Menstuff® has compiled information, books and resources on the
issue of fraternities.
Our Position Regarding
Fraternities Speak Out Against Sexual Abuse
The Alcohol Issue
Delta Dawn, What's That Frat Pin You Have On?
DePauw Cuts Ties With Troubled Sorority
Strengthening the Bonds: A Positive Fraternity Pledge Program for the 21st Century
Related Issue: Hazing,
Books: fraternities, affirmations, conflict resolution, intimacy, men's groups, ritual initiation, transition, 13th generation
Journals - on Emotional, Religious, and Sexual Abuse and Trauma
Our Position Regarding Fraternities
Fraternities Speak Out Against
The following is the essence of the Statement of Position on
Sexual Abuse: "The members of Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity believe
that the attitudes and behavior exhibited by members of the
collegiate population have direct bearing on the quality of their
present and future life and that there is an increased consciousness
of sexual exploitation and violence and incidences thereof not just
on the nation's college campuses but in society and the Greek
community has stated its responsibility in leadership, scholarship,
community services, human dignity and respect, Pi Kappa Phi is
committed to excellence in the Greek community, and this requires us
to identify and solve serious problems that prevent the growth and
development of our brothers, and strives to foster an atmosphere of
healthy and proper attitudes and behavior towards sex and the sex
roles, and wishes that the incidences of sexual abuse (mental and
physical abuse - coercion, manipulation, harassment) between the men
and women of the collegiate community be halted. Therefore, be it
resolved that Pi Kappa Phi fraternity will not tolerate or condone
any form of sexually-abusive behavior (either physically, mentally or
emotionally) on the part of any of its members, and encourages
educational programming involving social and communication skills,
interpersonal relationships, social problem awareness, etiquette and
sex-role expectations; and will develop a reward system to recognize
chapters and individuals that lead in fostering a healthy attitude
towards the opposite sex."
The Alcohol Issue
Binge drinking is defined as five drinks in a row for men and four drinks in a row for women. The amount of alcohol the average male body can metabolize in 1 hour: 12 oz of beer or 4 oz of wine or 1 oz of liquor or 1 shot of liquor. Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) is the number of milligrams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood. A BAC of 0.5 and below may give you a mellow buzz (1 to 3 drinks, depending on body weight and other factors). A BAC of .10 means that one-tenth of one percent of your blood content is alcohol. Signs of intoxication become noticeable. This is above the legal limit for driving in most states. A BAC of .50 and higher can easily result in death. BAC is affected by a number of factors including body weight, when you last ate and time lapsed between drinks. Your body can only process about one drink per hour, so any drinks past that natural limit begin the process of intoxication.
Here are some statistics:
Some of the signs or symptoms of possible alcohol abuse:
As a 1990 Carnegie Foundation report found, when universities place more stringent regulations on students and drinking, those regulations are "not likely" to have the desired affects. And, while some campus's are trying to eliminate fraternities, thinking that the problem will then go away, I think that the fraternities and sororities are the places to start to turn around a whole society who has been well trained to drink. It's true that fraternity members binge drink more than the average college student. However, if the statistics compared fraternity drinking (and fraternities are very social compared to a large number of non-Greek students) to social non-Greek students, I think the differences between the groups would be minimal. So, it all boils down to one more lesson to learn in becoming a responsible adult. Along with learning to be in relationship. Learning to have responsible sex. Learning to balance study with activities. This piece has gotten alot of press lately, but what about suicide on campus. Many more students commit suicide on our college campuses every year than die from alcohol related events. Let's look at the pressure we put on students that cause drinking, cause drugs, cause suicide. And, I think we'd see a mirror of the society we brought them up in. Pointing fingers at fraternities and sororities won't change much, if anything. Encouraging the development of sound programs in an atmosphere that has proven to develop people of good character and community involvement, is a place to start. These fraternity men and sorority women could be the leaders in what might otherwise be an impossible shift. And, programs like Kappa Sigma's "My Brothers Keeper" is a start in that direction. To get a complete copy of the manual, go to http://www.kappasigma.org/manuals/mbk/contents.html.
