ANTI HAZING COALITION AIMS TO DESTROY THE CULTURE OF HAZING
PHI BETA SIGMA fraternity, in cooperation with the National Action Network, is leading an aggressive anti-hazing campaign intended to eradicate the culture of hazing from Black Greek-letter organizations and the broader community at large.
By combining a heavy media campaign, collaborations with elected officials to push for federal anti-hazing legislation, and implementation of educational training and awareness programs at high schools, colleges and civic organizations, the goal is to end the culture of hazing that leads to the injury and death of scores of people each year.
A Movement to Eliminate Hazing
The legal definition of ‘Hazing’ is an abusive, often humiliating form of initiation into or affiliation with a group. This can include any willful action taken or situation created which recklessly or intentionally endangers the mental or physical health of another. Hazing has been linked to fraternities and sororities but, it is also known to be practiced in the military, sports teams, bands and social clubs.
Due to the physical and emotional trauma inflicted upon hazing victims and the increase of litigation, Greek-letter organizations officially outlawed the practice of “pledging” in 1990. Although, pledging in its inception was not designed to be hazing, throughout the years it developed into situations where potential members were required to march in line, chant sayings, receive corporal punishment, or be paddled in order to gain entry into an organization. These actions are defined by most state statutes as a violation of the Hazing Laws, was intended to reduce the number of situations that could lead to hazing incidents. Although all Black Greek-letter organizations agreed to discontinue the pledging process, it continues to be practiced ‘underground’ by some members of fraternities and sororities. All of these organizations deem the “Underground” process as unacceptable and have vowed to eliminate it.
Phi Beta Sigma is spearheading this campaign to eliminate hazing culture in an effort to end the pain and suffering of victims and their families and to stop the investigations, lawsuits and expensive legal costs that threaten the existence of black Greek-letter organizations. Each incidence of hazing damages the reputations of black Greek-letter fraternities and sororities and erodes the proud legacy of leadership and commitment to service that these organizations have cultivated over the years. Phi Beta Sigma’s history is rich with examples of outstanding achievement by its members, and many have gone on to become leaders in their community, such as Reverend Al Sharpton, founder and president of the National Action Network, one partner in this effort.
While black fraternal organizations have a great deal to gain by ending the culture of hazing, society at large will also benefit from the eradication of this scourge from our schools, colleges, civic organizations and communities.
How will the anti-hazing campaign unfold?
The anti-hazing effort will include a multifaceted approach that includes:
Formation of Anti-Hazing Coalition – Phi Beta Sigma and the National Action Network have brought together a coalition of, fraternities, sororities, civic organizations, academic institutions, politicians, celebrities and concerned citizens to support a full-scale effort to eliminate hazing culture from society. Members of the coalition have been encouraged to follow Phi Beta Sigma’s lead in creating their own internal policies that take a zero-tolerance stance against hazing with a strong commitment to expel all violators and cooperate fully in their prosecution to the fullest extent of the law. Coalition members have also agreed to recruit additional partners to help wage a campaign against hazing on campuses, in other organizations and communities across the nation.
Push for Federal anti-hazing legislation – Coalition members will engage in efforts to influence members of congress and other political figures to support Florida Congresswoman Frederica Wilson’s federal anti-hazing bill. The coalition supports federal anti-hazing legislation because many states either have no specific laws against hazing or offer varying penalties for violators that often don’t go far enough to deter hazing culture. While we agree that there should be federal anti-hazing legislation, our plan is to work with Congresswoman Wilson to strengthen the language of the bill. A strong federal law would bring consistency to penalties for violators and send a message nationally that these practices will not be tolerated. Moving forward, our efforts will include a national campaign to collect signatures of citizens in favor of Congresswoman Wilson’s legislation.
Major Media Campaign – Phi Beta Sigma is helping to fund a major print and television ad campaign that aims to graphically show the violence of hazing and the effects it has on the victims and their families. The ads are intended to have similar shock value to recent anti-smoking advertisements that have graphically shown the consequences of prolonged cigarette smoking.
Development of anti-hazing curriculum, training programs and support materials – Phi Beta Sigma is developing an anti-hazing curriculum that it will use to train its members and members of other organizations to go into schools, colleges and the community at large to: 1) teach organization members the proper way to run a membership intake program that is educational and free of activities that may encourage hazing 2) teach potential initiates how to spot activities that constitute hazing, how to report those activities and who to report them to, and 3) distribute hazing awareness materials that are intended to alert families about the dangers of hazing, tell them what they can do to protect family members and support efforts of colleges other organizations that want to eradicate the culture of hazing entirely.
Anti-Hazing Day – a national day of activities with speakers and events intended to draw attention to the damage that hazing is doing to our communities, inform families what they can do locally to combat hazing.
What does the coalition hope to accomplish?
By bringing the forces of many different communities together to attack this problem, the coalition hopes to “destroy the culture of hazing and replace it with a culture of service.”
Phi Beta Sigma is advocating the eradication of hazing culture in all organizations, and if the effort is successful, the coalition expects to see:
- A reduction in the incidences of hazing in all organizations nationwide.
- Passage of Congresswoman Frederica Wilson’s federal anti-hazing legislation.
- Broad implementation of a hazing awareness and education programs in high schools and colleges among both faculty and students that can help identify and eradicate hazing culture in local communities
- An educational campaign in the community at large that makes it clear that hazing is no longer prevalent within Greek-letter organizations – that in fact, they have a rich history of producing leadership and service to the community and there is value that comes from being a member of these organizations.
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