Fraternity expects pledging practice will check hazing
By Linda D'Angelo
"Beginning with the class of 1993, freshmen who chose to live at Zeta Beta Tau will be made brothers immediately," said MIT chapter president Rob Martello '91. This follows the announcement last week by both the ZBT and Tau Kappa Epsilon national chapters that this fall the pledge system would be replaced with new rules to emphasize more positive behavior.
In the past ZBT, like most fraternities on campus, used an "extended pledge period," Dorow said. "Pledges for the fall semester were initiated as full members prior to the spring semester," he explained.
Taken independently by both ZBT and TKE, which has no MIT chapter, this action marked the first time any national fraternity fundamentally changed the manner in which new members are enrolled. The main impetus to this change was the great attention focused recently on abuses in the fraternity system, specifically injuries and deaths resulting from hazing.
Last year alone, two students at Rutgers University and two at Rider College died, while a Princeton University student lapsed into a coma due to alcohol-related incidents resulting from hazing. At MIT, Delta Kappa Epsilon pledge Thomas Lynn Clark drowned in 1956 when he was unable to find his way back after being dropped off far from the fraternity as part of a hazing ritual.
As an "official effort by the national chapter to say that hazing will not be tolerated," the policy change was applauded by Martello. Dorow described the move as a "bold step forward" which confronts "a real problem." Although it seems unlikely that such a move can completely end hazing practices, "the end result will be less hazing," he said.
The move won't mean much of a policy change for the MIT chapter since "the new items had already been implemented," Martello said. "The impact here will be less because it won't mean that much of a change," Dorow agreed. "MIT does not have the serious problems with hazing that brought about this move."
Both Dorow and Martello felt it was unfortunate that the pledge system had been misused, since it provided freshmen with a valuable "period of learning." It is during this period that pledges learn their role in the fraternity, as well as how to cope with academic and social pressures. The pledge period also provides a "trial period" for both brothers and pledges to re-evaluate their decision.
It is this last aspect which is most threatened by the absence of any real pledge period, since MIT Rush forces both fraternities and pledges to make hasty decisions, Dorow said. However, since "well over 95 percent" of pledges are ultimately initiated, he concluded that this effect should not be large.
The end of the pledge system at ZBT should not result in any negative effects, Dorow added, since "you don't have to be a pledge to be put in an environment where you are learning." Martello too stated that "as long as the fraternity continues to educate, there will not be any negative effects" from the policy change.
There was "no real opposition" to the change at the MIT chapter, Martello said, but "that was not the case nationwide." Other ZBT chapters are less willing to except the new system due to "historical nature and tradition," Dorow noted.