Sources: "Battle of the Binge", by Adam Cohen,
Time, 9/8/77. "Fraternity and Soroity Leaders are Heaviest
Drinkers, Study Finds," by Julianne Basinger, The Chronicle of
Higher Education, 12/16/97. "Study: Drunk 101 still
the norm for college students", AP Wire, CNN Interactive,
9/10/98; "Survey shows campus drinking crackdown had little effect,"
CNN Interactive 9/11/98; "Alcohol still top health risk to
college students" by Bill Belaney, CNN Interactive, 11/23/98.
"When a drink becomes a problem," by Susan Ferraro, New York
Daily News, 1999. "Deaths due to alcohol" Scientific
American, 12/96. "Shaken and Stirred: The State of the
Liquor Industry" The Washington Post, 11/12/96. "Binge
drinking on American college campuses: New look at an old
problem," Harvard School of Public Health, Fall 97. "Schools
review alcohol policies after recent deaths," by Ilana Rosman, The
Brown Daily Herald, 2/3/98. "The Alcohol Issue", The
Caduceus of Kappa Sigma, Spring, 1999. The Caduceus, is a
publication of the Kappa Sigma National Fraternity, PO Box 5066,
Charlottesville, VA 22905. firstname.lastname@example.org
or www.kappasigma.org. Also
see www.stophazing.org and
Strengthening the Bonds: A Positive Fraternity Pledge Program for the 21st Century
Where it All Began
The year was 1974, 16 years after my initiation into a fraternity. The devastation and turmoil of a pending divorce found me seriously contemplating suicide. When my former wife suggest I talk to my friends, I didn't believe I had any that I could really "talk" to. She reminded me of Trent, a longtime friend from high school. And Dave, a roommate at college and a guy I was initiated with. And then there was Dan.
Dan was a real fraternity brother and a friend that I most likely would never have met if either of us hadn't joined a fraternity. We had gone to different colleges but became friends at a monthly fraternity alumni luncheon in 1973, shortly after I moved back to my hometown. I didn't know just how much of a friend he was until I starting going through the divorce. But Dan was really there. Whenever I called to talk, he took time off work, whether it was for a quick lunch or a long walk. I credit him with saving my life. I just wish I could have returned the favor! (Dan died by his own hand in November, 1982.)
I probably would have gotten through my divorce without Dan. And, I probably would have gotten through college and life since college without the fraternity experience. But, my fraternity experience positively affected my life, and I would definitely do it over again if given the opportunity.
This isn't to say there aren't things I wouldn't want changed. I am outraged when I read about fraternity men sitting in front of the frat house yelling obscenities at women, when they get incoherently drunk, when a gang rape happens in a fraternity house, or when active's use horseplay, practical jokes and tricks, or humiliating and even painful ordeals in the hazing of their pledges.
Hazing doesn't build brotherhood. It builds dissension, undercutting, and eventual retribution. It strips a pledge's self-esteem and often goes beyond their physical and mental limits. The result is an unquestioning abeyance of any command by authority (as in the military system). People can't demand respect, it's earned. (The highest mortality rate during the Korean War was among our Lieutenants being shot by their own troops.) Within a fraternity system, we shouldn't be building a system around respect, rather one around trust, support, and brotherhood.
It is because of Dan, and my belief in the intrinsic value of the fraternity system, that I developed "Strengthening the Bonds~ - A Positive Pledge Program for the '90s" which has been implemented it in a variety of fraternity situations from one which wanted to have something meaningful after national took out most of their program without offering substitute ideas, to one fraternity that was on probation from both the school and national. While utilizing many of the concepts of ancient rites-of- passage, we removed those aspects of sexism and separation that no longer serve us in our culture.
It does confront an educational system that creates conformity in a culture that has more laws and social rules to control individual action and thinking than any other country in the world. "Strengthening the Bonds" is based on peer support of individual diversity and while recent press has emphasized the shadow side when that peer support gets directed in the wrong way, nonetheless, a strong, positive foundation is already in place within the current fraternity system to build upon.
Some say that the shadow is just as strong in non-fraternity men in dorms and off-campus housing, but this isn't a justification. Admittedly, there aren't alot of positive male role models in the culture to draw from. However, fraternities offer a way to develop positive change in male roles and relationships that exists anywhere else in our culture today.
