Hazing in the NFL: It Can Stop Tomorrow

Fraternities and sororities have long drawn criticism as a result of our shared history of hazing. Despite the positive progress we have made to eliminate this inane, harmful practice, we still have  a long way to go. The practice of hazing, however, is not limited to our organizations, it takes many different forms across many different arenas.

Recently, Dallas Cowboy’s rookie wide receiver Dez Bryant’s made headlines when he refused to carry the pads of his teammate, and fellow receiver, Roy Williams. This rookie rite of passage is just one example in a long line of blatant hazing incidents occurring in the NFL. From tying rookies to goalposts, giving them embarrassing haircuts, and forcing them to sing songs whenever mandated, it’s clear to see that not only is hazing occurring in the NFL, but it is being condoned by veterans, coaches, broadcasters, and the league itself.

Every single state which currently hosts an NFL franchise has anti-hazing laws on the books. Though they vary slightly, most laws generally align with the definition provided by StopHazing.org which reads;

““Hazing” refers to 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.”

Recognizing that these actions being perpetuated against NFL rookies are clearly incidents of hazing, the focus must shift to the prevention of such actions.

The league has the opportunity to take action to eliminate the long-standing hazing culture of the NFL; and it can be done tomorrow. It simply takes the actions of one man, Roger Goodell, the current NFL Commissioner. As Commissioner, Goodell is responsible for enforcing the NFL Personal Conduct Policy. This policy clearly labels criminal activities (of which hazing is considered) as “prohibited conduct”.

Goodell has become known as a no-nonsense commissioner, who cracks down on any violation of the Personal Conduct Policy, just ask Ben Roethlisberger, Pacman Jones, or Michael Vick. Yet, to my knowledge, Goodell has been silent on these nonsensical, and illegal initiatory rites. If he so chooses, he could take a stand to eliminate hazing in the NFL by holding the offenders accountable. Be it through fines, suspensions, forfeit of salary or some other measure, Goodell could set the tone that the NFL will no longer tolerate hazing.

If condemnation is not the course of action taken by the Commissioner, then consent is the only other alternative. There is no gray area when it comes to hazing. Illegal is illegal. By failing to condemn hazing, Goodell is condoning hazing.

Dez Bryant took a bold stand, declaring that, “I was drafted to play football, not carry another player’s pads.”

He was supported by his coach, Wade Phillips, who said, “They’re a player on your team. They’re not any less or any more than anybody else. I like for them to be treated like anybody else.”

The time to end hazing in the NFL is upon us, and thankfully, Dez Bryant was strong enough to take a stand, and make this an issue of public awareness.

Mr. Goodell, the ball is in your court, and yours alone. I’m looking at you to make the right decision by holding your players accountable to the policies of the league, and the letter of the law. If you so choose, the hazing culture of the NFL can be eliminated tomorrow.

So how does this apply to us as fraternity and sorority members? We are constantly fighting the internal battle to eliminate hazing amongst our ranks, as well as the external public relations battle to shake the hazing label that has been placed upon our organizations. Advocating for the elimination of hazing is a mission that all of us should commit too. Fraternity and sorority members must become the outspoken voices against hazing not just within our own organizations, but within organizations of any size, scope, or affiliation. We must become the leaders in the movement to eliminate hazing in all forms within our society.

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Get the Most Out of Your Leadership Consultant’s Visit

This post is a guest post from Pat Daley aka The Fraternity Advisor.
Pat Daley was a two year chapter president and was his university’s IFC president. He also was recognized as his university, chapter and national fraternity man of the year.  He is the author of thefraternityadvisor.com – a website dedicated to fraternity leadership.

We all know the drill.  The leadership consultant is coming from the fraternity’s national headquarters.  The fraternity president tells all the brothers to lay low for a few days until the consultant leaves.  When the consultant arrives, the chapter house is a ghost town, which is believed to be the safest way to handle the visit.

This is such an unbelievable waste.  The leadership consultant is not a spy from nationals.  He is a brother who is probably fresh out of school, but wanted to stick around for a year or two because he really believes in what fraternity life is all about.  He is there because he wants to help you, not because he wants to get you in trouble.

