The Sacred Purpose Blog

I Was Hazed

I joined Greek life for the wrong reasons.

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It was my first day on campus. The freshman class was escorted to the south side of campus, past the football stadium, through the tailgate lot, and into the basketball arena where we sat down and listened to people on a stage talk at us. Somewhere between leaving my dorm and arriving to the arena, I met Matt.

Matt was a Senior who stood much taller than his 5’9” frame. Nick told me he “knows what it’s like being a Freshman guy here trying to find something to do.” We proceeded to talk, exchanged numbers, and he told me to shoot him a text if I was ever bored. He was in a fraternity and based on what I had heard my short time on campus, being involved in Greek Life was the only way to go.

Flash Forward: Twelve weeks later.

I’m walking into a small room with just one table and three chairs: two for the men in suits behind the table, and one reserved for me, facing them. The men in suits were representatives from the fraternity’s headquarters who flew into town to investigate the hazing accusations against the chapter I was pledging.

“Talk to us about your pledge process,” one asked.

I was told pledging was “the most fun you’ll never want to have again” when I rushed.

The details of my time as a pledge were as fresh in mind then as they are today. They included forced nights of drinking alcohol with my pledge brothers, learning names of pledge classes from years past, memorizing random fraternity facts, consuming various food concoctions, push-ups, sit ups, wall sits, and blindfolds.  All for the sake of “brotherhood” and “unity.”

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We would all get together in very dark rooms and the active brothers would tell us “nationals are coming down to initiate you early because you are the biggest pledge class on campus. Hell Week is canceled.” Five seconds of joy was quickly squelched by the screams of the active brothers saying “You don’t deserve our brotherhood.” Their reasoning? We didn’t go through hell week like they did. We spent the rest of that night begging and pleading with them to put us through “hell week” as soon as possible.  “Because we did it” was the most common response whenever we dared to ask them why.

After a series of written interviews, video depositions, and in-person meetings with numerous pledges and brothers, the chapter was found guilty of the hazing charges.  At the conclusion of the investigation the representatives from the fraternity’s headquarters decided to close the chapter and take the charter. All of the undergraduate brothers were suspended. The alumni specifically named in the investigation were suspended. And the most recent pledge class, my pledge class, were de-pledged and told we were not brothers of the fraternity.

At this point it had been six months since my pledge brothers and I accepted our bids and four months since our pledge process was halted after “pledging activities” caused the hospitalization of my pledge brother.  It had been two weeks since we were told our pledge class was officially dissolved.

There were twelve of us remaining in the wake of our unusual first journey into Greek life. There were talks of our group going ‘underground’ and running our own local chapter (with none of the rights and privileges of legitimate Greek organization.)  This is not what we wanted. This is not what we needed.

Meeting in a spare room of the Liberal Arts Building, the twelve of us, along with a few selected additions, discussed the merits of founding a new group on campus.  Looking back, I often wonder what the heck we knew about starting a fraternity. All of us were products of a failed campus organization. It was an imposing amount of courage that propelled us into starting our own organization. One built on the idea that we could offer a better fraternal experience without hazing.

March: 12 members

May: 25 members

October: 41 members

April: 61 members

Twelve pledges who said no to hazing turned into a brotherhood of 61 in 399 days. This is the Iota Sigma chapter of Theta Chi Fraternity. 

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It wasn’t a scam (regardless of what other fraternities would say) and we weren’t just another fraternity.  We built it from the ground up, and our foundation was based on one philosophy: we didn’t need hazing to build a great chapter.  My experience taught me hazing made obedient pledges, not good brothers. Hazing was easy, but not effective.  Hazing was exhausting, not energizing.

If we were to be a group that lasted a hundred years, our pathway to membership could not be built on the fragility of hazing. Hazing creates division between pledge classes. Hazing creates a culture of obedience rather than one of critical thinking.  We had no interest in recruiting 18-year-old projects/liabilities. We existed to recruit good men and make them great…and it worked.

Consistency follows groups who do not haze. A chapter that does not haze consistently ranks among the top in recruitment each year. A chapter that does not haze performs well academically on a consistent basis. A chapter that does not haze consistently places in the top three in Homecoming and Greek Week every year since its founding. A chapter that does not haze is the first fraternity to win chapter of the year in a decade, several other awards on campus, and back-to-back Alter Awards.

