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Chi Phi alum on high school hazing in Tallahassee, FL

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The humility of hazing makes no one stronger
By Jason White

I have seen a lot of things that made me angry at society’s lack of interest or its hypocrisy – but nothing so blatant as what I experienced one recent Friday at Bruegger’s on North Monroe.

In the parking lot, I had to drive through a gathering of about 10 high-school students. There was nothing out of the ordinary about them, except they were all wearing Anchor Club T-shirts.

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As I got out of my car and began walking toward the front door, I noticed four or five more blindfolded students being led toward the group. One had on a bikini outside of his clothes. Others were wearing women’s underwear outside of their clothes. They could’ve passed for rodeo clowns because of the amount of makeup that had been applied all over their bodies.

Once they were joined with their esteemed Anchor Club colleagues, their blindfolds were removed, and that was probably the first time they realized they were standing next to North Monroe. As I walked in the front door of Bruegger’s, the gathering of kids moved toward the street and got their kicks from making those few men stand by the road and wave to passing cars.

The shock didn’t stop there. I was placing my order when a lady walked in behind me. She stared at the menu, placed an order and then said, “I’m with that group of yahoos out front.”

All I could think was, You’re what? She appeared to be in her late 30s and was probably a mom. She probably had a job, a family and an acceptable value structure. However, the behavior of those kids outside was OK to her. In fact, she seemed to be helping these susceptible young minds partake in something that makes headlines every time a fraternity or college organization gets caught doing it: hazing.

In fall of 1999, I pledged a fraternity at Florida State. I made two vows at the end of that semester: to honor, respect and value my fraternity more than anything except God and family, and to do whatever I could to end hazing in my chapter, my university and my fraternity.

There was no reason for me, or anyone else, to cut grass with scissors or be yelled at, dressed up, drawn on, drenched or sleep-deprived. These are all things created within military establishments for the purpose of training killers. That is not what we do in high schools and universities.

Of course, there are those who claim, “Hazing makes you a stronger person,” or, “You must be broken down to be built back up,” or, my favorite, “It proves how hard you’re willing to work to be a part of us.”

Those excuses are nothing more than cow dung. Such activities don’t reveal character. They don’t prove how much a person wants to be a part of something. If anything, they show how naive people can be to subject themselves to such punishment in order to be part of an organization.

If we as a society say we want to ban hazing in all facets of college life, yet we think it’s OK for high-school kids to be dressed up like fools and thrown on a street corner to join a civic club, then we’re being hypocrites. People excuse it: “Oh, it’s just kids having a little bit of fun.” But they’re having fun at another’s expense.

The young men at FAMU who were on trial last fall were “just having a little fun,” too – at the expense of a young man who wanted to become a Kappa Alpha Psi beside them. That young man ended up with a ruptured ear drum, and the brothers responsible ended up on trial for their freedom.

Please don’t think I’m pointing my finger only at the Anchor Clubs. Many organizations at many high schools do the same thing. We have to put an end to this behavior no matter how harmless it may appear.

To the students who were embarrassing those young men, I say: Why do you think it was OK? Do you think it proves that, because they stood by the road looking ridiculous, they will be strong, powerful, driven members of the Anchor Club? I advise you to rethink that. I have seen men who endured the worst hazing to become brothers of my fraternity – and then were nothing more than dead weight in the chapter, deadbeats in society.

To the high schools: Have you done nothing to stop this? It should be unacceptable for kids to embarrass other students just so they can be accepted into clubs that you sponsor.

To the woman in the coffee shop: What were you thinking? What kind of adult lets impressionable kids be victim to such stupidity?

Finally, to the rest of Tallahassee and the surrounding areas: What are we going to do about it?

Jason White, who graduated from FSU in 2002 with degrees in English composition and information studies, is an information systems analyst for the state of Florida. He’s also a brother in the Chi Phi fraternity, where he serves as an executive officer on the Alumni Board and helps with advising the active chapter. Contact him at buffalopoboy@gmail.com.

By Hank Nuwer

Hank Nuwer is the Indiana-based author of Broken Pledges: The Deadly Rite of Hazing, High School Hazing, Wrongs of Passage and The Hazing Reader. He has written articles or columns on hazing for the Sunday Times of India, Toronto Globe & Mail, Harper's Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, The Chronicle of Higher Education and the New York Times Sunday Magazine. His new book is Hazing: Destroying Young Lives from Indiana University Press.

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