Arguably one of the most infamous aspects of going Greek, hazing, is continuously making headlines and spurring gossip nationwide amidst efforts to curtail these rights of passage.
UC Irvine itself made headlines after a pledge for a nationwide Asian fraternity was killed during a football game this summer. Although it’s not clear whether this event was in fact linked to hazing, this tragic incident highlights one of the most formidable and hushed secrets associated with joining fraternities and sororities.
According to the rules and guidelines created by the National Panhellenic Conference, hazing is defined as ‘any action or situation with or without consent that recklessly, intentionally or unintentionally endangers the mental or physical health or safety of a student, or creates risk of injury, or causes discomfort, embarrassment, harassment or ridicule or that willfully destroys or removes public or private property for the purpose of initiation or admission into or affiliation with, or as a condition for continued membership in, a chapter or colony of an NPC member fraternity.’
As the hazing guidelines mentioned above outlaw those actions that ‘endanger the mental or physical health’ of a student, virtually all members of Greek organizations agree that such restrictions are necessary to maintain a safe environment for new members.
However, when these guidelines go so far as to list specific incidents of hazing, including actions that are as seemingly harmless as ‘late-night sessions that interfere with scholastic activities or normal sleep patterns,’ or ‘participating in treasure or scavenger hunts,’ the question of the true definition of hazing becomes a gray area.
Indeed, a scavenger hunt can be as harmless as girls baking cookies for local firemen and buying snacks for a party, to the more rigorous requests, including asking new members to find two girls kissing or snag a bra.
Of course, this task isn’t as easy as it sounds when members are given the added condition of pictorial proof.
In light of tragedies such as the aforementioned death, such restrictions on hazing seem perfectly logical and necessary to prevent any future harm on students. The real question Greek organizations are now faced with is how far is too far, and where the emphasis on tradition ends and common sense begins.
According to one Panhellenic chapter president who wishes to remain anonymous, ‘Hazing is a gray area. I would consider lining up and getting presents as fun and never consider it hazing.’
As innocent as this activity may seem, should a new member feel uncomfortable with the prospect of ‘lining up,’ traditions such as these could easily lead a chapter to lose its charter or be faced with other repercussions.
The question of hazing doesn’t just end there.
For those students living in on-campus housing, and particularly those in Arroyo Vista, the UCI home to several fraternity and sorority chapter houses, it is commonplace to hear screaming and cheering amidst a line of students in all their naked glory as they take on the cold and harsh night with little more than socks and running shoes.
As is the case with scavenger hunts, it is often difficult to determine whether the goings-on of Greek organizations are in fact an act of hazing or simply a case of rowdy friends taking a jog around campus (in the nude).
Many students question whether the rigorous hazing policies are necessary at all at UCI.
According to one unaffiliated student, ‘I’d perceive [hazing] to be college-oriented, but I go here and don’t see this as a people-school. It’s very academic and that’s it. In towns where the school owns, it gets crazy. When the school is so big, being in a fraternity and sorority means a lot more. It’s also tradition. We haven’t been around for 100 years.’
And how do the sororities and fraternities feel about hazing? The general consensus that UCI is light on hazing seems to be right, although joining the Greek system is a far cry from joining any other club on campus.
As one Panhellenic chapter member aptly put it, ‘Pledges need to uphold the ideals of the organization before they are initiated