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Hazing has no place in my chapter because the Founders saw what hazing does to a group of men. You don’t build better men by breaking them down. Like a Division I football powerhouse, you build a great team by recruiting the best and developing their strengths to work for the team. We had a system that consistently won championships, so we recruited new members that would fit that system and perpetuate success.  Recruitment became the easiest part of our jobs once the trophies came in and our reputation for winning got out.

Kevin Kutner, Field Executive

7 thoughts on “I Was Hazed

  1. Fran Becque says:

    Excellent post. Thank you for sharing your experiences.

  2. DICK ELDER says:

    This is a GREAT story….It is also shares the vision of Resolute Men. Theta Chi is a Brotherhood of men….who by their actions and values attract the very best. There is a reason WE are “America’s BEST Fraternity. WE don’t HAZE….WE “STAND UP AND LEAD”.

  3. Patrick Rooney says:

    I pledged the Epsilon Psi Chapter at NJIT in the fall of 1988 and we all went through hazing back then. We were taken on trips in the middle of the night to East Stroudsburg Pennsylvania and NYU also to Wagner College out on Staten Island and we were hazed by brothers from those chapters as well. It created lots of resentments in me towards the brothers who treated us the worst and some of the Alumni who knew it was happening. Hazing does not build brotherhood; it causes divisions amongst Brothers in the same House. Hazing created a lot of personal resentments against the brothers who hazed us and after a while I noticed that we were a House divided against itself. These resentments existed in every pledge class before us. When I had the opportunity to move into the Fraternity House I really saw how much the House was divided into these separate cliques. They were based on the guys who were the worst offenders of hazing. It’s only human nature not to want to hang out with the same guy who tied a toothbrush around your neck and made you scrub a disgusting toilet with that toothbrush while he pushed your face into the toilet. We were forced to wear Burlap Bags over the course of Hell Weekend and after having beer, eggs, ketchup, mustard, and anything else they could find dropped down on you from the top of the stairs. They lined us up at the bottom of the stairs on the first floor and they were up on the third floor dropping all this crap on us for hours. They made us stay awake for 72 hours with it finally ending on Sunday night with the Trials where they allowed us to get cleaned up back at the dorms when we returned we were told we would be initiated but instead we put on suits and came back to the house only to undergo the Trials where we were then sleep deprived and had cigar smoke blown in our faces and then they told us that we have Failed and threw us out of the basement door where they would be waiting to tell you that you had indeed made it but after going through this type of mental and physical abuse we really weren’t sure what the hell was going on. Once I moved into the house, 2 semesters later I really noticed how divided into groups that the House really was and it eventually caused me to leave school and I never finished College. I got a Job working in the Elevator industry and I did extremely well but it has caused me to look at Fraternity life in general as a ridiculous. Just because it was done to you doesn’t mean that it’s okay. They have long since stopped the hazing at Epsilon Psi Chapter of Theta Chi at NJIT and they have become the largest Fraternity on Campus. They have done it without hazing.

    1. Anthony Dominguez says:

      Amazing to hear! Epsilon Psi is a great chapter on the cusp of making the face of Greek Life completely change on the NJIT campus. Thank you for your story!

      -Anthony Dominguez, Director of Education

  4. Bill Patterson says:

    I joined Beta Nu of Theta Chi in 1966. The pledge marshal told us that there would be nothing degrading during the pledge period. We did have a hell or help week and it was difficult, but true to their word the actives made us do nothing degrading or even sleep depriving. There were nonsense things like lineups, dropping eggs on each other and eating scrambled eggs that had been treated with blue food coloring. There were also house maintenance projects such as painting. (Hazing I received from Boy Scouts several years before had been degrading and was significantly worse for that reason.) That said, it seems to me that hazing easily creates the wrong environments, pitting groups against each other. Fraternities are better off without it.

    1. Anthony Dominguez says:

      Thank you so much for your comment, Bill. We are doing our best to eradicate hazing from our organization. Beta Nu is doing a great job of leading that charge!

      -Anthony Dominguez, Director of Education

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