Bullying for friendship: the absurdity in Greek life hazing

Austin Loukas

Andrew Lohse enrolled into Dartmouth College as an undergraduate student in the fall of 2008. Lohse, as described in the April 2012 issue of Rolling stone magazine, was a highly involved, self-aware and intelligent young man with sophisticated ideas that he himself believed were “incredibly douchey, brash and stupid.”
The young man was alleged to have participated in an extensive list of extracurricular activities in high school, ranging from varsity lacrosse to orchestra to debate club. As a highly involved, highly sophisticated individual often is, Lohse was headed in the right direction.
The bright young man pictured himself someday resembling his grandfather- a wealthy banker with powerful connections who could drink hard, work hard and achieve high: the embodiment of a true Dartmouth man and Sigma Alpha Epsilon brother.
One of these men, as Lohse explained for Rolling Stone, was “good-looking, preppy, charismatic, and excellent at cocktail parties, masculine, intelligent, wealthy, and a little “rough around the edges.” In addition to these essential characteristics, a true brother could drink immeasurable amounts of alcohol, vomit and “rally” repeatedly, and was obligated to execute a number of extreme feats, as any fraternity brother could.
Although not much of a partier, Lohse pledged. Becoming a SAE brother seemed to be a highly necessary step toward becoming the ideal man.
Turns out, to become the model man, you had to be an animal.
Getting to the point, Lohse was ratted out by another SAE brother near the end of his sophomore year for openly snorting cocaine in the house’s pool room.
Lohse was suspended from Dartmouth for a year.
In January 2011, after spiraling into a state of fury and depression over the incident, Lohse craftily published an op-ed in the school’s student-run newspaper “The Dartmouth.”  Breaking well-established brotherhood codes of secrecy, he heatedly leaked his experiences in becoming a SAE brother, which I will discuss momentarily.
As I am not a sorority sister, I do not know half of what goes on in these types of organizations, but I do know that a lot of nonsense occurs within many (but certainly not all).
People have told me, “It’s not like that- you don’t have the inside-perspective.”
No, I don’t. But I have the outside perspective, and from the outside looking in, I don’t like what I see.
Pledges are often singled out or isolated for one thing or another. They’re asked to spit out random tidbits of meaningless information or Greek-related knowledge and given some crazy “punishment” if they fail their given tasks. Some wake you up in the middle of the night to do “fun” activities, and most incorporate alcohol.
I’ve heard of fraternities that actually kept pledges from studying and doing their homework because involvement in senseless activities was more important.
We are at school right? Just checking.
The possibilities in the Greek domain are endless. From my experience, there are a lot of crazy men out there, willing to do crazy things, and girls can be very, very mean.
These mild “bonding-experiences” were what I had anticipated when it came to Greek life. But sometimes, to be even considered for initiation, pledges around the world are humiliated, harassed and abused in various ways as a way to connect and, in more or less words, “pick out” the worthy ones for the group.
In Lohse’s fraternity, the simpler, more obvious (and probably more desired) activities included binging a “quick six”- six beers in 30 seconds or under, playing pong with five times the normal amount of beer needed, guzzling the cheap beverage MD 20/20 (otherwise known as Mad Dog) and other hard-liquors on command, chugging a gallon of milk in 20 minutes or downing straight vinegar, to name a few.
Yes, hazing is illegal in 44 states in the US, but it exists regardless. I knew the basis of hazing, but I didn’t know how bad it could get, or what seemingly bright individuals were capable of doing to each other for no reason.
For some purpose that to this day remains highly unclear to me, human beings find it essential that in order to be welcomed as a member into one of these groups, you have to prove yourself.
The psychology of it has been studied by Harvard University, among other associations. Humans strongly desire belonging, intensely close-knit relationships and approval. It’s evolutionary. We by no means want to be rejected, so it is therefore crucial to prove ourselves worthy of others’ approvals. We crave exclusivity too.
I understand that these feelings are beyond our control. It’s all pure human nature.
What I do not understand is how SAE fraternity pledges were encouraged to continuously vomit on each other and do “slip and slides” on vomit-covered tarps, or how they were required to crawl through lines of naked male bodies, drink beer off of each other unclothed and eat omelets filled with vomit.
Perhaps the most revolting requirement was for pledges to swim in a kiddie pool filled with the unimaginable: a horrifying mixture of urine, fecal matter, vomit, semen and food products.
Things are equally as bad in the Dartmouth sorority world, though less disgusting. Last spring, sophomore Kappa Kappa Gamma pledge Ravital Segal and two other pledges from another sorority were blindfolded, guided to the back of a car, and instructed to chug a 64-ounce water bottle containing a mixed drink and numerous shots of vodka.
Upon waking up in the hospital the next day with bruises, cuts, broken teeth and tubes attached to her body, the physicians informed Segal that her blood alcohol content was .399. A .4 BAC means coma and death.
The young girl was literally one sip of alcohol away from dying.
In my opinion, this is absurd; that for many Greek communities, in order to create bonds with one another, some type of artificial, unnecessary and potentially dangerous affair must exist. Even if mental and physical health is at stake, even if death is in the running, this extreme perception trumps all rationale.
I just typed into Google, “Reasons to join a sorority.” I clicked the first link, SororityEverAfter.com.
The seventh line down reads, “A sorority gives you the philanthropic, leadership, and personal development experiences you need to be successful in the “real world.”
The page goes on to explain that joining a sorority opens doors for life-long friendships, internships and jobs and gives your life a “higher meaning.”
I disagree.
I strongly believe that I have just as equal of a chance as anyone in any Greek community at “being successful in the real world.”
I’ve already made life-long friendships, no, not with 60-plus girls, but I’m satisfied with what I’ve created.
I will leave school and gain an equally distinguished career because I worked my you-know-what off for it, not because I was judged and embarrassed and have Greek letters to show for it. That’s enough “higher meaning” for me.
Greek life isn’t the only thing that defines a person, and if an employer wants to choose Greek alumni over me, well, that’s their own problem.
Writing this opinion as caused me to think. Greek life doesn’t sound too bad if you take out all the garbage. If there were sororities at Wilkes, I feel as though I might actually enjoy them. I won’t lie, they do sound fun and unique.
I just can’t get past how and why good, intelligent individuals do the things they do to each other in order to be friends. I have entirely too much dignity to waste my time trying to prove myself to others, hoping to get a bid.
There are plenty of fun, safe and normal ways for people to bond, and swimming in each other’s bodily fluids isn’t one of them.
I realize that after pledge time, you’re a member and that’s that. You’re accepted. You passed the test. I’m sure it’s an awesome feeling.
But the vicious cycle is repeated over and over again, this time on new pledge victims. I can’t see any member really liking what they do, but that’s just the way it is, and society just accepts it as conventional and all-in-all OK.
Must be a kink in evolution.