From Hazing to Real Sisterhood – One Chapter’s Journey Forward
Transition is defined as movement, passage or change from one position, stage, concept, etc., to another; change. This story of transition is my chapter’s.
As a member of Delta Mu chapter of Alpha Chi Omega at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, I was in the last new member class that experienced hazing. I “pledged” during spring 2010 and in all honesty, it felt like the longest semester ever; keep in mind, it was my second semester as a freshman.
When my recruitment buddy and I went to the information session we were really interested in only a few chapters. Alpha Chi really stuck out for us. We discussed how the ladies were fun to talk to and down to earth. Those thoughts continued during the few days of recruitment. I still vividly remember our excitement waiting for our bids! Little did we know, the chapter we thought we were joining was something of a mirage – it wasn’t at all what we were led to believe.
As the pledge process began – and that’s what it was, a “pledge” process – I had no idea what I was in for. Our first “bad” event was something I never thought could be real. I asked myself, “What did I get myself into?” Throughout the semester, this thought periodically would go through my mind. I resented the members who were the leaders of this whole system. How could people who called themselves sisters treat each other this way? They justified their actions by telling us things were worse in the past, and for some unknown reason their justification was also the reason why I never left. In my head, I thought, “Well, if it was worse before, then I must have it lucky.” After all, the hazing I experienced wasn’t physically traumatizing. It was more excessive and unnecessary. While I love every single member I have met through my specific chapter, I seriously could not wrap my head around the hazing. Why? It wasn’t just me. This thought went through multiple members’ minds – I know this is true because I’ve discussed it with them. So if more than one member was upset by this, why did we do nothing? This question will never be answered.
There is this notion out there in the world, and particularly in communities like ours, that hazing our newest members somehow strengthens our bond – that it makes better sisters and stronger chapters. But, if that’s true, then why were we a disaster? Because our chapter was a disaster…in every sense of the word. We were on probation from Headquarters, our morale was low, our membership numbers were declining, our finances were a mess, and we fought with each other constantly. Common sense would tell you why – how could we start someone’s membership by degrading them, and then expect them to be invested in our chapter? But obviously, common sense doesn’t play a big role in hazing.
I’d love to say we came to this realization on our own, but we didn’t. We got caught – plain and simple. And it was the best thing that could have happened. From the moment Marsha Grady, the national president, stood in our chapter room and told us we had to fix it or lose our charter, there was a shift. Trust me, it wasn’t easy. There were members who decided the “new” Delta Mu wasn’t what they signed up for, and I was sad to see them go. Our membership numbers got so low we had less than one half of campus total. There were moments when it seemed the obstacles were too high and the benefits too low, and it simply would have been easier to give up.
Trust me when I say the first year of transition was hard, particularly in terms of recruitment. We were discouraged and the morale was low. But we soon realized the excess baggage and negative attitude was gone when we made the pro-active choice to move forward. Once we had that realization – that shift that happened during Marsha’s visit really kicked in. At the end of recruitment, we had doubled our chapter size and we could see the effect of the changes being made.
Today, in this moment, I am so happy I didn’t leave. For the chapter I am in now has learned and grown so far from what it was before – it has been completely re-vamped. We are off probation and near campus total. Our finances are positive. But most importantly: our sisterhood is truly strong, and it’s real. In the past, we were told that hazing was a sign of respect of the older members. But now, when we look at our chapter, we have more respect for each other than when I joined. None of our members have been terrified of what will happen next and no one has been intentionally disrespected. All of those things we looked to get through hazing – respect, dedication, friendship – happened when we stopped degrading each other and started treating each other the way we tell the outside world we do. It took a lot of commitment, help and patience from a lot of people – my sisters, our alumnae, our advisors, and the Headquarters staff. Along the way, we stumbled and we fell, but our sisters – both those in Delta Mu and not – were there to help us stay on the right path.
Again it goes back to transition: movement, passage or change from one position, state, concept, etc., to another; change. This is exactly what we needed to embrace to be better. And we, as a chapter and sisterhood, continue to be committed to this movement, this change. Because we know it can work – we are proof. We are a full blown sisterhood and we intend to make actions to further this bond and love for a lifetime. And we hope you’ll do the same.