Many chapters are currently recruiting new leading women to join Kappa Alpha Theta. The day a new member accepts her bid and takes her pledge to join Kappa Alpha Theta, we as initiated members have the responsibility to protect the well-being of our members, promote a high standard of excellence in all aspects of Fraternity life, and be a leader in the fraternity/sorority community. As reflected in our mission statement, we have promised to nurture each member throughout her college and alumnae experience and offer a lifelong opportunity for social, intellectual, and moral growth as our members meet the higher and broader demands of mature life. In accordance with these goals, Kappa Alpha Theta does not tolerate any acts that may be constituted as hazing.
The new member process sets the stage for creating a positive experience for each incoming young woman. Officers, advisors, and mentors provide an official introduction to what Theta is all about, and this first impression will last a lifetime. New member programs are designed to create a safe, welcoming, and inclusive community. Hazing prevention is reinforced through chapter and campus educational programs, encouraging open and honest conversations on how each group, campus, and the greater fraternity/sorority community can cultivate an atmosphere where everyone feels included, safe, and welcomed.
When we educate our members to identify all forms of hazing, even if it is not part of their chapter experience, we empower them with the knowledge of what hazing is, what it looks like, and how to respond if members ever found themselves in a compromising position (i.e., a bystander to hazing, or partaking in another team/organization's hazing practices). With this knowledge, we hope our members would not participate in activities that are seen as campus traditions (e.g., serenades) as they are forms of hazing and counter our ability to foster an inclusive community.
An additional component of hazing prevention education includes providing resources and outlets for members to find professional support. In 2007, Kappa Alpha Theta united with other international fraternities and sororities to found the Greek Anti-Hazing Hotline, available to anyone who thinks they or someone they know have been or may become victims of hazing: 1-888-NOT HAZE (1-888-668-4293).
By continuing to educate and provide resources regarding hazing prevention to our college and alumnae members, we can continue to build on Kappa Alpha Theta's foundation that aims to value each member and encourages us all to live out our values and mission statement.
Help us spread the message that Theta is an organization that strives to ensure every member feels included, safe, and welcome. The #40 Answers to Common Excuses for Hazing campaign is currently underway, leading up to National Hazing Prevention Week Sept. 19-23. Follow along on social media during using the hashtags #40Answers and #LeadingWomenDontHaze.
Today begins National Hazing Prevention Week, and I want to share with you the most important things I've learned that have helped me think about it and talk about it differently:
• People don't want to hurt other people. The problem is, if we aren't killing people or physically maiming them, we just don't recognize it as hazing. That's not a standard I'm comfortable with. People don't set out to hurt their (new) friend. But most hazing situations "just got out of hand" and typically involved excessive amounts of alcohol. Guess what? Things can quickly get out of hand.
• Telling the new member "you don't have to do anything you don't want to..." won't mean you aren't hazing. Thinking that you are giving a choice when there is such a significant power differential means there actually isn't a choice - no matter what you say.
• People have a deep-seated human desire to belong. College-age women and men are also seeking "rite of passage" experiences. These two compelling forces that lead to hazing behavior aren't going anywhere. So it's up to us to do better.
As a member of Kappa Alpha Theta, how can you do better? For me, it's about human dignity. No one should ever be demeaned or exposed to harm in their efforts to be part of campus life or our sisterhood. We shouldn't tolerate shenanigans that serve no purpose in making us better members or better women. In every activity, event, and initiative that is part of your new member program, always ask yourself the following:
• Will this help the new member become a better woman?
• Will this help the new member become a better member of Kappa Alpha Theta?
• What are the aspirations of Kappa Alpha Theta? (Think social, intellectual, and moral growth.)
• What do we want new members to experience as they are join our sisterhood?
• What is the purpose of the activity that you are asking them to be involved in?
That's your litmus test. A little reflection and scrutiny can go a long way. If individual members and chapters would just examine all of the activities and events (both on and off the grid) that occur during the new member experience, we'd be in a much better place. Ensure that the PURPOSE of the activity is aligned with the GOALS of Kappa Alpha Theta so that the INTENTION is to help the new member become a better woman and sister because of her new member experience, not in spite of it.
That's it. It's really that simple. It's not a list of what you can or can't do. Just treat people with dignity and make your experiences purposeful. Help one another become better friends, sisters, and women. Every day.
During my four years as a collegian, I watched my sisters love, support, and respect one another countless times. These women were there through the breakups, difficult exams, and loss of loved ones. They were there for road trips, birthdays, and acceptances into grad school. It was this love, support, and respect my big sister passed down to me and I so excited to pass down to my littles. It was this love, support, and respect that made me proud to wear my letters each day.
Hazing is nothing but hate. It is simply impossible to show love, support, and respect while subjecting each other to demeaning acts meant to embarrass and shame. A sisterhood's purpose is to build one another up, not tear each other down. My chapter was truly my safe haven on campus. I knew I could always walk in the doors of our house, and my sisters would make me feel like I was the most beautiful, talented, and intelligent woman in the world. They made sure I knew my worth even when I was in doubt.
