Delta Gamma’s Comprehensive, Values-Based Approach to Hazing Prevention
Erin A. Huffman, Delta Gamma Fraternity
Each day images of students making poor choices fill news broadcasts, social media, and our inbox. These images are not reflective of a society empowered to promote the welfare of others. Anecdotal evidence combined with recent research on national hazing trends by Elizabeth Allan and Mary Madden (2008) began a conversation among Delta Gamma staff, volunteers, and students about the widespread issue of dignity. Delta Gamma struggled to discern why it seemed student hazing was an issue gaining steam, even as states drafted hazing laws, university and organizational enforcement became tighter, and sophisticated anti-hazing education programs were developed.
As Delta Gamma staff, students, and volunteers examined this critical issue, we realized that our prior approaches to hazing were short-sighted and failed to consider the complexity of hazing. After combing the research literature, Delta Gamma recognized that addressing issues of dignity from a holistic, systemic, and comprehensive framework would yield a more satisfactory outcome. This resulted in an approach that honors the sophistication of students and their environments.
David Matthews (2002, p. 4) challenges communities and their citizens to focus change efforts around the whole problem instead of identifying specific tasks or initiatives to address a community problem, stating, “while community-changing efforts may begin with specific projects, these have to be integrated so that they will be mutually supportive and, consequently, more effective.” Likewise, Kathleen Allen and Cynthia Cherrey (2000) reinforce holistic problem-solving in their work on organizational development and leadership. Allen and Cherrey assert that society no longer lives in an isolated, hierarchical world where linear decision-making and the ability to control a system are effective. Instead society operates in a networked and knowledge-based way where web-like connections drive communication and information flow, creating systems that are constantly in flux and impacted by many inputs. The anthropological literature also speaks to the complexity of change, indicating that in order to influence organizational change, we must influence the beliefs and values of the organization (Ott, 1989).
Beyond the organization or systems level, bystander and student development theory also inform a more complex hazing prevention approach that speaks to the sophistication of individuals. The bystander research literature stresses that in order for individuals to overcome bystander behavior, the individual must progress through four stages: (a) notice the event or situation, (b) see this event as problematic, (c) feel a personal responsibility for addressing the problematic event, and (d) possess the skills necessary to intervene (Berkowitz, 2009). Likewise, student development theory at a macro level tells us that students generally move from dependence to interdependence or self-authorship. Students initially define themselves based on other’s perceptions and then move to self-authorship, which Marcia Baxter Magolda and Patricia King (2004, p. xxii) define as “the capacity to internally define a coherent belief system and identity that coordinates engagement in mutual relations with the larger world.”
Taken together, this research challenged Delta Gamma to embrace hazing prevention from a research-driven, systemic mindset in contrast to a fragmented, isolated approach. This philosophy mirrors Linda Langford’s (2008) working paper, titled A Comprehensive Approach to Hazing Prevention in Higher Education Settings, which provides a strategic framework to create a comprehensive hazing prevention plan.
Two key concepts emerged: (1) it takes courage to overcome bystander behavior, and (2) one of the espoused values stated in the Delta Gamma Fraternity Constitution—to create a true sense of social responsibility amongst membership—is incredibly relevant to the conversation. These concepts informed the hazing prevention program Anchored in Courage: Delta Gamma’s Social Responsibility Program. The purpose of the program is to create a true sense of social responsibility and promote human dignity, ultimately supporting members’ efforts to live the Fraternity’s values throughout their collegiate and alumnae experience. This purpose statement challenges Delta Gamma to ground hazing prevention efforts in a values-based purpose.
In retooling prevention-focused measures, Delta Gamma wanted educational programs to be inclusive of bystander behavior, recognizing that members and chapters have different experiences and knowledge surrounding hazing prevention. This resulted in redesigning the human dignity workshop, a chapter-facilitated program, to include programs related to each stage of bystander behavior and to be inclusive of high school hazing trends. These programs also include conversations surrounding the chapter’s enacted versus espoused values and provide space for individual meaning-making. Each new member is required to complete GreekLifeEdu (2009), an online alcohol, hazing, and sexual assault prevention tool. This e-learning program also promotes individual meaning-making, enabling students to develop the capacity to overcome bystander behavior and further define their value system.
Bystander and hazing prevention messages are woven into other educational programs, furthering the holistic approach to hazing prevention. Delta Gamma’s member development program, Lead with Purpose, now includes bystander behavior and values development. Online resources were enhanced to better equip students to respond, assess, and analyze hazing, modeling the philosophy that each member has a responsibility to prevent hazing.
Enhanced officer training recognizes the important role chapter officers play in hazing perpetuation or prevention, and targeted curriculum enables students to understand the powerful and symbolic role of their inaction or action. Delta Gamma also offers workshops for regional officer training programs where students explore the connection between leadership and bystander behavior, leaving students with the message that leadership and bystander behavior are incongruent.
Delta Gamma refocused prevention efforts to remain inclusive of multiple stakeholders, including specific training programs for advisers, volunteers, staff, consultants, and parents. These educational programs occur via in-person training, webinars, websites, and publications. Training does not occur once a year in a stand-alone program, but is woven throughout multiple training programs, thus demonstrating the complexity of hazing prevention.
Response-focused efforts, such as the chapter standards board, ensure bystander accountability and a focus on learning. Coupled with an intentional partnership with campus professionals in hazing incident response, as well as a thorough problem analysis of incidents, Delta Gamma is able to respond more intentionally to hazing issues and can use this analysis to inform prevention strategies.
In order to celebrate and recognize new members, members, and higher education professionals who overcome bystander behavior and nurture environments of social responsibility, the Courage Award was created to recognize these individuals.
It is Delta Gamma’s belief that a research-based, systemic approach to hazing prevention rooted in the values of the organization will positively influence cultural, organizational, and individual member beliefs and actions. By strategically and intentionally focusing on hazing prevention, Delta Gamma will have a greater realization of our goal to create a true sense of social responsibility and promote human dignity, ultimately supporting members’ efforts to live the Fraternity’s values throughout their collegiate and alumnae experience.
Allan, E. J., & Madden, F. (2008). Hazing in view: College students at risk.Retrieved April 23, 2010, from http://www.hazingstudy.org
Allen, K. E., & Cherrey, C. (2001). Systemic leadership: Enriching the meaning of our work. Lanham, MD: University Press of America.
Baxter Magolda, M., & King, P. (Eds). (2004). Learning partnerships: Theory and models of practice to educate for self-authorship (1st ed.). Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing.
Berkowitz, A. (2009). Response ability transforming values into action: Complete guide on bystander behavior. Chicago, IL: Beck & Co.
Langford, L. (2008). A comprehensive approach to hazing prevention in higher education settings. Retrieved April 25, 2009, from http://www.higheredcenter.org/violence/briefs/comprehensive-approach-hazing-prevention-higher-education-settings-higher-education
Matthews, D. (2002). For communities to work. Dayton, OH: Kettering Foundation.
Ott, J. S. (1989). The organization culture perspective. Chicago, IL: Dorsey Press.
Outside the Classroom. (2009). GreekLifeEdu. Retrieved July 26, 2010, from http://www.outsidetheclassroom.com/solutions/greek/greeklifeedu.aspx