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Hazing death leads to arguments for fraternity ban in Philippines

Excerpt–
Friday, September 07, 2007
Oledan: Elitist enclaves
By Radzini Oledan
Slice of Life

THERE is a current move to abolish all fraternities and sororities in the country as the current rules did not seem to eliminate deaths. The latest addition to the growing list of statistics is a student from the University of the Philippines who died of hazing two weekends ago.

Some may argue that fraternities and sororities need not exist. Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago has pointed out that fraternities ‘do not aid the academic tradition’ of the university and are ‘nothing but elitist enclaves.

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“They are isolationists, so they tend to take the view that simply because they are a group, they can get away with anything. And they have a very distorted sense of values. They follow the Mafia rule of omerta (silence) as if it was an honorable thing to sit on information that can possibly lead to the prevention of the deaths of other young people in the future,” she said.

Hazing is an act of power and control over others—it is victimization. Contrary to some claims, studies would show that it is always premeditated and not accidental. In fact, the consent of the victim cannot be used as a defense because even if someone agrees to participate in a potentially hazardous action, it may not be true consent when considering peer pressure and the desire to join a group.

When hazing occurs among men, regardless of the type of group, it is often framed as a test of strength, courage and determination. Accounts of hazing incidents include tests of physical endurance, forcedalcohol consumption, paddling and other forms of physical assaults.

In a research on fraternity cultures, Martin and Hummer (1989) found that fraternities emphasize “toughness, withstanding pain and humiliation, obedience to superiors, and using physical force to obtain compliance.”

In support of hazing, such traditions are often seen as a necessary way to “weed out” those unworthy of membership. Some men who have been hazed are firm believers in the process of hazing and insist that they enjoyed the challenge.

The arguments are firmly embedded in cultural expectations around masculinity and what we are taught to expect of “real men.”

Drawing on gender theory helps to illuminate why it can be so difficult to eradicate hazing practices, despite several cases of violence and even death.

For instance, in a fraternity, “‘becoming a brother’ is a rite of passage that follows the consistent and often lengthy display by pledges of appropriately masculine qualities and behaviors.

Hazing becomes an opportunity for men to prove their masculinity and heterosexuality and the elimination of such tradition can be threatening on multiple fronts.

Boys and young men who identify with the predominant cultural constructions of masculinity, are likely to fear that their manhood will be called into question if they resist an opportunity to prove their masculinity.

They also tend to be isolationist as the pledging process in the group forces many students to terminate or sharply curtail social interactions outside the fraternity to ensure the sense of self for pledges, and eventual brotherhood as they become closely tied with the organization itself.

Exits may be unlikely.

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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