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American Girl: Hazing

Updated: Nov 20, 2022

This blog post is gonna be quiet different from the content that I usually write.

If you live in the US or know someone who's gone to college/university here, it's likely that you've heard of hazing.

Hazing has killed at least one person on a college campus every year since 1970. Although at its worst hazing is deadly, probably tens of thousands of people suffer from the psychological and long term effects of hazing.

Hazing is defined as: humiliating and sometimes dangerous initiation rituals, especially as imposed on college students seeking membership to a fraternity. It is seen as a right of passage of sorts, an induction into fraternities/sororities, an induction to Greek life.

Personally I have never been in a sorority so I can't speak to any firsthand experience. With that being said, my college boyfriend at UNLV was in a fraternity, having a brief stint as a pledge, as a brother.

Students at universities across the US are familiar with Greek frats and sororities, regardless of if they've had any personal affiliation. You don't even have to be a part of their organizations to attend their parties, at least most of the time.

I think that the image of Greek life is a powerful framework to protect the hands of abusers. Think about it, a young, often immature, fresh faced freshman finds himself at a big University, away from home for the first time, & smack dab in the center of a massive party scene. These children (some of them teenagers!) look up to these older students. They admire them, the sense of comradeship, maybe their social skills or ability to always create a good time.

Everyone speaks in this jargon of family, "these are my brothers." You can see it on tv shows or movies too. Greek life is celebrated and admired. With the rise of TikTok, you might've seen #rushtok, where young students, aspiring pledges, document their journey to joining a sorority, similar to a mini docu-series.

At UNLV, I knew I didn't want to join Greek life. Perhaps if I had started as a freshman, I would've considered it. But starting in the fall as a sophomore, I just didn't think it was my crowd. It didn't feel authentic, and the last thing I wanted to do was put so much of my time towards something that I wasn't all in for.

Another factor that detered me was one of the sororities (their name espaces me) at UNLV was on a temporary ban due to a hazing related death from a few years prior. This was enough to stop me in my tracks, I would not fall victim to hazing.

Interestingly, this little factoid was not particularly hot gossip, and I'm not even sure that it detracted from the allure of Greeks on campus.

Still, pledges were joining, themed parties ensued, and jungle juice was consumed in copious quantities.

I write all this to say that hazing is a systemized epidemic.

Since I have graduated, tragically another life has been taken. At UNLV, they started doing this Greek event called fight night. It's basically exactly what it sounds like, with the addition of alcohol and lack of officials, medical, or regulations. I remember the event happening while I was a student there, but never went.

Last year in 2021, 20-year-old UNLV student Nathan Valencia died from participating in fight night. I do not know if Nathan was a pledge. But this is yet another example of how deadly fraternities can be.

Hazing is not going to disappear overnight. Hazing, I fear, is part of the culture of these fraternities and sororities. But it is not their fault, these students need help. Hazing has been happening for over 50 years.

At a certain point, you have to blame the society, the organization, you cannot just blame a niche frat in a single university. You cannot blame the fraternity members singularly, the larger picture must be understood. This behavior was modeled to them when they were pledges, and the class previous, etc, etc, etc. Going back till at least the 1970s.

Further Reading/Viewing:

  • Burning Sands (movie on Netflix) details the generational horrors of hazing and how quickly it can turn deadly

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