Tradition, hazing do not justify rude, disrespectful behavior

Tradition is a basic part of culture. Consistently hitting snooze three times before finally rolling out of bed; having Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday of November; initiating new members into Greek organizations; these are all some form of tradition.

Some traditions are more fixed than others, but all gain their relative authority through active participation. Occasionally these traditions bring with them negative connotations and – more often than not – they’re deserved.

Greek life is especially knit together with long-standing traditions. Individual organizations take pride in the rituals that make them unique and unify their members. The entire pledge process is a complex tradition.

There is a great deal to be said for the processes within pledging that facilitate a sense of fellowship. Though hazing is far from the only form this facilitation takes, it is a dominant way in which pledge classes are drawn together. At least, that’s the common argument.

There are always rumors about the hazing different organizations do. I’m considering this in the traditional sense, where the acts of current members lead pledges to feel scared, inferior or humiliated. These are the acts that give Greek life such a negative reputation.

It is so easy to slip into “tradition” and act in ways that directly oppose how an individual typically would. A girl who is generally characterized as sweet and caring can flip a switch and become unforgiving and harsh.

The acts carried out by organizations have been around for decades, sometimes since the founding of the groups. What right do we – students who have only attended Geneseo for a handful of years – have to change them? Every right. In fact, if individuals choose to act in such a way, they better be sure that is exactly what they want to do.

I don’t care if it’s “tradition.” Every single person makes the active decision to act a certain way. There is no one holding a gun to people’s heads telling them to say a certain thing. The biggest threat hanging over them is the disapproval of their peers. Are they so afraid of what others will say that they will blindly follow their peers?

It’s cowardly, thoughtless obedience to some decades-old tradition that continuously turns friends into strangers. “Tradition” allows them to treat their supposed friends as inferior.

Considering an act “tradition” does not absolve anyone of blame. An individual who chooses to treat people poorly chooses to become the people who mistreated them when they went through the same process.

I am not asking people to forfeit the years of tradition on which their organizations were built. Instead, I am asking them to consider the consequences of these traditions.

I ask them to think for themselves, not as brothers or sisters, but as individuals. Is this really who they are? Are they proud to act that way? If so, then no one has the right to tell them to change. If not, however, take a step back and reconsider. “Tradition” or not, individuals are held accountable for their own actions.

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