A week of fraternity life prepared me for waterboarding

hazingBy Phil Riske, managing editor

This is one of those “Look how far we’ve come since” anecdotes.

The pledges to a fraternity of which I later became an active member had to go through what was called “Hell Week,” which had no particular noble goal in mind; it was to humiliate.

We are required to wear a burlap undergarment that in a couple of days caused painful skin irritation.

We had to tie a string to our male appendage, bring it out the top of our shirts and have 50 coeds sign their names on a notepad with a pencil attached to the end of the string. Sorority members were in on the prank and were none to gentle when giving their autographs.

Then there was the dreaded “Glad Rag,” which was dipped in a container of tobasco sauce, cigar butts, and other ingredients that thank God, remain undisclosed. If in the mind of an active member you stepped out of line, you were slapped with the Glad Rag, the smell of which did not disappear for weeks. I can smell it again writing this column.

We were not allowed to shower.

At meals, our wrists were tied to a long rail, forcing us to eat in unison.

Meals were laced with industrial strength laxatives.

For a week solid, we received “swats” before lunch with a fraternity paddle. It sometimes left Greek letter imprints on a pledge’s butt.

Thinking nothing negative of the hazing we went through, we celebrated the end of Hell Week with enough beer to fill a swimming pool.

The first recorded fraternity hazing death was in 1838 at Franklin Seminary in Kentucky. Since then more than 125 deaths have been attributed to fraternity, sorority and college organization hazing.

Hundreds of such organizations have been suspended from their campuses for hazing, including sexual abuse.

I view Hell Week as simply as an accepted part of the 1960s, which in retrospect was inappropriate.

For some fraternities, including in Arizona, the lesson has not been learned.

In August, I visited my old fraternity house. I asked a member if there was still a form of Hell Week.

He said hell no.

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November 2015