So, how do you get the most out of his visit?  First off, you need to be coordinating things with the consultant before he ever steps foot on campus.  You need to help him schedule any meetings he may request – such as a meeting with the Greek Life advisor or the chapter advisor.  You need to find out the purpose of the visit.  You need to find out what skills he has, and what he can do for the brotherhood.  This ensures you can adequately be prepared to get the most out of the visit.

Then, you need to be a good host.  Chances are, this guy spends most of his time on the road bouncing from chapter house to chapter house.  The least you can do is attempt to be as accommodating as possible.

When he finally arrives, treat him like a brother – because he is one!  Be sure he interacts with the brothers and gets to see what your chapter is all about.  Let the brothers know that they are expected to ask questions, and hopefully the consultant’s answers will help to improve the chapter.

Also, be sure to show the consultant a good time.  All work and no play is not fun.  Take the time to show the consultant some of spots that makes your school and your area great.

Finally, be sure to agree that you will stay in touch.  Hopefully, you will have formed a relationship with the consultant where you can contact him in the future for advice.

Having a leadership consultant visit is a fantastic opportunity for the fraternity.  Be sure to take advantage of it to make your chapter stronger.

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Are You Ready for Some Football?!

Your chapter is a collection of like-minded individuals with a shared goal, full of challenges as well as support mechanisms… Just like an NFL team!

So let’s break this down…

Your Team:
Your team has plenty of unique individuals, with many different roles to play. Allow me to elaborate, and try to see where you fit in.

  • The quarterback is the leader of your team, calling plays, and making the important mid-play decisions to guide your team towards it’s ultimate goal.
  • The running backs and receivers are the faithful players that your quarterback trusts to give the ball to in order to move forward. The QB knows they can’t do it all by themselves, and thus, this delegation is necessary.
  • The defense works to ensure the team stays on top. They are always on alert for dangerous plays that can harm the team. Recognizing dangerous situations, they work to rectify the issue and get the team back on track. This protection doesn’t get the glory, but it is absolutely essential to a successful team.
  • The special teams players are great at what they do; they are, by name, specialists. Although they only get on the field a handful of plays a game, they have mastered their techniques to ensure a successful play every time. These are the players that are often being groomed to take over on the first string offense and defense.
  • Despite all of the amazing players you have on offense, defense, and special teams, sometimes you’ll get a diva, who is all about themselves. This player could care less about the success of the team, they just like to wear the uniform and get their time in the spotlight.

The Coaches:
Luckily, your players aren’t all on their own when it comes to deciding which plays to run. You have some experienced elders to help train your team and advise them to make the best decisions for the betterment of the team. These “advisors” are usually former players who have experienced the trials and tribulations of being in the spotlight. Learning from their personal successes and failures of the past, combined with experience gained through years working with generations of players, these coaches are an amazing resource for the players, and a absolutely essential part of the team.

This one I love! The NFL Players Association is the governing body for all players. Their mission statement reads, “We, The National Football League Players Association … Pay homage to our predecessors for their courage, sacrifice, and vision; … Pledge to preserve and enhance the democratic involvement of our members; … Confirm our willingness to do whatever is necessary for the betterment of our membership – To preserve our gains and achieve those goals not yet attained.”

Seriously, HOW GREAT IS THAT??!!

This governing body, or “council” of players, selects deserving individuals to represent the entire community of players in order to “do whatever is necessary for the betterment of [their] membership.” The players, recognizing the importance and value in this representative body, pay annual dues in order to allow for the association to work collectively to improve the experience of every single player.

The Commissioner:
The NFL Commissioner, as head of the league, is entrusted with the duties of protecting the NFL brand, ensuring the leagues success, serving as the spokesman for the league, and disciplining teams and players who violate the rules of the league. Players and teams who receive admonishment can sometimes harbor ill feelings towards the Commissioner. Meanwhile, most players and teams respect the tremendous, and complex duties of the commissioner. Though the Commissioner may sometimes have to serve as the heavy, he or she is always looking out for the best interest of the league. Through small tweaks to the rules, and implementation of new policies and programs, the Commissioner hopes to create the best possible environment for shared success for all involved.

