Have I caught myself negatively judging someone before we met? Has someone that I love been deeply impacted by alcoholism? Have I been the target of a racist, sexist or homophobic comments? Do I regret allowing a hurtful or disrespectful act to go on?
These are just some of the questions that speaker Mindy Sopher posed to Union’s Greek life community this past Monday to begin her “Getting to the Heart of Hazing” talk.
Sopher’s experience with Greek life came with her own membership in a sorority in college. She remained enmeshed within the Panhellenic community later on while serving as the first director of Greek life at NC State and simultaneously researching with the National Initiative for Leadership and Institutional Effectiveness. Because of the respect she has garnered with her research, writing and lectures, the Outstanding Panhellenic Sorority Award has been named the “Sopher Cup.”
It is Sopher’s goal to bring high levels of excellence represented by the “Sopher Cup” to the Greek communities on college campuses across the country.
As such, part of Sopher’s prerogative is to break negative stereotypes associated with fraternities and sororities. One major way she is combating these negative images is images is by bringing awareness to the presence of hazing amongst college campuses.
Sopher challenged her audience to close their eyes and raise the number of fingers representing the degree to which each individual believes hazing occurs on Union’s college campus—a closed fist for zero hazing and five fingers for high levels. She is still waiting for the day when she can pose this question to a Greek community, and she is met by a sea of closed fists.
Although the stereotype of hazing is deeply entrenched with the history of Greek life, Sopher pointed out the incongruity that should exist between hazing and Greek life. All members of a sorority tout the label that all of its members are sisters. Similarly, fraternity is defined as brotherhood.
Sopher stressed that all members of Greek life are supposed to be part of a family. A family is supposed to build its members up, not tear them down. This concept of family is completely opposed to the definition of hazing, which uses forced initiation rituals that humiliate its participants.
Although hazing is often seen as harmless, Sopher proved that this was far from true through the stories of former members of the Greek community. These stories showed that hazing can potentially have lasting damage physically or even mentally (though these are not scars that can be seen).
With her deep questions, Sopher reminded her audience that despite the front that people may put on, there can be scars that are more than skin deep. She also reminded her listeners that fraternity brothers and sorority sisters should not exacerbate the hurt, but rather serve as a support system.
Overall, Sopher offered her audience the power to fix what is broken within their own system, leaving the question “Do I have the power to stop hazing?” to be answered by every individual within the Panhellenic community.