Hazed and Confused: One campus victim’s story

In the spring of 2015, the Sigma Lambda Gamma chapter at SHSU hazed me. I was physically and mentally abused for ten weeks, with each week more difficult than the last. Almost three years after the incidents took place I decided to write a blog sharing my story in an effort to raise awareness. Since then, I’ve received dozens of comments and messages in support of my decision. However, I’ve also received some backlash from various anonymous sources who believe that hazing is an essential part of Greek Life. The sorority, the school and the state have very specific rules and regulations that strictly prohibit hazing. Not only is hazing morally wrong, but it is also illegal.

Sigma Lambda Gamma’s Member Education Handbook expresses that: “Hazing is any act or tradition that endangers the physical, mental, or emotional well-being of a pledge and/or member; requests, encourages, or suggests violation of city, county, state, or national law; is mentally or physically degrading; or requires a personal or menial task of a pledge and/or member, regardless of location, intent, or consent of the participants.”

As if the sisters of SLG were unaware of its own policies, during the pledge process associate members are called in for something called an “online.” An “online” is essentially a late-night hazing session held at one of the sisters’ apartments. These “onlines” become increasingly intense, involving various forms of corporal punishment. At one point, the sisters begin blindfolding their associate members and driving them into the middle of the woods – they call it “Going to Gammaland.” While there, pledges are forced to do things like take a raw egg and rub it across their faces, plank on hard gravel or scream to the point of inducing vomit. All of these traditions seek to abuse and degrade the participants, and are in direct violation of both the SLG and the Texas codes of conduct.

The Texas State Law, Education code 37 states that: “Hazing” means any intentional, knowing, or reckless act, occurring on or off the campus of an educational institution, by one person alone or acting with others, directed against a student, that endangers the mental or physical health or safety of a student for the purpose of pledging, being initiated into, affiliating with, holding office in, or maintaining membership in an organization.

One might assume that those who call themselves “women of distinction” would respect and enforce the laws designed to aid and protect them, but that’s not the case. On the contrary, SLG pledges are specifically instructed to break the law. Associate members are required to travel together, in one car, despite the number of girls in the pledge class. They’re told to “be smart” and take back roads so those police officers on patrol don’t see them. As if that wasn’t enough, all of the pledges are also required to move in together regardless of whether it breaks any landlord/tenant agreements. During my process, specifically, the only place available for us to live was Sam Houston Village. Having eight girls in a small dorm for an extended period is a direct violation of the University policy. Not to mention, it’s a significant fire hazard. Breaking its own SLG code, the Texas State law and SHSU policies didn’t deter any of the members from continuing their outdated rituals.

Before rushing any organization, always make sure that you know your rights and how they protect you from associating with unrecognized chapters. The SHSU’s Greek Life Bill of Rights reads that: “Potential New Members have the right to be treated as an individual, be fully informed about the recruitment process, ask questions and receive true and objective answers from recruitment counselors and chapter members, be treated with respect, be treated as a capable and mature person without being patronized, have and express opinions to recruitment counselors, confidentiality when sharing information with recruitment counselors, make informed choices without undue pressure from others, be fully informed about the binding agreements implicit in the preference card signing, make one’s own choice and decision and accept full responsibility for the results of that decision to have a positive, safe, and enriching recruitment and new member experience.” If you’re pledging an organization that doesn’t abide by SHSU rules, you run the risk of diluting your own Greek experience.

When filling out our pledge process evaluation forms on campus, we were told what to write in an effort to prevent any authorities from finding out what was really happening. I firmly believe that even if we had written down the truth and submitted it, it wouldn’t have made a difference. All of the information on my blog was shared with their national headquarters. These girls pride themselves on how difficult it is to join their sorority and how strenuous their process is. They talk down to other organizations and even belittle other chapters within their own organization for being “paper.”

I would have gone to the school to report them, but one of the alumnus who partook in the hazing was the graduate student assistant in the Greek Life office at the time. The SLG sisters felt invincible, and would even go as far as to brag about the fact that the people in the Greek Life office knew everything they were doing. One sister distinctively mentioned that the Associate Dean of Students for Student Conduct and Advocacy, Jerrell Sherman, was from an African-American fraternity and that he was fully aware of Greek Life processes one has to endure.

Keep in mind that not all Greek Organizations are the same. There are some great brother/sisterhoods out there worth joining. If you’re thinking about rushing, I implore you to do your research, know your rights as a pledge, and be honest. Sharing my story is the only way I could think to spark the conversation and encourage others to speak out. If the resources that you are being provided with aren’t working for you, if they’re turning a blind eye, use any means necessary to expose those who continue to practice unsafe and inhumane rituals. Share your story, speak out, spark outrage and demand change.

Speaking out is not easy, but it’s the right thing to do. If you or someone you know has been a victim of hazing, encourage them to be a kinder, better human being than those inflicting pain on others. Their story can “be the change,” their truth can spread, and they can help make the world a better place.

Snell’s blog post about her SLG hazing experience can be found on her blog titled “Nonsense and Shenanigans” at https://nonsenseandshenanigansblog.wordpress.com/2017/11/27/hazed-and-abused-my-sigma-lambda-gamma-experience/.

Editor’s Note: According to Sherman, this crime did not go unpunished. A one-year suspension was handed down in 2015 from the SLG national headquarters. The national investigation fully acquitted the “unnamed” Greek Life graduate assistant.

“We tell them [Greek Life members] to just report it [hazing] period,” Sherman said. “To me, it’s wrong regardless. I would of course prefer that we [the Greek Life office] know, but if you report it to nationals or UPD, it’s going to get handled regardless. I don’t care who it gets reported to as long as it gets reported.”

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