How Fraternities Work

The Dangers and Consequences of Hazing

Many hazing incidents involve alcohol.
Many hazing incidents involve alcohol.
© Photographer: Jay Crihfield | Agency:

Unfortunately, sometimes the pledge process can get out of control and turn into something else entirely: hazing. divides hazing into three different categories: subtle, harassing and violent.

Subtle hazing leaves pledges feeling ridiculed, embarrassed and humiliated. Some examples include social isolation and drills on nonsense information. Harassment hazing causes "emotional anguish or physical discomfort." Not letting pledges take showers, depriving pledges of sleep, and forcing pledges to perform sexually degrading skits would all be examples of harassment hazing. Violent hazing is the kind you usually hear about in the media -- forced binge drinking, abductions, beatings and brandings, for example. [source:]

Every national fraternity and every university with a Greek system prohibits hazing. The stated purpose of a fraternity is to make a pledge into a better man. Kappa Alpha, the oldest social fraternity, even calls hazing "the fratricide of brotherhood" on its Web site [source: Kappa Alpha]. But in many fraternities, hazing still happens. The rationale is that a pledge should prove he's loyal and worthy to be a brother. But the process is dangerous and sometimes fatal.

A Seattle Times reporter investigated the suicide of a young man pledging Delta Kappa Epsilon (known as the "Dekes") at the University of Washington after Hell Week, the week before initiation when fraternities that haze subject their pledges to torment. After a week of forced exercise with little water and food, sleep deprivation, beatings, and various humiliations -- from bobbing for apples in a toilet to simulating sex acts -- a new brother hanged himself. The Dekes aren't some fringe organization -- they have a long and illustrious history that claims both George Bushes as members. [source: The Seattle Times]. Unfortunately, this is just one example -- there are many others like it.

Are all fraternities like this? Absolutely not. But they can be, and there are enough fatalities to prove it, often from forced binge drinking or accidents related to alcohol.

In the next section, we'll look at life inside and outside of the frat house.