Looking for Some Heroes

By Dr. Sparky Reardon

“This is your brain.  This is your brain on drugs.”

Years ago, in an effort to fight drug usage, those words were blasted relentlessly on television screens.  The commercial first showed an egg (This is your brain) and then showed an egg perfectly frying in a skillet (This is your brain on drugs).  I think I know what the government was trying to convey with this public service announcement, but I have to agree with the comedian who said, “Yeah, and there’s some stoned guy out there thinking, ‘That egg sure looks good.’”

I don’t expect fraternity men who haze to read this blog and change what they are doing.  So, if you are a hazer and are looking for arguments, ideas, or faults in what I say, stop reading.

This blog is intended for men of character.  Men who believe in the teachings of the Bond.  Men of substance.  Strong men, courageous men.  Men of action.  Men of strong faith. Men who might be heroes.  Men of character.  So, if you think that you might fit one of these categories, read on.

I had the privilege to hear fellow Phi Gary Bender (Wichita ’62) speak at convention a couple of years ago, and he ended his talk with a quote that has stuck with me.  He said, “Fame is a vapor, popularity is an accident and money takes wings. The only thing that endures is character. Reputation is what man thinks us to be. Character is what God knows us to be. Reputations are chiseled on our tomb stones, character is what the angels of heaven say before the throne of God. If God knows he can trust you, He will enlarge your territory.”

Wow, that’s a powerful statement.  Character is what compels you to contribute, to challenge, to grow, to change yourself and others.  Character is the quality that determines whether you address the wrongs in your chapter whether they be apathy, alcohol abuse, drug usage, a culture of violence, poor scholarship, or HAZING.

If you are a man of character, you should be compelled to stop hazing in your chapter if it exists.  Here are some tips.

Align yourself with other like-minded men of character.

These might not be your best friends, but you know who they are by their actions and words.  Have a meaningful discussion about how the new members are treated in your chapter and what you think about hazing.  Select only men of character to be your Phikeia educators.

Work overtime to develop Phikeia programming that builds men up, not breaks them down.

Frederick Douglass once said, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” Don’t concern yourself with what others will think of you.  If you conduct positive Phikeia programming, in a couple of years, the other fraternities will be emulating you.  Be courageous and creative.

Have the courage to confront the hazers in your chapter.

Anyone who hazes is a coward.  There I’ve said it.  Don’t be afraid to gently confront a brother who wants to haze and ask him to explain his motivation for hazing.  Be unwilling to accept “tradition”, “it was done to me”, etc.  I have often found it impossible to reason with someone who is committed to hazing (especially when using words of two syllables or more!), but give it a try.  Confront hazers with like-minded brothers by your side.  Confrontation is not a bad thing.  If you see a situation that is dangerous (especially involving alcohol), confront quickly, forcefully, and physically if you have to.  You won’t get in trouble for doing the right thing.

Rely on GHQ, Province Presidents, University Officials, and Alumni.

First realize that these are not bad people or people out to get you.  No one gains when a chapter closes, goes on probation, or when a Phikeia is injured, or leaves with ill feelings toward the fraternity.  People who go to Alcoholics Anonymous know that the first step is realizing that there is a problem, standing before others and saying, “Hello, my name is XXX and I am an alcoholic.”  If you want to get well, be willing to admit, “My chapter’s name is XXX and we are a hazing chapter.”  Doing this puts you on the right track. Please know that there are many people willing to help you.  All you have to do is ask.

And, finally,

Look in the mirror and ask yourself, “Is this a man of character at whom I am looking?”

If the answer is yes, you have no choice.  You have to stop hazing.

Dr. Sparky Reardon is the Assistant Vice Chancellor/Dean of Students at the University of Mississippi. He has worked in higher education for 34 years. His primary areas of responsibility have included advising fraternities and student government, leadership development, crisis intervention, organizational discipline and teaching. He has a M. Ed. from Delta State University and a B.A.E. and Ph.D. from Ole Miss. Brother Reardon has spoken to thousands of students at numerous universities, conferences, and conventions. He has also been awarded the Robert Shaefer Award for significant, long term service to Greek Life. In 2008 the Ole Miss senior class honored him with a scholarship in his name and in 1995 he was awarded the initial Thomas Frist Award for his outstanding service to students. He has appeared in the History Channel‟s “Frat Boys”, a history of fraternities in America. He enjoys Ole Miss sports, reading, cooking, and traveling.

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