The examples of “such activities and situations may include, but are not limited to, the following” include things we did in marching band, in my fraternity, and even in the classroom with my own students like:
- quests, treasure hunts, scavenger hunts
- engaging in stunts and buffoonery
- late work sessions or activities that interfere with scholastic activities and/or normal sleeping hours
- removing public or private property
These listed activities aren’t necessarily hazing. Asking my 8th graders to do a scavenger hunt around the school to find references to music in certain pieces of art that are displayed on campus isn’t hazing. Zip-tying a pyramid of folding chairs on someone’s bed in retaliation for them putting french fries in your sheets as a prank isn’t hazing. Inviting members of marching band to a dance that bleeds into normal sleeping hours isn’t hazing and taking one mug at a time from one classroom to another over a period of months isn’t hazing.
But these things could be hazing if they are interpreted as causing some kind of negative feelings with the person involved.
Hazing is deplorable. Kids getting alcohol poisoning or getting beat up physically to join a fraternity is crazy. But if you go go with this policy about hazing (which is not unique to Northwestern), than almost anything you do as part of a group can be interpreted as hazing.
We need to have strict policies about these things but we also need to understand that there is a big difference between literally water-boarding someone with vodka and having them go on a scavenger hunt to find university landmarks.
It’s kind of like the porn vs. fine art argument, you know it when you see it but unfortunately not enough people can make this distinction, so the university has to come down hard. I see the core distinction about hazing not in the list of activities but with the intent to hurt implied in the first paragraph.
The reasons we were asked to do the activities we did as pledges was to help us bond, to give us shared experienced that helped us understand the values of Phi Mu Alpha. It worked. By the time initiation came about, everything about the fraternity made more sense. There was a reason our seal looked a certain way and there was a even reason our letters were Phi, Mu and Alpha.
All of the symbolism and metaphors melded together describe not only what it meant to be a brother of this fraternity but what it meant to be a man. These themes have stayed with me and have become such a part of my inner monologue, I sometimes forget that these statements of values came from PMA.
Even if I wasn’t sworn to secrecy, I wouldn’t tell you the details of our initiation. I don’t want to spoil it for those who may someday go through this amazing ceremony. It defined what it meant to be in a fraternity, it was mysterious and beautiful and it spoke to the truth of what we believed was most sacred to ourselves as brothers and as men in society.
This ceremony was a gift that I was fortunate to give to many other pledge classes and even though I loved every time I got to be part of it, it never replaced the grandeur of the first time.
After the ceremony was done, I was brother of Phi Mu Alpha. I had a group of brothers who swore loyalty that night to our fraternity and each other. For the first time in my life, I was truly a member of a larger social group. I had no idea how long these bonds would last or how much that time with those men would mean to me. But these memories lasted me thirteen years and have impacted me enough to write these words.
Not bad work for a bunch of frat boys.