The first time I heard about hazing, I was just 14-years-old.
It was the summer before I was to enter high school, and I was telling a distant friend about how nervous I was that I'd fall for the tricks that upperclassmen tended to play on freshmen in my school.
"Well don't you live where those football players live?" she asked. "I would be worried too."
Being as naïve as I was, I had no idea what she was referring to. As far as I was concerned, the football players at my high school were notorious for their losing streak, and that wasn't something to be scared of.
My friend went on to explain that three varsity football players from a neighboring high school "shoved stuff up other players' butts" while they were at a training camp and got into a lot of trouble for it.
I didn't know how to react upon hearing that. I cringed. I was repulsed. I was disgusted. I was angry at the varsity players. I felt sorry for their victims.
I didn't know it then, but those football players committed acts that were considered hazing. And unfortunately, even though those boys were the first time I heard of such a terrible crime, they wouldn't be the last people to commit hazing acts. Each time I hear of a new instance of hazing, I still feel the same way I did six years ago.
But what exactly is hazing? StopHazing defines hazing as "any activity expected of someone joining a group (or to maintain full status in a group) that humiliates, degrades or risks emotional and/or physical harm, regardless of the person's willingness to participate."
The first reported consequences for hazing were given at Harvard, when student Joseph Webab was expelled from the school for hazing first-year students in 1657 and other upperclassmen were fined.
Since then, 44 states passed anti-hazing laws. But clearly, that hasn't been enough to stop sports teams, fraternities or sororities from humiliating, degrading, and bullying their new members.
Earlier this month, I woke up to hear an ASU freshman went missing after a drunken night at a college bar. He was pledging for Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity, and was reportedly worried about their "hell week." He was last seen at a bar with the brothers on Nov. 30, and his body was finally found over the weekend.
You would think that would be enough of a wake-up call for the Greek life community, but just yesterday I woke up to hear a freshman at Northern Illinois University was found dead after a night of drinking.
DeKalb police have already started to charge members of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity with hazing-related counts. So far, five have been charged with felony hazing and 17 are being charged with misdemeanor hazing charges.
When will hazing end? What will it take?
From my experience, it takes having the threat of getting letters taken away.
An organization on the SUNY New Paltz campus was caught in a hazing-related incident, and immediately was placed on probation on campus. Since their national headquarters has a zero-tolerance policy, they were at risk of losing their chapter and their letters. That was all it took that chapter to completely revamp its pledging process to a strict non-hazing new member education period.
That organization was lucky in getting a second chance, and it now prides itself on its non-hazing process. However, not every chapter decides to change their ways.
Last April, Binghamton University stopped all pledging processes due to an "alarmingly high number of serious hazing complaints." As of last week, two organizations have been shut down.
There's no need for hazing to continue. Despite popular belief, it is not a right of passage. I can proudly say that I was not hazed, and I don't feel like any less of a sister because of that. If anything, I feel better about being part of an organization where I am valued and respected.
The first time I heard about hazing, I was just 14-years-old. I hope the last time I hear about hazing, I am still 20-years-old.