I wasn't there in 1870 when Bettie first decided to form our beloved fraternity, but I have a pretty strong feeling that the thought of hazing never crossed the minds of our four founders. Bettie created a sisterhood to create friendships to help build one another up, not to make each other prove our loyalty and worth. I am so thankful to belong to a sisterhood that still lives its mission, and has made it absolutely clear that hazing has no part in that. I am proud to be a Kappa Alpha Theta because it strives to ensure that every member is loved, supported, and respected.
Recently, you might have seen tweets or statements online such as "Forcing a pledge to chug while two others puke is misery. #TFM" or, "I'm judging you for NOT doing it #TSM." You've probably also seen a video of professional football players plastic-wrap a rookie player to a goal post or pictures of a baseball team making their rookie players dress in gowns and hold bouquets of flowers. In the newspapers, headlines shout "Sexually Abusive Sorority Hazing Runs Rampant at Small University," "Chug-a-lug? Sorority Sisters Hospitalized for Alcohol Poisoning," "Fourteen Are Charged with Hazing," "Sorority members added to student death lawsuit." Sadly, these events are not from our distant past. Several have occurred not even a year ago—some, not even three months ago. These examples are not reminiscent of the promises made to myself or to those with whom I made to my Fraternity.
So how do you know? How do you decide? How do you act? Think back to those lessons you were taught. Use those as your sounding board.
- Educate. Educate yourself on what hazing is, what it looks like, and how it affects the perpetrator and the victim (yes, it can cause harm to both parties).
- Teach. Teach others in your chapter, on your team, and in your community about what you have learned. Help others learn how to intervene—to say something when they hear it, and to do something when they see it.
- Lead. Lead the way by pledging not to haze now and in the future. Assist others, not just Thetas, but other members of fraternities and sororities, athletes, club sports teams, student organizations, etc. You may not realize it now, but the impact you make today can have a positive effect on someone's experience immediately.
You have the loyalty and love of every member, and the promise that the Fraternity will support you in your efforts to achieve your highest potential. Remember to aim high. Know. Decide. Act. Be the Leading Woman you are.
For chapter activities and resources about hazing prevention and/or National Hazing Prevention Week, talk to your chief education officer and chief operations officer. Take the Hazing Prevention Pledge today. For more information regarding hazing prevention and NHPW, visit Hazing Prevention.Org and the National Hazing Prevention Week website.
So, what do we do? As Thetas, we believe in being the widest influence for good for ourselves, for our friends, in our communities and on our campuses. When is enough going to be enough, and what can you do to be part of the solution?
First, get informed. Know and understand the definition of hazing and apply that definition to your organization's activities. Changing a group tradition or confronting friends can be a difficult and scary process. Know your resources and don't be afraid to ask for help.
One way to get informed and get involved is to follow the #40 Answers Campaign sponsored by Hazing Prevention.Org and Sigma Nu Fraternity. The 2012 #40Answers Campaign started August 15. For each of the 40 days leading up to Hazing Prevention Week (September 24-28, 2012), one commonly heard excuse for hazing is posted via Twitter. I invite you to join @BettieLocke in taking a stand against hazing for the remaining three weeks of the campaign. Follow @preventHazing to see the hazing excuse of the day, and post your answer using your Twitter account (don't forget the #40Answers hashtag!). If you would like to prepare your response in advance, download the excuses. In addition, check with your campus to find out if there are any local activities planned for National Hazing Prevention Week.
Attention collegians: To learn more about bystander intervention and hazing prevention and what you can do to talk to sisters, friends, classmates and advisees, please attend our Sisters Supporting Sisters webinar on Wednesday, September 12, 2012, at 8pm EDT. Talk to your chief operating officer, operations advisor, or advisory board chairman for details.
In 2008, the National Collaborative for Hazing Research and Prevention released the initial findings of the National Study of Student Hazing led by University of Maine researchers Elizabeth Allan and Mary Madden.
There are 10 initial findings described in the report, and include these shocking statistics:
- More than half of college students involved in clubs, teams, and organizations experience hazing.
- Nearly half (47%) of students have experienced hazing prior to coming to college.
- Alcohol consumption, humiliation, isolation, sleep-deprivation, and sex acts are hazing practices common across student groups.
I'm sorry to have to be the one to burst your bubble, but hazing still exists and incidents are on the rise. Hazing is defined by the National Collaborative for Hazing Research and Prevention as "any activity expected of someone joining or participating in a group that humiliates, degrades, abuses, or endangers them regardless of a person's willingness to participate." According to Hank Nuwer's research, there has been AT LEAST one hazing death per year since 1970. While fraternities and sororities are not the only groups participating in hazing, we can't deny our involvement in the problem.
Read part 2 of blog post later this week to find out how you can be part of the solution!
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