general? I put it to you, administrators of Cornell – isn’t this an indictment of our entire American society? Well, you can do whatever you want to us, but we’re not going to sit here and listen to you badmouth the United States of America.

Seriously, though. In punishing all of Greek life for an incident involving a few people, do they actually think they’re going to foster a more transparent environment? If anything, all they’re doing is making fraternities and sororities more secretive about what goes on behind closed doors.

Now, according to the authors, who cited a University of Maine study, 73% of fraternity or sorority members reported being hazed. I like to think that the other 27% were smart, remembered that “house business is house business,” and lied their asses off. Deny ’til you die, right?

Look, I’m in no way telling you not to haze. I’m just telling you to be smart about it if you do. Like everything in life, moderation is key. Pretty much, when it comes to hazing, you should live by my own personal life philosophy: don’t be a dumbass.

It’s pretty straightforward, really. Think to yourself, “Is somebody gonna die?” If the answer is yes, then you probably shouldn’t make the pledges do whatever you were thinking about having them do. Chugging a fifth of whiskey and swimming across a swollen river on a moonless night is probably not a good idea. Just a thought.

That being said, when it comes to stuff that isn’t likely to kill someone, get you in jail, or have your house thrown off campus, fuck it. Have a ball, but be safe and be smart.

As for the authors saying that hazing is never okay, I’ve got to disagree. For one thing, never say never. I’ll admit that I’m a much better man because of what I went through while pledging. Pledging teaches you discipline, respect, and restraint. I got one hell of a work ethic from it, too. I don’t know about you, but those sound like some damn good qualities to me.

Furthermore, look at all the successful people who were in fraternities. Were they not hazed? Did they not haze others? It must have done something for those men, seeing as they’ve led everything from corporations to countries.

My advice to campus administrators? Tell your chapters not to be dumbasses. Trust me, doing so will get you a lot more in alumni donations than outright eliminating the pledge process will.

[via USA Today]

Image via Cornell IFC


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