Damaging the Brand: The Impact of Hazing on Black Greek Letter Organizations


My Instagram and Facebook newsfeeds were lit earlier this month, overrun with celebratory posts, temporary profile photo frames, and pride filled hashtags as five of the Divine Nine Black Greek-Letter Organizations (BGLOs) celebrated their respective Founders’ Days. As these organizations commemorate 110, 107, 105, and 98-year legacies, it is hard not to feel proud of the fact that something started by college students just one generation removed from slavery has had such longevity. As a member of one of these distinguished organizations, I often think about how my own actions contribute to the legacy of my organization.

Many of my fellow Black Greek Letter Organization (BGLO) members proudly boast about the “process” they went through in order to become members of their beloved organizations. They fondly reference the long nights at “set”, the “wood” they took, death-defying tasks they had to complete, and the unbreakable bond of love they feel for their “sands”. As someone who joined a BGLO because I genuinely longed for sisterhood, I can respect one’s feelings of love for those individuals with whom they were initiated. However, I cannot accept that beating, humiliating, and subjecting one’s self and others to danger is the way to foster the bonds of brotherhood or sisterhood. Here is why:

  • Hazing causes death. We have all heard of or even been a witness to incidents of death by hazing—pledges dying from overconsumption of alcohol, infections from paddling wounds, organ failure from dangerous exercises, drowning after being led into the ocean, and the list goes on and on.


  • Hazing leads to lawsuits. Almost every hazing case that makes the news results in a lawsuit to the organization. Lawsuits are time-consuming and costly. This takes away valuable time and resources that could be otherwise invested in carrying out the mission of the organization.


  • Hazing lawsuits cause insurance premiums to rise, which is inevitably passed on as an increase in dues to financial members. What happens when it becomes too costly to insure an organization entirely? This threatens longevity. Too many people have worked too hard to uphold our visionary founders’ legacies to let them die because people choose to haze.


  • There is no data that shows that hazing fosters the bonds of brotherhood or sisterhood in a way that perpetuates the organization. In fact, many of the people who proudly boast about their hazing experiences are inactive and non-financial. How brotherly or sisterly is it of you to promote hazing while watching your active and financial frat and sorors bear the burden of negative publicity, increased dues, and other ramifications…because most of you who glorify hazing are members of the “t-shirt wearing, haven’t been active since undergrad, always ready to step, party stroll, or tell someone how hard your process was” committee anyway.


  • How many stories have we heard of individuals who were hazed but walked away and never looked back after they “crossed” because of the incongruence of harming and humiliating someone you claim to eventually want to call “frat” or “soror”. Make it make sense.


  • Finally, for those of you who are active and financial in your graduate chapter but still uphold hazing, you are the worst…because you create a feeling among your “frat” and “sorors” whose process “wasn’t as hard as yours” that they are “less than” a member. This creates a long-lasting cycle of “post-pledging” or worse, “creating experiences” for those coming after them that they didn’t even have themselves.

Don’t get me wrong. I understand that it is difficult to change a culture that has been in existence for so long. I still personally find it challenging to use words like “Membership Intake Process” instead of “Pledge Process” or “co-initiate” instead of “line brother/sister” or “sands”. Frankly, it sounds corny. But what it even more “corny” is dismantling the vision of our pioneering founders by threatening the longevity of our organizations.



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