If you are a former student of Texas A&M University who was involved in groups during college, you can play a critical role in stopping hazing. This is particularly true in the case of fraternities, sororities and the Corps of Cadets, since membership is for one's lifetime.
In many cases, student groups that currently haze did not invent the practices. They likely inherited them from previous generations of students. The pressure to preserve "traditions" may keep hazing rituals in place over many years, with each new generation adding its own variations. In other cases, groups may create a practice that did not exist during previous years, and within a few years the group members mistakenly believe that practice is a long-standing tradition that is vital to the identity of the group.
For example, a parent expressed disappointment when he heard that hazing was a problem on campus. He claimed that hazing did not occur in his fraternity when he was a student. He then proceeded to describe their initiation practices, which included stripping pledges naked and requiring them to participate in relay races in which they had to carry cherries wedged between their buttocks. While this practice could be experienced as humiliating or degrading (or worse), he did not identify it as hazing. Alumni and students sometimes reflect on such hazing activities and label them as “stupid,” “silly,” or “harmless jokes.” Alumni should familiarize themselves with the definition of hazing, the continuum of hazing, and the negative effects of hazing.
Some alumni who serve as advisors or board members to student organizations shy away from asking hard questions about whether and how the group initiates new members. Learning the truth about the existence of hazing can put alumni in a difficult position that they would rather avoid. When alumni become aware of the existence of hazing, they may feel compelled to work directly with the students to change the situation or to engage other authorities, such as the national organization or university. Not taking action after learning that hazing is occurring may increase the risk of liability in the event of a lawsuit. But a court may also decide that the alumni should have known what was occurring by virtue of their relationship to the group, even if they had not received direct reports of hazing.
When former students are aware or suspect that hazing is occurring, they may be reluctant to hold current members accountable because they themselves hazed their new members when they were in school. They may feel hypocritical about challenging acts similar to those that they committed, and the current members may accuse them of applying a double standard. In order to overcome this barrier, you must be willing to share responsibility for the problem and the solution. You must say to the current members, "We did it, you do it, but we realize now that it is wrong and has to stop."
Even when faced with evidence of hazing, it may be difficult to comprehend that men and women of otherwise admirable character can engage in the abuse of other students. It is important for former students in such situations to understand two features of hazing. First, group behavior is shaped by social forces as well as individual values. Indeed, social circumstances can lead people to engage in highly abusive acts that are inconsistent with their beliefs and incongruous with their actions in all other spheres of their lives. Hazing is generally not the result of a "few bad apples," but a set of social conditions that lead average people to commit harmful actions against others. That said, it is also true that some individuals have a propensity for anti-social behavior and may derive pleasure from the suffering of others. These persons may appear quite normal in other settings, but when the opportunity to engage in hazing arises they may lead the way or haze more intensely.
When former students are aware or suspect that hazing is occurring, they may be reluctant to hold current members accountable because they themselves hazed their members when they were in school. They may feel hypocritical about challenging acts similar to those that they committed, and the current members may accuse them of applying a double standard. In order to overcome this barrier, you must be willing to share responsibility for the problem and the solution. You must say to the current members, "We did it, you do it, but we realize now that it is wrong and has to stop."