Too many men die, long before their physical deaths, in the quality of their lives. Most of us were raised without actively present healthy models of masculinity and manhood. Through healthy initiator rites we can learn how to be with ourselves, with each other, with the women in our lives and with life itself in a vital, passionate, responsible way.
As a culture over the last several hundred years, we have failed to pass on, in a meaningful way, the wisdom of men to our children. Today's male has grown up with little or no positive male training from his father or other elders. And, the Boy Scouts, a bar mitzvah, confirmation, learning to hunt or fish, the first date, first sexual arousal, first car, first alcoholic drink with parental permission, or the military, have tried, unsuccessfully, to replace those ancient rituals. Our sons, as well as society as a whole, have been the losers.
Starting college is an ideal time to develop "A Modern Rite-of-Passage for Contemporary Heroes~", bringing in the freshman "boy", giving him a positive adult system in which to function and learn what it is to be a man in this culture in this day and age. And this "being a man" doesn't have anything to do with how much you can smoke, drink or do drugs. Those are generally tools to escape being a "real man" and dealing in a healthy way with life. The fraternity system is one way to develop young boys into the role models of the future!
Our work with local or national fraternities is kept in strictest confidence. We will not reveal fraternities who show interest or participate in this program to anyone outside the fraternity unless we have their written permission. Any confidential information we receive from fraternities is removed completely from our files and back-up files and returned to the fraternity anytime it is requested and always once the project is complete.
Hazing - A Definition
Hazing is defined as the initiation of a disciplinary activity by means of horseplay, practical jokes and tricks, often using humiliating or painful ordeals.
Hazing has been a tradition of the fraternity system in American universities since 1850. Fraternity hazing is commonly practiced on college campuses throughout the United States today. Associated with these rites of initiation are numerous injuries and deaths. (168 incidents have resulted in 58 deaths. Many involved the use of alcohol and revolved around "road trips" and "line ups" or exercise programs.)
Source: American Journal of Forensic Medicine & Pathology, 3/85
While most fraternities have strict rules against hazing, it still exists in many pledge programs and posses risk to the pledges, actives, and the local and national chapter. One of the main reasons it still exists is that the local chapter hasn't been offered adequate alternatives as a replacement for the hazing practices. And, it is often felt that without those alternatives or without hazing, the whole pledge program would deteriorate into a system that would eventually lower the quality of the initiates.
The pledge program is not the place to "weed-out" potential members. That should be done in the rush program and only pledge those that the chapter is confident would make a good brother! The pledge program should be used to build that brotherhood.
Any change to the current pledge program will often be resisted by both upper classmen and alumni for "traditions" sake. Realize that no hazing activity was ever part of the original charter. In most cases, a pledge program wasn't part of the original charter, either. In developing these "new" traditions, it is important to take it one step at a time. As these new "traditions" show positive results, expand the program.
When fraternities were originally founded, their goal was to build brotherhood. They didn't have systems of hazing to accomplish that goal. However, over time, their original purpose has been lost.
Hazing doesn't build brotherhood as we see in our military system, it builds unquestioning abeyance of any command by authority. One of the highest mortality rates during Viet Nam was our Lieutenants being shot by their own troops. People can't demand respect. And, within a fraternity system, we shouldn't be building a system around respect, rather one around trust, support, and brotherhood.
Instead, hazing builds dissension, undercutting, and eventual retribution. It strips a pledge's self-esteem and often goes beyond their physical and mental limits. It really provides no benefit and by participating in hazing practices, the fraternity and it's members may receive much bad press, not to mention causing local campus administrations, some campus organizations, the non-Greek student body, the local community and the national fraternity to comedown on the fraternity, often removing the chapter's charter. Continued hazing has caused the elimination of the fraternity system on some campuses. Currently, 35 states have specific laws, with felony charges to those participants who are members of the offending fraternity. While actives aren't thinking of prison while pushing a pledge to do 100 push-ups or drink a quart of liquor, or walk home in the freezing cold from some distant drop-off point, that could be the result. And worse than that, for what ever reason, someone we wanted in our fraternity could lose their life in their eagerness to "be one of the guys". This happens every year.
