Why Hazing Can Lead to Positive Change

OPINION

  @http://twitter.com/jtalty on December 02 2011 10:32 AM

The nasty effects of hazing have worked their way back into the mainstream after a Florida A&M band member died from alleged hazing.

Florida authorities have said that they believe hazing played a role in the death of Robert Champion, a 26 year-old drum major, but have not released specific details on what led to the death.

The death, along with a recent story of a high school coach hazing his players, has brought out pundits from all around calling for the end of needless hazing and Animal House behavior.

If hazing did play a role in Champion's death, as believed, then it is a tragedy of the absolute highest order.

But what these pundits don't understand, especially if they've never been hazed themselves, is that hazing can lead to positive change in a person.

As a member of a social fraternity in college, I was hazed.

Clearly I wasn't hazed to the extent that poor Robert Champion was, but I experienced my share of different activities.

I had to drink copious amounts of alcohol at times; had to wake up early in the morning to clean up after parties; as well as miscellaneous tasks that essentially amounted to being the indentured servant of all the older brothers.

It was a series of ups and downs going through the entire pledging process, but there's no doubt in my mind that it made me a better, stronger person.

I grew extremely close to my fellow pledge brothers through the adversity of it all, as well as learning extreme life skills such as the importance of time management. As ludicrous as it may sound, I achieved my best GPA in college the semester that I pledged -- which was in addition to taking 18 credits and working an internship.

How did I manage that? Because as part of the hazing, I had mandatory study hours that forced me to be on top of my studies as much as possible, while managing my other responsibilities.

And I know that I'm not alone in being okay with that kind of experience, even if it was considered hazing. Of course hazing doesn't just happen in the basements of fraternity houses, it happens with bands, on sports teams -- professional and non-professional -- and in most other clubs and activities.

The reason why it continues to occur, despite colleges trying to limit its impact, is that it is a tried and true method of developing young people. It has the ability to turn a jamoke into a man, which is extremely important for that person's long-term success.

College fraternities and sororities love to point out the amount of former presidents and CEOs that were once a part of Greek Life. 43 out of North America's biggest corporations are headed by Greek men and women, according to WhyGoGreek.com.

How many of them do you think were hazed in some capacity during their time in school?

If you think anything less than the majority, you are sorely mistaken.

Hazing wasn't the sole reason those people are successful, but it most certainly changed their outlook on things.

Furthermore, take a look at our military.

No one calls what happens at a Marine boot camp hazing, but it most certainly falls under most definitions of the word. But most are okay with rationalizing that away because it builds character, responsibility, and prepares them for their future.

At its best, doesn't hazing in a fraternity or band accomplish the same thing?

If it accomplishes what it should, it makes men out of boys and women out of girls.

It might lead to a particularly drunken experience from time to time, but isn't that what most in post-college life want to reminisce about anyways?

There are certainly downfalls to hazing -- as particularly evident in the Florida A&M case - but to cast all hazing as bad because of one or two bad experiences is particularly unfair.

The word hazing sounds bad, but what is actually happening behind the scenes often leads to great things.

There are always examples of a few individuals going a bit too far in needless hazing, but they are far and away the minority.

So while easy to call for the ban of all hazing after a tragedy happens at Florida A&M, it'd be prudent to look back at history and realize that it's an important part of becoming a well-adjusted member of society.

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