Could Greek-Letter Organizations ‘Kill Themselves’ ?

Kierra Leggett | Editor-in-Chief

Dr. Ricky Jones addresses hazing in the 21st Century, at annual Dr. Lawrence M. Clark Lecture 

Dr. Ricky Jones delivered this year’s annual Dr. Lawrence M. Clark Lecture yesterday evening, on the subject of hazing within Greek-Letter organizations.  A member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. and the author of Black Haze: Violence, Sacrifice, and Manhood in Greek-Letter Fraternities, Jones focused his lecture on the hazing rituals that occur within black male fraternities.

According to Jones, although the most common form of hazing that takes place in black Greek fraternities is in the physical variant, hazing comes in all different forms and occurs in all types of groups. “I don’t want anyone to be confused,” said Jones. “Hazing is not relegated to black Greek-Letter fraternities. It shows up in other Greek-Letter organizations, it shows up in the military, it shows up in gangs, it shows up in athletic teams, it shows up in all kinds of places.”

Born to a teen mother, Jones was reared by his grandmother who never achieved a high level of literacy, in the Carver Homes Housing Projects of Atlanta, G.A.  After becoming the first person in his immediate family to complete high school, Jones enrolled in the United States Naval Academy. According to Jones, he enrolled so that he could send money to his mother, who has long battled a crack cocaine addiction.

It was during his time in the Naval Academy that he first experienced hazing rituals. He would later encounter them again when he joined Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. while pursuing his undergraduate degree at Morehouse College.

Jones began his work on trying to bring awareness and attention to the dangers of hazing during the 1990s, specifically tailoring his efforts to those groups taking part in the acts. However, due to what he described as responses of “anger,” “vehemence” and “emotional defensiveness,” he became more realistic in what he hoped to achieve through his work.

“I no longer go to campuses with the romantic idea that I can somehow turn the tide in Greek-Letter organizations or any organizations that have a deep seated or contemporary wedding to hazing,” said Jones. “I simply don’t think that’s beneficial, and I think it’s an unrealistic conversation to have.

Instead, Jones began a conversation among parents, administrators and students interested in joining Greek-Letter organizations, that most are reluctant or afraid to—hazing within organizations on our own campus. During the conversation, he posed several fundamental questions.

“If you have organizations on your campus that have committed themselves to this activity [hazing], if they’re telling you— not through words, nobody is going to go in and sit with University Counsel or Students or a Provost and say ‘yeah we’re hazers… we’re going to beat the hell out of people’— but through their actions, what are you going to do about it?”

Jones admitted that he was likely not going to convince members of Greek-Letter organizations at the program of “anything” but that he was not their enemy. “I’m not here to argue with you,” said Jones. “All I want to do is give you the landscape upon which we are functioning.”

The landscape provided by Jones, was not pretty.  He reported that 90 percent of hazing incidents go unreported.

While the focus of his lecture was on hazing within black Greek-Letter fraternities he shared that the most common form of hazing within Interfraternity Council is alcohol abuse and among white sororities, humiliation.

Jones said that many people have the false pretense that because it has never happened to them, hazing does not occur.

“It’s just like racial profiling,” said Jones. “You’ll talk to some folk who say they’ve never been racially profiled by the police, but does that mean it doesn’t happen? If this hasn’t happened to you, good… but we’re dealing with things that are happening around the country.”

Jones ended his lecture by encouraging Greek-Letter organizations to focus on ways that they can be better leaders within the black community. “Outside of black Greek-Letter fraternities and sororities, there are no organizations in our community that are more educated,” said Jones. “We should be the leaders speaking to disproportionate incarceration…the leaders working to make sure that we never have a situation like my grandmother, a woman who worked herself to the bone and died without being able to read…but the biggest problem we’re dealing with in our organizations is hazing. That is a shame.”

 

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