The Middle Ground

Yesterday, I watched a Huffington Post video that was sent to me on Twitter regarding the future of Black Greek Letter Organizations, specifically the Divine 9.  If you want to watch the 25 minute discussion on the topic of hazing in the culture, scroll to the bottom of this post, as I have embedded it for those who haven’t yet seen it.
Anyway, I decided to kick off my #SociallyAwareSaturdays on with this topic because the video and the blog post by Dr. Gregory Parks which sparked the conversation resonated deeply with me, as it will with many of my readers.
As a brother of Alpha Phi Alpha, the oldest standing collegiate BGLO, as well as a fairly recent college graduate, the topic of membership intake processes (MIP) has been one I’ve remained pretty quiet about.  However, I was urged to jump in on this dialog because, as a younger brother who knows brothers who have been brought in with an underground process as well as brothers who have followed the MIP to a T, I feel that I can provide a perspective that is often overlooked by both older graduate as well as younger undergraduate brothers.  I am the middle ground.
Hazing is a real issue.  As Alphas, we are reminded yearly at risk management workshops that it is an issue that can cost the fraternity millions and, more importantly, it can take lives.  National organizations, undergrads hear you.  But hazing is like speeding: no one thinks they’re going to wreck until they do.  They drive past accidents on the highway weekly.  They’ve even been in a close call themselves a time or two.  Worst case scenario, maybe a fender  bender that cost them 1 year of suspension.  But that fatal crash?  Nope.  It won’t happen to me.  And, in some ways, their logic isn’t flawed.  Out of the thousands that cross into BGLOs each semester, death rarely occurs.  Some people get injured but many young men are told to “man up.”  But there is always the chance that you’ll have that one night when things get out of hand.  At that point, you have wrecked.  God forbid, your crash was fatal.  Then, you can say goodbye to your degree and hello to your orange jumpsuit.  It really happens.
So why does it keep happening if the stakes are that high?  1 – Arrogance. As I said before, no one thinks it can happen to them.  That driver thinks he’s too experienced to crash.  2 – A lack of strength.  In thinking we are continuing a legacy of building strong men, we are actually exhibiting weakness.  It’s analogous to a drinking contest.  5 men at a table drinking hard liquor. Whoever quits first is the weakest right?  Wrong.  Whoever has the common sense to know that, if he stays in the game, he will get alcohol poisoning is the one who wins.  But, at the age of these college students, no one wants to be the first to give up.  So the competition goes on.  And someone gets driven to the hospital by one of 4 drunks.  All 5 crash (or all insurers who will insure BGLOs stop insuring).  Boom.  The end.  3 – The national process does NOT build relationships that will cause you to truly be a brother/sister.  I cannot speak for any other fraternity’s national process but Alpha’s 4 weekends of intellectual “rigor” (2 weekends when I went through MIP 6 years ago) mean nothing to brotherhood.  There is learning and there are ceremonies but where is the time to bond with and get to know my line brothers?  Stories from my charter members, who pledged above ground, about having to be together anytime they weren’t in class are what national processes need to emulate.
Which leads me to my solution: Revisit the processes.  Realize that college students do want a rigorous physical and intellectual process and graduate members need one too.  If I just wanted to do service, I would’ve joined the NAACP and left it at that.  But I want a relationship with my brothers that lets me know that, if I’m $200 short on my rent, between the brothers, I will be able to get it.  And I’m not just talking about my line brothers or chapter brothers.  I should be able to reach out to any Alpha anywhere and know that he knows how to sacrifice for his brother just like I do. The question that is raised is “How do you do this without hazing?”  We have to restructure our understanding of hazing vs. pledging.  You can pledge without being hazed (paddled, punched, demeaned).  I see nothing wrong with having a completely regimented day that, outside of class (undergrad) or work (grad), includes necessary library time, fitness courses (in which, if your LB can’t do his pull ups or push ups, someone else on the line has to do it), and intense organizational information sessions with your line.  We, as national organizations, HAVE to stop catering to the wants of aspirants. The process was never meant to be comfortable.  The very first Alpha initiation was not one that was looked forward to but it was welcome by the first initiates because they knew it would be better on the other side.  And that is clearly stated in my history book for anyone who disputes it.  So stop making things convenient for the sake of keeping membership numbers high.  Anyone who cannot commit the time required to be a member just can’t be a member.  Simple as that.  Time management and minimization are the cornerstones upon which processes are founded.  Coincidentally enough, those are the foundations of discipline and sacrifice, respectively.  If you cannot get those down, no BGLO needs you in its membership.
I’m not a doctor.  I’m not a professor.  I’m just a young guy who has seen a lot of people come through the ranks and knows enough to know what makes an exceptional brother, being that I have an amazing younger brother who has never pledged, as well as 6 line brothers with whom I’ve shared everything.  And this is a professional development site so I won’t go too much more in-depth on the subject matter.  But tweet or email me and I’ll definitely get back to you.
Thanks for reading the first #SociallyAwareSaturday.


I wasn’t able to embed the video from Huffington Post’s site but it can be watched by clicking here.


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