Changing the system doesn't have to lose any of the fun, the discipline, the group effort, etc. In fact, by eliminating hazing, we will build stronger camaraderie within the pledge class, build a sense and anticipation of belonging to the fraternity, and build a way that, when initiated, the individual pledge becomes integrated as a brother rather than remaining part of a tight pledge class that remains separate from the rest of the active chapter after initiation.
With all this in mind, the real reason to change shouldn't be because we might get shut down or we might end up in prison. It should be because we really believe that without hazing, we can build an even stronger brotherhood and with a stronger brotherhood comes a stronger fraternity system.
Our ingredients for a meaningful pledge and initiation process without hazing excludes any use of "lineups", recreational drugs or alcohol. It starts with a decision on what you want your pledge program to achieve. Chapter unity, fellowship, teamwork, scholarship, campus involvement, community service, etc. and plans activities to achieve those goals. Seldom is any of the actual program or initiation changed. The changes come in how the activity is performed. This is all accomplished using three simple steps:
1. The entire active chapter acts as active and equal participants in all activities that the pledges participate in in addition to taking on the role of teachers and transmitters of wisdom to incoming brothers during the entire pledge and initiation period.
2. Acknowledgment is given of each pledge's uniqueness, personal empowerment and individual responsibility to themselves, the fraternity and the community.
3. There is an air of reverence and dignity throughout each process with an avoidance of machismo, bravado, destructive competition, physical, psychological, or spiritual abuse, or violence.
A Shift of Ritual - The Seven Steps
There is always a team made up of an active "big brother and a pledge "little brother" plus the remaining actives who don't happen to have a "little brother" at the present time. They can be seen as "mentor's", the ones the "little brothers" look to for answers. All members of the house participate fully and equally in all activities that "little brothers" participate in.
The fraternities current pledge program and initiation are used, working with what they already have while adding in appropriate programs that have proven successful for each aspect of this initiatory process, to insure that the most effective program is created to build pledge class unity while integrating the pledge into the brotherhood as the process moves along. This acknowledges a reverence to the process while maintaining personal dignity throughout.
This process covers the time from pledging to initiation. It could be used either in the Fall or Spring with slight revisions in some timing.
Step 1: Pledging - Affirmation. This is a time to affirm the child within the pledge. Start the bonding process by having fun together. Not only playing sports, but playing games like kick-the-can and capture the flag (games that release some of the playfulness of everyone). It allows for the silliness and reduces the competitive "win at all cost" philosophy. If teams are picked, "big" and "little" brother are always on the same team. This process is designed to honor the child within each active and pledge and the value of that inner joy and freedom from care. Around a fire, active's share stories of their own initiations.
Step 2: Orientation - A thorough discussion of hazing is given including a definition, with open questions and answers. While learning about the fraternity is very important, and could involve alumni in the teaching process, it is also important for the "little brother" to confront his fear of growing up. A challenge is devised by the "little brother" based on his own fears. It could be similar to a ropes course if the fear is of height, water, physical limitations, etc. or it could be something like the fear of speaking before a group. "Big brothers" share their own fears and help their "little brothers" confront their chosen fears. At no time is there any encouragement to go beyond your limits to "be one of the guys", and in fact, the "mentors" are charged with the caretaking responsibility to see that this does not happen. It is during their period that the fraternity history is learned in a simple, enjoyable way. Also during this time, the "little brother" selects a chapter committee to be on. He sits in on all meetings as an active participant and is included in the planning of activities and projects.
Step 3: Learning Process - You're not alone. The "little brother" gets to use his individual strengths or talents. Acknowledging the individual's strengths, may require physical strength, but also may include music, art, drama, storytelling, poetry, etc. The range is limitless. Each "little brother" selects his own task. Everyone can be involved with no stars.
Phase II is to select a subject from an endless list of topics relating to being men in this society. The "little brother" has the absolute choice of topic, tough, without pressure, it is suggested he pick a topic he knows little or nothing about. He is to work with his "big brother" and a "mentor" if appropriate, to get information on the topic and then, together, they will present it to the entire chapter sometime during the semester. The presentation could be any length but 10-15 minutes is suggested and encouragement should be given for the two to contact appropriate people on campus and in the community to get the latest information on the subject.
