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Linda Langford remarks on hazing at Pi Beta Phi convention

Here is the link Moderator: Dr. Langford is perhaps the best interlucutor I have ever seen moderate a hazing discussion among experts. Congratulations to her on the honor.

Excerpt:

My experience throughout the convention was one of being joyously welcomed. Beaming smiles greeted me in the hallway and meeting rooms. People stopped me to say “congratulations!” “welcome!” “we’re honored to have you!” and “I loved your story.” (I was impressed they had even read my story!) I wondered how the Connecticut Alpha members would respond to having a semi-amusing yet undeniably middle-aged new member in their midst, and of course they were wonderfully welcoming, inclusive, and great fun. I was honored to be greeted with open arms and fully accepted by all of my new sisters. Throughout the convention, I was treated as an honored guest, like everyone was lucky to know me. In general, I am pretty self-confident, but I can tell you that the positive energy I received from everyone made me feel even stronger and better—like my best self. And I felt incredibly connected to Pi Phi, both to the women I actually spent time with, and also to the organization and what it stands for. I’m not a Pi Phi expert, but I think that’s what the organization wants for all members, and one of the things members want when they join.

But just imagine that my convention experience had gone differently. What if I was greeted at the registration desk and asked to carry things for current members, told to walk a few steps behind them, and required to clean up the meeting room at the end of every session? What if I was told that I really would look better if I lost a few pounds (even if it’s true)? What if I was taken into a back room and made to drink a lot of alcohol before I could leave? And if I refused, what if the other lovely women initiated with me had to drink it instead? Would I have felt so strong, so proud, so connected to Pi Phi? Obviously, no. That would have been a very different convention.

And yet, in some fraternities and sororities, and probably even in some Pi Phi chapters, this experience—or some version of it—is what initiation is like. The accurate name for it is hazing. You may think of hazing as only the extreme, life-endangering acts, but the petty tasks, the demeaning comments, and the silly requirements are all part of a continuum of behavior that is hazing. Behavior that’s designed to tear people down rather than build them up.

This is National Hazing Prevention Week (NHPW). I’ve worked with colleges and universities on health and safety issues for many years, and while there’s no simple fix, I truly believe that we can build a world free of hazing if we all work together. Hazing prevention is not a “one-and-done” program or speaker, it is really about making sure everything in the organization contributes to a community that helps everyone be their best selves. All of the time. Starting the first day. So what can you do?

  • Take it on. Think about what YOU can do to build a hazing-free community. Everyone has a role: collegians, chapter leaders, chapter advisors, alumnae, parents, and fraternity leadership. Sometimes silence about this issue sends the message that it’s not a big deal.
  • Learn. HazingPrevention.org and Hazing.Cornell.edu have a wealth of information, stories, and resources that can help you understand hazing and how to prevent it. Make sure you know—and have really thought about—Phi Phi’s hazing policy as well as your part in carrying it out.
  • Participate. Take part in National Hazing Prevention Week activities as well as anti-hazing efforts throughout the year. Learn what you can do to prevent or stop hazing behavior. Report hazing anonymously to the anti-hazing hotline by calling (888) NOT-HAZE, or (888) 668-4293.
  • Tweet. Follow #NHPW11 on Twitter to learn what others are doing this week. Share what you’re doing at #piphisagainsthazing. Read answers or add your voice to #40 Answers, a campaign in which individuals and organizations respond to a one common hazing excuse every day for 40 days leading up to NHPW.
  • Be kind. This is a simple but powerful question to ask yourself: is this behavior kind? If you can’t honestly answer yes, it’s time to rethink it.

Some people say they haze because it builds character and helps new people bond to an organization. I don’t think it achieves those goals at all, and research backs me up. You know what does work? Being treated like an honored guest that everyone is lucky to know. I know, because I just experienced that at the Pi Phi convention, and it was great.

Besides being a brand new Pi Phi, Dr. Linda Langford is an expert in hazing and other violence prevention in college and university settings. She is an associate Center director at the U.S. Department of Education’s Higher Education Center for Alcohol, Drug Abuse, and Violence Prevention and a faculty member at the Novak Institute for Hazing Prevention. For more information, visit the Center’s violence prevention web page at http://www.higheredcenter.org/high-risk/violence/.

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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