This week’s Play.It podcast spotlight falls on two shows that examine the hot button issue of hazing in America’s colleges and universities.
First up: A new episode of global security expert and author Paul Viollis’ “The Security Brief.” Paul sat down with Bryan Smith, Florida A&M University’s special assistant to the president for anti-hazing. Before the interview begins, Paul drops a few chilling statics: 1.5 million high school students are hazed each year and 55% of students involved teams, clubs and organizations experience hazing during their college experience. Smith doesn’t mince words, telling Paul that a study conducted at one of the universities he’s worked at in the past found that 71% of students its had dealt hazing while in high school.
How Parents Can Take Action
Smith explained he was brought on at FAMU following the death of Robert Champion, a 26-year-old drum major who was killed in a hazing incident in 2011. Smith thinks universities need to be proactive about hazing and should deal out punishment as quickly as possible to create a campus culture where such behavior simply isn’t tolerated. He also noted that it’s hugely important that schools let students who witness hazing know that they can come forward without fear of reprisals. Smith finished his remarks by warning parents who are sending their children to college to find out if their children's prospective schools have clear-cut policies regarding hazing and if felony hazing incidents have been reported in connection with their potential schools.
An Insider Speaks Out
Paul then switches gears by speaking with RCS Intelligence Analyst Lindsay Ross to get a student’s perspective on hazing. Ross spoke about how hazing can sometimes be subtle in nature, such as how fraternal organizations put added pressure on new members by not allowing them to wear a fraternities’ identifying letters until they prove themselves. What's more, she said, is most hazing complaints don’t come from the victims of hazing, but often by student’s parents because of the perceived stigma attached to whistleblowing.
The Consequences of Hazing
Ross explained that during her time as a university/social club liaison, she learned that individual fraternity and sorority houses can face the revocation of their charter, which would effectively ban the organization for operating on campus; individual perpetrators can face expulsion and criminal charges. Chewing on these revelations, Paul advised that students not look into taking part in the Greek system until they have finished their freshman year.
This episode of “The Security Brief” is an absolute must listen for parents, college students and young people who will soon become college students.
Hazing and the Greek System
In a complimentary conversation, veteran journalist and Wavemaker founder Michael Schulder latest Wavemaker Conversation featured an interview with University of Kentucky Communication Professor Dr. Alan DeSantis about his 2007 book “Inside Greek U: Fraternities, Sororities, and the Pursuit of Pleasure, Power, and Prestige,” a text that takes an anthropological look at the Greek system. Professor DeSantis, who joined a frat because he thought the movie “Animal House” made it look fun, covered the history of college fraternities and sororities in America and also discussed how university social clubs have changed a lot since his days as a pledge - and not for the better.
The Conformity Problem
DeSantis explained that many big state schools don’t allow Greek houses to have alcohol on-site, so many fraternity and sorority parties have been driven off campus. This crack down on partying coupled with zero tolerance hazing policies has led to Greek organizations being more secretive than they have been in the past. Michael questioned DeSantis about the effect such organizations have on young people and the professor answered that fraternities and sororities promote hyper masculinity and femininity in their pledges. DeSantis expanded by saying Greek organizations reinforce traditional, sometimes toxic gender roles and racial segregation. Michael and DeSantis touched on the unnerving results of the infamous Stanford prison experiment and related its revelations with the way frats pressure young people to conform to at all costs.
Should Frats Be Abolished?
Michael wondered if the Greek system should be abolished all together, since it’s riddled with many problems, and DeSantis replied that while he made lifelong friends from his time in a fraternity, the benefits might not be worth the cost. DeSantis also talked about his time as a Facility Athletic Representative with KU’s basketball team, and mentioned that one big difference between frats and sports teams is that athletes receive a lot of support and coaching from university staff, while frats do not. In his most damning statement, Professor DeSantis declared that students who pledge today might end up less enlightened than their unaligned peers. While the conversation was incredibly unsettling, it also has a lot of vital information for college students who charting their course through higher learning.
Listen in to the full episode of "Wavemaker Conversation" with University of Kentucky Communication Professor Dr. Alan DeSantis.
Mario McKellop is a freelance writer covering all things Cleveland. His work can be found on Examiner.com.
for more features.