Just in case you haven’t figured it all out, here is your cheat sheet:
The Team = Your Chapter
The Coaches = Your Chapter Advisors, and National Staff Members
The Players Association = Your Governing Council (IFC, NPHC, MGC, Panhellenic, etc.)
The Commissioner = Your Campus Fraternity and Sorority Advisor

I hope this post was thought provoking and enlightening for you. Feel free to leave a comment, and as always, Go Steelers!

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Master the Move-In

At most colleges and universities across the country, an important date looms on the horizon. It’s your opportunity to personally meet dozens of new students at your school, display yourself and your chapter in a remarkably positive light, and begin the process of recruiting new students towards membership in your fraternity or sorority.

Of course, I am referring to freshman move-in; an extremely stressful time for new students and family members alike. This is your time to shine as an ambassador for your chapter and your institution. Many fraternity and sorority communities have embraced this opportunity, creating a move-in program that helps to carry the freshman’s belongings from the curb to their room. If your school doesn’t have such a program set up, contact your Student Life Office and/or Residence Life Office immediately and ask them why they are so far behind.

Why is this so important?
Move-in is an opportunity for fraternity and sorority members to outwardly display their values to new students as well as the ever-important family members. You will become their first impression of fraternity or sorority members on your campus. If you do it right, you can leave the student and their family with an understanding that fraternities and sororities on your campus truly care about the campus community. If you master the move-in, you can walk away with much more than that.

What to do on-site:

  • Coordinate with your fellow fraternity and sorority members. As you see a car pulling up, identify if the new student is a man or woman. For the most part, sorority women should be helping women, fraternity men should be helping men.
  • Walk up to their car, greet each person with a smile and a handshake (if you’re sweaty and gross, forgo physical contact).
  • Introduce yourself, “Hi, I’m Taylor from Alpha Beta Gamma Fraternity/Sorority. I’m here to help you move in. What can I do to help?”
  • Remember the student’s name, and if you’re really good, the parent’s names, too.
  • Help them carry their stuff to their rooms (Make sure you’re taking it to the right room. We’ve all made that mistake).
  • Stick with that student for the entire time they are moving in, don’t jump to another car.
  • Strike up simple conversation with the student and family. Start building a friendly relationship. It’s easy to get caught up in the physicality of the day; try to make sure you are building a relationship with those you are helping and not just grunting up the stairs as you carry boxes.
  • Provide them with a service of value. Ask them if there is anything you can help them with such as finding the bookstore, a good place to eat lunch, or directions to the parking lot. Make yourself a knowledge resource by giving some helpful hints for successfully navigating their first couple days on campus.
  • Don’t talk about your fraternity or sorority unless asked, try to focus the conversation on the new student.

What to wear:

  • If your school doesn’t require you to wear a standard move-in volunteer shirt, find your own way to look professional and easily identified. A collared shirt with letters stitched on the chest, or simply a t-shirt with letters are ideal. There’s no need to create an entire shirt only for move-in (Panhellenic chapters, I’m looking at you here).
  • Everyone should have a name tag of some sort. Whether it’s engraved, or a “Hi, My Name Is…” you’ll want people to be able to identify who you are, and remember your name.
  • I wish I didn’t need to say this last one, but after being around move-in crews for 5 years, it needs to be said. Guys, wear some deodorant. Ladies, wear comfy shoes; no flippy-floppies!. Do your best to look presentable as to make a good impression.

Close the deal:

  • Have an event to invite this person to. It could be an all-campus event later that night, or an event put on by your chapter. This will give you a reason too…
  • Get their number! Don’t leave the room without it!  Use your Phired Up Social Excellence Skills. “Hey, are you going to big huge event later? I’m definitely gonna be there! Tell you what, give me your number, I’ll call you and we’ll meet up beforehand.” Or even better, “My friends and I are going to be grabbing dinner at the cafeteria later, why don’t you come with us? We can give you the low down on what food to avoid over there. What’s your number? I can pick you up on my way.”

If you follow these suggestions, you should meet somewhere between 15-30 potential new members throughout the day. Not everyone you move in will be right for your organization, some may even be of a different gender. Regardless, freshman move-in day is an incredible opportunity for your organization. Make the most of it!