Step 4: Cooperation - Pledge Project & More. Determine and carry out a task as a group. It could include a problem in the fraternity (physical or organizationally like poor rush), community involvement, campus improvements, even working with another Greek house that is going through a rough year. Something to build esteem within the class, the Greek system, the campus and the community. Consider several smaller projects and activities rather than one, enabling a wider range of leadership development. This is an important time to develop problem-solving and conflict resolution skills.
The assistance of the "mentor's" are very important in this stage, giving positive guidance and options rather than orders and allowing the freedom to explore new ways to accomplish the tasks.
Step 5 - Journey - Be responsible for your own actions. This is a journey as a fraternity, into the wilderness - a Vision Quest. It's a time for the "little brother" to learn to face the world on his own. A time to possibly seek a vision of a new name (nickname the "little brother" chooses that is totally positive and powerful and is what the "big brother", other "little brothers" and "mentors" will call him. It is particularly valuable to get help from his "big brother". Alone in the wilderness, the "little brother" will contemplate life as an adult male, journal things that concern him growing up in the fraternity/in college/in his career selection, confront fears, and overcome the fear of being alone. While the "little brothers" are alone, they are close enough and know where the camp fire and the rest of the fraternity brothers are. The next morning, each "little brother" reveals his fears and if he has overcome them (with no judgments or ridicule if they haven't yet been accomplished.)
It is at this time in the journey that the "big brother" teaches his "little brother" his lineage. This starts with information about him (the "big brother"): birthday, initiation date, home town, major/minor, sports activities and other interesting information. He adds to this list information about his "big brother", and his and his, back as far as the information is available. If brothers have graduated, the graduation date is added and the information is updated as to where the graduated brother now lives and what he is doing. Photo copies of pictures (from initiation to the present) of these brothers are a powerful addition.
Step 6: Initiation - The Ceremony of welcome as a brother and as an adult: the initiate shares his new name, his visions about his life and where he wants support to take life in his chosen direction. "Big brother" gives a gift - an important hand-me-down from his "big brother". Ideally, the "big brother's" "big brother" returns for this ceremony. Involving the alumni is always important. A celebration ensues.
Step 7 - Responsibility as an Active - You shall lead. Each "little brother" is given a valuable position within the fraternity, he could assist his "big brother", or a "mentor" or could take over a committee or position by himself.
It is also a time when feedback is given the fraternity on the pledging/initiation system - very honest and open with a guarantee of no retribution. A written evaluation will also be offered as an option for a concerned initiate.
As you can see, changing the system doesn't lose any of the fun, the discipline, the group effort, etc. In fact, by eliminating hazing, we build stronger camaraderie within the pledge class, build a sense and anticipation of belonging to the fraternity, and build a way that, when initiated, the individual pledge becomes integrated as a brother rather than remaining part of a tight-knit pledge class that stays separate from the rest of the active chapter after initiation.
As we're seeing the negative reaction to "male bonding" in our culture today, with the reaction to "men beating drums or chests", I truly believe we have a major segment of our culture that doesn't want men to change. How else can it keep the economic machine that gets its fuel off of men's strength and lives, eating them up and disposing of them in the process. How else can it keep men shackled in the provider role and at the same time keep them away from their children. If men change, maybe everyone will have to start taking responsibility for their own lives.
Nowhere in the country are there already so many young men looking for healthy guidance. The fraternity system is a old and well developed system that is begging for guidance in this new direction. Programs like "Strengthening the Bonds~" are needed to give fraternities something to build on. It will also take the dedication of individual fraternity alumni who are willing to step forward and mentor their fraternity through the changes. I can't envision a more beautiful service to our future and the future of our planet. I know Dan would be proud.
If you're interested in having some help, we'll work with your own rituals and assist you in developing appropriate programs that have proven successful for each aspect of this initiatory process, to insure that the most effective program is created to build pledge class unity while integrating the pledge into the brotherhood as the process moves along. We also want to insure a reverence to the process while maintaining personal dignity throughout.
© First Printing, September, 1986, Revised and Refined: June, 1989, 1992, 1995 Gordon Clay
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