If you’re listing the five dumbest things human beings do, one of them is hazing. I’m not sure what the other four are.
John Hechinger, a former reporter for the Charlotte Observer, has written “True Gentlemen: The Broken Pledge of America’s Fraternities.” He was at Park Road Books in Charlotte Monday to sign the book.
Last year, students died from hazing episodes at Florida State, Louisiana State, Penn State and Texas State.
Hazing supersedes fraternities. In 2015, the Charlotte 49ers’ baseball team suspended five players for hazing and briefly suspended the program.
The NFL, the toughest of our leagues, has all but eliminated hazing. Rookies carry the helmets and shoulder pads of veterans after practice, and entertain veterans with songs and skits at a training camp dinner. They entertain the veterans when they’re good as well as when they’re really bad.
I talked to Carolina Panthers’ coach Ron Rivera about hazing after the Charlotte baseball episode.
During his first season as head coach of the Carolina Panthers, he saw a rookie tied up and repeatedly dipped into cold water. What would happen, Rivera wondered, if the ropes didn’t hold? Rivera ordered the rookie freed.
Rivera pledged for a fraternity when he was at California. The way it worked was that every time he, or any other pledge, screwed up they’d have to drink a shot. It was football season, and Rivera, a star linebacker, wasn’t going to drink.
The fraternity guys, who might or might not have been wearing khaki, asked him if he wanted to let his fellow pledges down. Rivera withdrew his pledge.
If you do more shots, are you going to be more loyal to an organization? Will you care more about the organization’s purpose or goal (and fraternities do engage in philanthropy)? Is membership on a team or in a fraternity suddenly more prestigious if you’ve been compelled to drink much more than you customarily do?
Rivera talked about a coach on his staff that relentlessly rode a coach at the bottom of the coaching hierarchy. Rivera asked why. Because, said the coach, I had to put up with it.
Rivera told the coach to stop.
Organizations engage in hazing because those that came before them did it. The logic is twisted. So is the practice.