Were you recruited during freshman move-in, have a move-in recruitment success story, or your own tips on how to make move-in day successful? Leave your thoughts in the comments!

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What if Seniors Stuck Around?

Last night, T.J. Sullivan, a friend, fellow fraternity and sorority life blogger, and founder of CAMPUSPEAK, sent out the following tweet:

In his tweet, T.J. was talking about his experience working with fellow fraternity and sorority professionals and volunteers; having the same conversations without seeing any major changes.

T.J.’s question led me to thinking about why it is that we are also having similarly cyclical conversations with undergraduate fraternity and sorority members, and why it is that truly measurable, positive change is so hard to create.

My reaction? I feel that what we are unfortunately seeing is a lack of continuity over time within our undergraduate chapters. In my experience, students assume their first leadership role during their sophomore year (think committee chairperson), then progress to a more heavily involved leadership position during their junior year (think e-board in the chapter or governing council), then by the time senior year comes around, the undergraduate wants nothing more than to wipe their hands of any form of leadership commitment.

What this means is that the leaders within our fraternity and sorority communities typically only have two years to implement change; not only within their chapter, but amongst the entire community. It seems as if students are hearing the message, getting pumped up to create change, then simply getting burned-out before any true change takes place. Hence, senior year comes around and it’s all too easy to pass the ball to the next guy or girl, and forget about their dreams of a better chapter and/or fraternity and sorority community.

The motivation gets sucked out of our members, and the message goes with it. This may be one of the reasons that fraternity and sorority professionals are constantly repeating the same messages, and seeing unsatisfactory results.

So what if seniors stuck around?
That extra year of involvement could go an incredibly long way in the continuance of the message you’ve been preaching for the past year or two. Your chapter may be in desperate need of a steady, consistent voice advocating for the kind of changes and ideas you picked up at AFLV, UIFI, summer convention, or another leadership conference. Staying involved means the you are fulfilling your commitment to be an active member of your chapter for the entirety of your time as an undergraduate.

What if your chapter was able to utilize the knowledge, vision, and experience of your senior class to shape the direction of your organization? What if some of your seniors stayed in the house instead of moving off campus so they didn’t have to be bothered with day to day operations? What if they all showed up to meetings, didn’t request to be granted early alumni status, and actually worked to develop and transition the younger leaders in your chapter?

So how can this actually happen?
Unfortunately, there is no magic bullet for this problem. Naturally, our older members will get burned-out, need to focus on graduation and job hunting, or may even be interning or studying abroad. Despite these issues, the paradigm can be shifted through small, yet consistent nudging. It is my hope that a determined group of seniors within your chapter may still have some gas left in their tank; these are the brothers and sisters who can start the process.

The more that these senior members can help out the younger leaders within the chapter, provide advice, and alleviate stress, the better the experience will be for the younger leaders. Accordingly, reaping the benefits of committed seniors remaining active within the chapter, those younger members will be more apt to sticking around themselves when senioritis comes calling.

As an underclassmen, you can help too. Recognize that holding a leadership position within your organization is a grind, and often times of little reward to the individual. Your job as a member is simple; don’t make life suck for the leaders within the chapter.

As simple as it is to say, this task seems to be difficult for a lot of members. Do your due diligence to hold true to the values of your organization that you agreed to when you took an oath to be a lifelong member. Be a willing and active participant in chapter activities by serving on committees and running for leadership positions yourself. Lastly, by all means recognize the experience that these older members are bringing to the table, and seek to utilize this resource.

If you find that this article is a fairly accurate depiction of the seniors in your chapters, why not make a commitment to bringing these members back into the fold? It’s as simple as asking for their help. “Hey Casey, I’m trying to plan this event next semester, and am having a hard time getting it off the ground. I know you have a ton of experience doing stuff like this, and I really value your opinion, do you think you can help me?”

You may be surprised at the simultaneous look of shock and gratitude that will wash across the seniors face with a comment like this.

So what’s your opinion on seniors exiting early? Do you have some solutions yourself? Make sure to share your ideas in the comments section.

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