Through the Looking Glass: Let the Hazing Begin
By Yesuto Shaw
Published on Friday, October 19, 2012
My name is Yesuto Shaw. I’m a ’15. And I was hazed.
As the rush period has come to an end, the long initiation process known as pledge term has begun, and certain practices have inevitably begun along with it. After Andrew Lohse’s article purportedly revealed the initiation proceedings of Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity, the College has made many efforts in the past year to crack down on hazing. But these minor policy changes aimed at addressing hazing are not going to change much practically. And this was definitely the case in my experience.
I finished my freshman Spring term knowing exactly which fraternity I wanted to rush in the fall. I had begun to get to know some of the brothers, and I even kept in touch with some of them over the summer in the hopes of beginning to build a brotherhood between us and better judge my decision to join the fraternity. Coming back in the fall, I was excited and ready to go. As I rushed, I enjoyed getting to know my future brothers, the guys who I thought would always be there for me and who would become my closest friends over the next three years.
I looked up to the older brothers with respect. I decided that they would make good mentors for the next few years as I continued to form and define my own identity during my years in college. I could tell that they cared about me and wanted the best for me. They made efforts to reach out to me during the spring, and in the beginning of the fall, they continued to check up on me to make sure that I was doing all right.
After my decision to join the fraternity was finalized, the brothers called my fellow pledges and me back to the house, and everything changed. Suddenly, we were no longer friends. We were not their equals, and they made sure we knew it. We were no longer allowed to look them in the eyes, and our names were taken from us. Throughout the initiation process, we would each be referred to as decimal point values (such as 0.1, 0.2, 0.3, etc.). We were ordered into a position of attention whenever we were at the house, and we had to recite facts about the history of the fraternity and respond to certain prompts appropriately, or else. If we ever messed up, we were punished. They made us do countless numbers of push-ups and other exercises, and they would even place objects on us to weigh us down.
Then it got worse. Suddenly, if we didn’t get our facts right, it was no longer only physical exercise for us — they would hit us. At first, the hits were pretty soft in the chest with their fists. Then they took a sturdy, plastic serving spoon, wetted it and smacked us across the chest with it. As if these activities done in the dark weren’t enough, they ordered us to no longer speak to our friends outside of the fraternity. Our only friends would be our pledge brothers. We could talk in class and at our normal activities, but if we saw a friend on the street, we couldn’t so much as wave, or we would face punishments for ourselves, or our pledge brothers, that night.
Yet still, to be honest, I don’t believe that what they did was done with bad intentions. I honestly believe that they were trying somehow to make us stronger and more able to handle struggles in life. But how they did it was wrong. Sure, the welts from the spoon would go away in a day or two, but they never should have been there in the first place. Sure, one term not talking to our friends is only a small part of our time at Dartmouth, but why should isolation be necessary if developing a connection to our pledge brothers is really worth it? Shouldn’t the fact that we were joining the fraternity mean that we had incentive enough to make it our home? Nobody should have to go through any of that to join any group. And I couldn’t imagine myself putting the next class through the same stuff next year.
So I dropped out of the process. And I reported the fraternity. I still respect the brothers, and I truly do believe that they thought they were doing us some good somehow, but they were wrong. I didn’t think that I was going to report them originally, as I didn’t want to see their reputations hurt. But after confronting them with my concerns, they chose to ignore them. They assured me that it was “beyond them,” that there was “nothing they could do,” because “that’s the way it’s always been.” I didn’t originally think reporting them was necessary because I was fine. No serious, long-term harm had been done to my pledge brothers or me. But I couldn’t help thinking about the ’16s and the ’17s — the ones who would come after me with high hopes of joining a prestigious organization, only to find themselves degraded and abused. That’s when I decided that I couldn’t keep silent. They had to see that what they were doing was wrong and that it needed to stop. They needed to face consequences so that change might actually come.
I don’t believe for a second that the fraternity that I was joining is the only one ignoring the College’s policies and continuing to haze its pledges. I doubt it’s exactly the same at any two fraternities, but if you’re letting any kind of this stupid nonsense happen to you, stop. Don’t just stand it. It’s not worth it. Are they really looking out for your best interest while doing things to you that break not only College policies, but state law? Maybe you can take it, but can you really do the same things to the underclassmen that will come after you? As for me, maybe my hazing wasn’t that bad. Sure, it didn’t involve any alcohol, and we didn’t have to swim through kiddie pools of vomit, or anything like that. But hazing is hazing, and enough is enough. It needs to stop. And its end will come when we, the students, bring it.
To the brothers and sisters who haze, a final word. Know this: It’s not the fraternity or sorority that’s doing it. It’s you. And it’s you who will pay the consequences.
Yesuto Shaw is a member of the Class of 2015.