Greek life is commonly seen as a hallmark of the American college experience. The glamour of being a part of these communities is sought after by first years and upperclassmen after stepping onto campus. I acknowledge there are merits to being a member of a fraternity or sorority. With the alluring social media posts accompanied by promises of expansive networks and lively parties, who wouldn’t be tempted? However, I also believe that the process of hazing cultivates a culture that rewards toxic behavior.
Most decisions we make are either consciously or subconsciously viewed through a cost-benefit lens. We weigh out the perceived benefits of making any given choice against the expected losses. Ideally, when the decision appears to be more trouble than it’s worth, we let it go. In reality, this decision is much more subjective. First, we must define what we constitute as a loss. What may be nonnegotiable to one person may be a nonfactor to another. Similarly, what I may see as an impactful benefit may simply not be a worthwhile pursuit to someone else.
In Connecticut, hazing for membership in organizations of either public or private colleges is explicitly prohibited. The law authorizes fines up to $1,500 on organizations and up to $1,000 on their members for any violation of this statute. Similarly, Yale College officially prohibits any actions that “intimidate, denigrate, or humiliate third parties.” Despite the laws, it is common knowledge that hazing exists for a number of organizations on Yale’s campus and many others.
Psychologist Robert Cialdini used the lens of consistency and commitment in an attempt to express the commonality and persistence of hazing. He found that people who went through a level of trouble and/or pain to get something tend to value it more than if they hadn’t. This may explain why hazing continues to be practiced despite its illegality in a majority of states. It is hard for me to imagine a university within the United States that contains no organization with some sort of hazing process. This is something that is unlikely to change. These facts beg the question: How much is too much?
Admitting when we’ve had enough is a tricky thing. This holds especially true for high-achieving individuals: Our admitting we’re overwhelmed is often likened to not being good enough to handle all our stressors. If other people seem to be, why can’t we? When emotions get involved, the stakes are even higher. Emotional intelligence on elite college campuses, especially emotional expression, fades to the background while other forms of success are pursued. Rather than reflect on our affect, we view our well-being through our tangible achievements: grades, awards, extracurriculars, etc. We often don’t see tolls on our mental health as a sufficient reason to stop doing whatever it is that is taking those tolls. It’s usually too late when we finally come to this realization.
Rushing Greek life is a daunting process. In addition to merely making time for meetings and events, the need for socializing is constant and pressing. Making sure you make a good impression and impress the right people is key to making it to the next round. Naturally, when one is able to pledge to their group of choice there is a wave of relief. The process of hazing is simply discounted as a means to a rewarding end. But it’s not. Humiliation, isolation and coerced alcohol consumption are not indicators of a worthwhile experience. I do believe that there isn’t a single good thing that can be attained without struggle. However, if something only makes you feel bad, leaves you in constant pain and questioning whether it is right for you, it probably isn’t.
LEILA JACKSON is a sophomore in Saybrook College. Her column runs on alternate Thursdays. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org .