Over the years, I’ve found members are more likely to ask me questions like “is this hazing” or “can we do this with new members”? I understand that often times legal-speak can be wordy and feel complex but is it really that complex to be kind, inclusive, and supportive? No. However, for too many years, anti-hazing efforts looked like the DARE program “just say no” and prevention included scare tactics like “do X or you’ll be closed”. What we know about hazing and prevention tactics has continued to evolve yet too many are stuck… still using some outdated phrases to define hazing.

Ring! Ring! The 1980’s called and want their risk reduction methods back!!!! We must disconnect with…

  • the idea that if an activity has a purpose or perceived benefit it is not hazing. Purpose is not the only qualifier.
  • the idea if individuals agree to go along it is not hazing. “Willing participation” does not make it okay.
  • the idea that if everyone is doing it is not hazing OR if it is a requirement of just the new members it is hazing.
  • trying to list all prohibited activities or events which may be considered hazing. This is not an effective prevention strategy. It makes everything hazing.

We haven’t spent enough time educating on what is RIGHT and the result has been students more often asking questions to stay out of trouble than necessarily how to have an effective new member program and positive membership experience. What if we asked…

  • Is everyone earning their letters every day? If not, what processes and procedures do you have in place to upholding your standards, values, and expectations.
  • Are we expecting new members to prove themselves or for initiated members to be role models and show new members the way? Just imagine what might be possible if our older members focused their energy on being great mentors instead great intimidators.
  • Are big sisters focused on being party planners or mentors?
  • How much time and money are you spending crafting behind closed doors and in secrecy for your little?
    Could you be using that time, energy, and money to spend quality time with your little?

What is even more concerning is that we work so hard to remove an activity or traditional event that is negative but what is being done to address the mentality? When we only eliminate an event without addressing the mentality concerns, we leave chapters without replacement events, therefore they are quick to say “it was better when there was hazing”. It is a response and a short-term fix, not long-term prevention.

A hazing mentality may exist when:

  • Members talk about how new members need to “prove themselves” instead of “mentoring and supporting” them.
  • There is pride in the new member program for being difficult and a challenge. Do you hear members talking about how they “got through” their new member program?
  • Members focus more on “pledge class unity” more than “chapter unity”.

So what questions might be a more productive focus:

1. What one thing could we change/improve that would significantly improve the new member experience?
2. How do I lead change?
3. How is my organization doing with setting clear expectations on how to welcome and engage new members?

What questions have you asked that have created a change?

Credit // Author: Lorin Phillips

Lorin Phillips is dedicated to improving the Fraternity and Sorority Life experience. She’s seen it all – no issue is too small or too difficult for her to tackle. She uses a proactive, values-based approach to take chapters to the next level. Ready to face your members and challenge them to move forward? Learn more about Lorin’s keynotes at