By Linsey Thut, junior convergence journalism major from Keller and member of Alpha Kai Omega
As a former pledge I have the right to say this: I like the new pledging guidelines. I like how they make pledging easier. I like that they limit the amount of harassment that pledges can receive. I like it all.
In the past, pledging turned into a, “How can I make this person’s life as miserable as mine was made during pledging?” kind of activity for members, which isn’t the point of pledging at all. Also, as sort of a disclaimer, let me distinguish that pledging for boys consists of more physical challenges, while female pledging is all about the emotional aspect. Therefore, what I am about to say will mostly apply to women’s clubs at ACU.
I am all for teaching pledges about a club’s purpose and to respect each other, but it’s easy to get carried away. Punishments for pledges are a big way to turn pledging into a hazing atmosphere. However, punishments every now and then, taken lightly, are fine. For example, “punishing” all pledges for not going to class fast enough and making them skip to class is not demeaning or hateful, it’s just the kind of funny experience pledges can bond over.
On the other hand, when pledges are being punished just to break their spirits or knock down their confidence, that’s when it goes too far. An example of this would be club members telling pledges to write the same sentence 1,000 times, and then punishing the pledges for only writing 1,000 sentences when that was the original point of the assignment. At first, it doesn’t seem like a huge deal, but 5 weeks of this treatment is where the emotional harassment and deprecating of fellow students comes in.
The new pledging guidelines help prevent these kinds of belittling activities. In the ACU Student Organizations Handbook, clubs are asked to answer these questions as they plan their activities: Does the event have a purpose? Is the event meaningful? Does it coincide with discipleship to Jesus? If a club is not adhering to these guidelines, it will be clear, right off the bat. Pledges can tell if they are actually learning something or just being pushed around because the members still have chips on their shoulders from past pledging experiences.
The handbook defines the purpose of pledging as a way “to incorporate new members into social clubs in ways that create a sense of community and belonging among all club members.” It states specific traits of hazing that could potentially harm community among members, such as humiliation, intimidation and embarrassment.
I know for a fact the disciplining officers of the pledges in each club had meetings this year to discuss the difference between sternness and intimidation, the latter of which was prohibited. In the past, when intimidation was a big part of pledging, it was hard for my friends and me to transition from being pledges to being members once in our club, because we were so afraid of the once-degrading members that had taken pledging too seriously. These new guidelines help to center pledging on a more Christian path, making respect of one another and pledges the main focus.
If you think I’m saying pledging should be easy, I’m not. The difficulty of pledging is what bonded me to 35 other girls I never imagined I’d even meet. Some of my favorite moments in pledging came from doing ridiculous things alongside the girls I now call my sisters. What I am saying, however, is that pledging should not be a way to retaliate for bad treatment you received or to “break down” someone’s spirit to conform a person to your club.
Pledging should be an effort to create close Christian community through a series of difficult but extremely meaningful tasks, which the new pledging guidelines create the opportunity for pledging to be.