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Kid Wants to Join Frat or Sorority? Beware of Hazing

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Guest blogger Michelle Kemper Brownlow: Some colleges do Greek rush in the spring; some in the fall. Don't know what "rush" is? Here's a quick tutorial.

Rush week is when a college's Greek organizations pull out all the stops in an effort to entice freshmen and sophomores to join a certain fraternity or sorority. At the end of rush, each house in the Greek community sends out "bids." Bids are formal invitations to pledge. "Pledging" kicks off a semester of hazing practices designed to prove that those who've pledged are worthy of wearing their Greek letters. Of course, then there's "Hell Week" and initiation ....

My scenario was quite different from most. My junior year at Penn State, two new sororities were invited to join our large Greek community. I rushed, received a bid and pledged one of them. However, these new sororities came with national representatives running the show. Everything was done first-class and by the book -- no bitchy prima donnas calling the shots; not a single ounce of hazing; no scary "Hell Week" rituals. And there was something else I thought was cool: If I ever had a daughter, she would be a "legacy." A legacy receives an automatic bid, because her mother is a sorority sister. 

My situation was atypical, but I had numerous friends who pledged other sororities and fraternities. Beyond the obvious mass alcohol consumption, there was both physical and mental abuse. Although some Greek organizations are respectable and focus more on service than submission, I heard my share of "secrets" -- and I now know what to warn both my sons and daughter against. I lived it. I've seen it. It's real! 

One sorority would take its pledges to a fraternity and then parade them around in front of the men in only their bras and underwear. As if that weren't bad enough, Sharpies were then handed out, and the men were encouraged to circle the fatty areas on each woman's body

Once I noticed that all of the pledges of a certain fraternity were walking funny toward the end of the semester. A brother breaking his code of ethics told me that their interesting swagger was due to the fact that the tendon on the top of their right feet had been cut during Hell Week. 

The fraternity house right next to my dorm would cover all their windows with newspaper during Hell Week. I am not exaggerating when I tell you that I could hear screams coming from that house when I was walking home after dark. 

Keep your kids safe. Talk to them about self-respect, and help them see why behaviors like the ones described above are ridiculous. Don't wait until they are IN college to have that conversation.


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