Posted on 10 July 2014.
A few days ago, I wrote, “A Letter to CSB on the Recent Hazing Incident.”
One reader immediately demanded that I retract everything I said, take down my article, and apologize. I’m very accommodating and I would lose nothing over an apology, so here goes: “I’m sorry that basic, observable facts offend your fragile sensibilities.”
Unfortunately, your offended sensibilities do not change anything:
1. CSB still does not have the structure to completely eradicate fraternity violence.
2. The advice CSB admin provided, “Choose God, not Gangs,” is still not very useful.
The second statement is an opinion (and you are free to disagree with me), but the first statement is a fact. Your school does not have the infrastructure to completely prevent fraternities. DLSU doesn’t have it either. UP doesn’t have it either. Neither does Ateneo.
Why is that a big issue? I never said that CSB was the exclusive source of all fraternity violence. I never said fraternities were exclusively CSB’s problem. I never said that DLSU, UP or Ateneo were superior schools with zero fraternity problems. My point was that CSB was not addressing the problem properly, by implying that students become victims of fraternity violence because they failed to “choose God.”
Comments poured in regarding the fact that no school has the infrastructure to eradicate fraternity violence. Not even my school, DLSU. I agree. That’s why I wrote an article to remind our schools that this has been a problem for years and the way we have been addressing the issue is not sufficient to prevent it. You can’t simply “pray the violence away.”
In the comments section, some people have pointed out that DLSU and CSB worship the same God. Okay. You may have misinterpreted the phrase “your God” as me implying that DLSU had a different, better God. That’s not what I meant. What I meant was, I did not have one.
Some people have commented that all I did was complain or express my thoughts about the issue. In other words, all I did was point out problems. So what? Even if that was all I did, I would still have done nothing wrong. But I did appreciate how one comment challenged me to recommend concrete suggestions that I think would help solve the problem.
I have a number of suggestions:
A lot of initiates participate in the rites not knowing what to expect. There is a vow of silence made by members of fraternities and sororities. Any member or initiate is supposed to keep his mouth shut when talking to people outside the organization. For the most part, initiates do not know how difficult the rites would be and how hard it would be to quit.
Although not all fraternities practice the same brutal rites, these “rites” are kept secret. It’s all shrouded in mystery, hidden behind a “vow of silence,” that it’s quite easy to hide the violence that happens within.
As it was mentioned in the article “The Psychology of Hazing,” “The secrecy surrounding hazing and the variability in the extent to which groups practice hazing make it difficult for people to swear off joining any group that might take part in hazing.”
As for God? I would bet that praying is exactly what these initiates are doing while they suffered from the physical, psychological, and emotional torment of the whole hazing ordeal. I bet that the lesbian sorority initiate who was coerced to sleep with a ‘brother’ was praying while it happened. I bet the initiate who couldn’t feel his legs after they were paddled to purple was praying for his own safety. I bet the ‘sister’ who watched her fellow initiate get sexually harassed by a ‘brother’ was praying too; praying that she wasn’t the next one to go.
I admit that NOT ALL fraternities dehumanize, exploit, or rape their initiates. Most fraternity members would argue that their own organization works together, as a united community, to improve both the life of its members and their environment.
NOT ALL fraternities are bad. NOT ALL fraternities implement brutal hazing activities. Unfortunately, we can’t tell the difference between those who do and those who don’t, because these organizations do not disclose how their initiation rites proceed. It’s one of the factors that contribute to the violence. It’s so easy to hide abuse when everything happens behind a veil of secrecy.
Suggestion 1: If you want to help future initiates understand the dangers of hazing, why don’t you tell future initiates what you have been through, in your own initiation, so they know which organizations to avoid.
Like I mentioned in the past, extreme hazing practices do not happen overnight. An initiate is primed for the “main event” over a period of weeks. An initiate’s boundaries are shifted slowly through a series of menial tasks with escalating difficulty.
A relevant anecdote I recall is the “Boiling a Frog” story:
“The premise is that if a frog is placed in boiling water, it will jump out, but if it is placed in cold water that is slowly heated, it will not perceive the danger and will be cooked to death. The story is often used as a metaphor for the inability or unwillingness of people to react to significant changes that occur gradually.”
Because of the incremental investments made during this period of incremental abuse, by the time initiates realize that they want out, it’s already too late. The initial emotional, physical and psychological investment losses incurred by initiates compel them to continue with the ordeal rather than face the fact that everything that they’ve invested so far was for nothing. This is the psychology of sunk cost.
Members of fraternities who have gone through brutal initiation rites justify the effort and convince themselves that the ordeal was worth it. In fact, after suffering from abuse from a group, some members tend to value the group higher because they worked so hard to join.
Finally, those who have gone through brutal hazing feel the need to make future initiates to go through the same rites. Even though none of them, zero, liked the hazing process, they rationalize the process as being “important.” They function with the belief that, “I had to do it, so you should too.”
Suggestion 2: As part of Freshman orientation, I would suggest that schools educate students on the psychology behind hazing rituals: incremental abuse, progressive tolerance, sunk cost, justification of effort, and the need to perpetrate abuse that one had to endure.
My goal in writing the letter was to suggest that CSB, like most schools, need to do more in educating students about how insidious the recruitment and initiation process is.
It’s a natural response on your part (if you study or work at CSB) to be defensive when criticisms are directed at your school. I understand your anger. But your anger doesn’t make my statements wrong, neither does calling me stupid.
I don’t know how much has changed from ten years ago, but my orientation seminar as a Freshman in DLSU provided some information on fraternities that went somewhere along the lines of, “Don’t join frats. And if you find yourself involved with or threatened by a fraternity, you can always snitch on them via your guidance counselors.”
Then, I was made to sign a waiver promising that I would never join one.
In my opinion that’s similar to telling a child, “Be a good boy” and asking him to sign a waiver that said, “I promise to be a good boy.”
Here’s a dilemma though. When a student finds himself in the middle of an initiation, what does he do? He’s in the middle of these initiations because he already made a decision, or was pressured into one, to join a fraternity, and he’s thinking, “Shit. I already signed a waiver. If I tell school authorities, they might expel me for joining in the first place. If the ‘brothers’ find out I snitched, I’m dead.”
My intention in the article was not to imply that some fraternities who cause violence, or individuals who make a decision to undergo initiation, should be free of any form of responsibility. What I’m telling CSB is that saying how these people could have simply “chosen God” belittles the personal struggles of those who already suffered in the hands of their abusers. It’s like saying, “You got what you deserved because you didn’t ‘choose God’.”
I know that some readers sincerely believe that previous statement, “that bad things happen to those who don’t choose God.” However, I’m also free to tell those who care to listen that, “No, it’s not as simple as choosing God over gangs.”