“Beyond Hazing” Stands Alone: The Power of Values in Action

hazing-paddle

It kind of stands out, doesn’t it? As you look at the navigation for the site, you may notice a handful of categories that fit well with the hero’s journey: "Building Heroes," “Heroic Arts," "Heroic Moment,” “Resources,” and “Values.”

But then there is “Beyond Hazing”.

So, what does hazing have to do with the hero’s journey?

We crave meaning and significance

All of us crave meaning in our lives. We want our experiences, both positive and negative, to have significance within “the bigger picture”. For some of us, we become involved with causes or join organizations to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. In the process, we sometimes do things that compromise our personal or organizational values. We do these things to carry on tradition, to fit in, or to prove ourselves. Or maybe we do them because we don’t want to stand out or stand alone.

Ironically, these organizations exist because a group of people came together and said, “We can be better.” The founders did not set out to make themselves better than everybody else, but rather to make the world a better place for everybody else through their actions, influence, and service to others.

It took me a while to understand the purpose of the organization I chose to join. As an 18-year-old, I just wanted a place to call home.

A stand against hazing

When I met the Theta Chi men, I felt it was a good fit. I had attended rush parties for a number of fraternities, but Theta Chi felt like home. One night after I joined, however, two members broke into my room, pulled me from my bed, and one of them held me down as the other beat me up, offering only that I was a freshman as a reason for what they were doing. When I told Chris, a chapter officer, about the incident, he immediately brought up the incident with the rest of the chapter. The chapter responded immediately, asking those two members to move out of the chapter house by the end of the week, even though the chapter wasn’t in a good financial position and it desperately needed every live-in member.

Then, that December, the financial shortfalls of the chapter caught up with it, and the chapter closed its doors. I sought to continue my fraternity experience, and received an invitation to join a second fraternity before my sophomore year.

A second chance

In my mind, I had no reason to expect my second experience to be any different. But it was. From the beginning, the culture of hazing lurked over the organization. “Hell Week,” “Line-Ups,” and “pledge duties” were part of the day-to-day vocabulary of the chapter. Hell Week came and went, and that’s about the best I can say about it. We were told we had been broken down and built up again, stronger than ever.

At the end of Hell Week, I was initiated. I promised myself, as an initiated member, I’d do everything I could to eradicate the hazing culture, and make sure no one else had to endure what I had endured to become a member. When I presented my vision to the campus’ Director of Greek Affairs, she asked me about my experiences regarding hazing. I told her the truth about what had happened, and she asked me to document the hazing practices I had experienced.

Busted

The chapter called an emergency meeting a couple of weeks later. At 11 p.m., everyone convened in the basement room in which chapter meetings were held. As soon as everyone arrived, the door was shut and locked, and the Sergeant-at-Arms stood guard. Once there, I was forced to read the e-mails I had sent to the Director of Greek Affairs to the entire chapter. Afterward, I was subjected to an hour-and-a-half of verbal abuse, and some of those I had called “Brothers” vowed to hurt me.

At almost 1 a.m., I was allowed to leave. When I left the chapter room, I knew I had to leave for my safety. For nearly two years, I had called those men my Brothers, and now I couldn’t even trust them with my physical safety. But it was the middle of the night and I didn’t know what to do. In spite of my doubts about those men I had called Brothers, there was no question who would help me. I called Chris from Theta Chi and said, "Can you come pick me up? I need to move out now." Soon thereafter, three members of Theta Chi helped me move out, ensuring my safety.

As the Theta Chi’s moved me out, I realized the true meanings of Brotherhood and “Theta Chi for Life.” These men, motivated only by their concern for a friend, got out of bed in the early morning hours, confronted a hostile environment, and extended a Helping Hand. Each of them acted on their highest values, showing me the kind of man I wanted to be.

Return

Although I will never be able to fully express my gratitude to them, I make every effort to do so by the way I live my life, for the rest of my life. I soon made the decision to leave the second fraternity, and I petitioned the Grand Chapter of Theta Chi Fraternity to become a Brother again. In January 2001, I was initiated a second time into Theta Chi Fraternity, a Theta Chi for Life.

The goal of Building Heroes is to empower others to strive for the heroism and commitment to values of those three men – Chris W., Joe K., and Trevor J.

This is the power of values in action.