Founders United by a Common Purpose, Not a Common Traumatic Experience
National Hazing Prevention Week, officially designated for the last full week of September, is an opportunity for campuses, schools, communities, organizations, and individuals to raise awareness about the problem of hazing, educate others about hazing, and promote prevention. As part of Delta Tau Delta’s conversations about hazing prevention Sam Mallick (Vanderbilt University, 2014) responded to questions about his experiences and shared reflections on the value of a chapter culture that eschews hazing.
As a founding father of a chapter, did the fear of hazing play into your decision to join a new chapter instead of a more established chapter?
When you join a new chapter, you know you won’t be hazed because there are no current members to do the hazing. That’s probably more akin to the founding of the Fraternity. My guess is that nobody hazed William Randolph Cunningham or Henry King Bell. They were united by a common purpose, not a common traumatic experience. That’s what joining a new chapter is like. Your common goals of changing campus culture and building something that will last, bring you together.
The thought of being physically and emotionally abused by somebody and then calling them my brother, and the thought of abusing others, never made sense to me. I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to experience the benefits of fraternity without seeing that negative side.
How does your chapter convey to potential members that hazing has no place in the chapter?
Lambda Chapter has a “Why We Don’t Haze” event during every new member education cycle. The chapter has also successfully advocated for the development of an anti-hazing task force. It’s important to talk about hazing, whether your chapter engages in it or not. Hazing is a reality the Greek community has to cope with, and we need to have meaningful conversations about what’s going on in our chapters and in our communities. In some campus cultures, a little bit of hazing is treated as totally normal, or not even considered hazing at all. Recognizing that behavior for what it is and talking about it is the first step to doing something about it.
Lambda Chapter has found that people who want to haze or be hazed tend not to join our chapter in the first place. We’re vocal about our no hazing policy during recruitment. If you promise potential new members that you won’t haze them and then follow through, they’re not likely to haze those who follow. But the chapter keeps talking about it and keeps it in the forefront of everyone’s minds. If we don’t talk about our belief that hazing is inconsistent with the values Delta Tau Delta, we risk forgetting and slipping into a culture of hazing.
Can you describe the pride you feel in seeing undergraduates continue to stand against hazing? Why do you feel this is important?
It’s well and good for alumni to stand up against hazing, but it means more to an undergraduate to hear other undergraduates take a stand. It takes a lot of courage, especially in a campus culture where hazing is prevalent, for an undergraduate to stand up to his peers. I’m very proud of the undergraduates I advise because they’re challenging other chapters to change their behavior. They’re pushing for more open conversations about hazing and how to stop it, but they’re also showing that you can be a successful chapter without hazing.
When I was a chapter leadership consultant, [I saw] a direct correlation between a chapter’s strong anti-hazing stance and its excellence in other areas. In my experience, chapters that don’t haze get good grades, have high involvement from their seniors, win awards, and generally seem to have happier, more engaged members.
Fraternity has the potential to be the most positive thing a young man experiences in college. It teaches you about yourself, it pushes you to be engaged in the world around you, and it calls you to be the best person you can be. Hazing strips fraternity of that benefit. Hazing teaches young men that it is okay to disrespect others. That’s a toxic mindset that is contrary to the principles of this Fraternity.