Paper v. Pledge


Florida A&M officials are taking proactive measures to prevent hazing in the aftermath of drum major Robert Champion’s death. The university has held anti-hazing workshops, invited guest speakers to motivate students not to indulge in hazing and implemented an anti-hazing week.

Consequently, the decision to haze or be a “victim” of hazing is ultimately left to the student.

The need to feel accepted amongst collegiate peers or “be real” (pledged according to certain standards) often leads to what most people consider hazing. Aspirants or pledgees often times subject themselves to unapproved intake activities. Students know these interactions are illegal.

Alexandra Age, 20, a nursing student from New Orleans, said she feels that a lot of people don’t know the true meaning of hazing.

“Hazing is something that one must allow to happen to them,” said Age. “You can always say no.”

Aspirations to join organizations often stem from students feeling a need to gain self-worth through acquiring respect, an elitist social life and/or follow a family legacy. The determination to proceed in acquiring their goal often leads students to be willing to go through whatever is done to them in order to achieve their goal. 

Most students often times participate in improper intake activities for several reasons. Students don’t want to be considered “paper.” Being paper is associated with not having a pledge process or transitioning into an organization within a short period of time.

Paper members typically lack an in-depth understanding of their organization. However, they have the skill sets, business acumen and resume keeping the organization afloat.

Being considered “pledged” within the fold of an organization entitles members to the respect and “rights” not associated with being “paper.” With the terms “paper” and “pledge” weighing in on social acceptability within an organization, students subject themselves to physical violence, financial abuse and rigorous task completion.

Students may also encounter hazing because they desperately seek to gain membership. It’s a common misconception that if you adhere to certain tasks you will be granted membership.

Often times when aspirants feel they won’t be successful in joining the organization their motives change. This is usually how hazing allegations come about. The student who reports allegations of being hazed is typically bitter because he or she didn’t meet membership intake requirements or wasn’t successful in completing the intake.  

 “I feel like people do that all the time,” said Age. “It’s ridiculous and pathetic. They make hazing seem like it happens all the time – when in actuality they’re just upset because the ending they thought would happen didn’t.”

Since allegations must be investigated, an individual’s malicious intent to get an organization in trouble is successful. Getting an organization suspended or investigated gives the individual a feeling of comfort since he or she wasn’t successful in joining. 

Clubs and organizations are now suffering because aspirants lack knowledge of what hazing is and how not to become a victim of it.

While organizations affiliated with hazing do have some responsibility, if a student participates in an unapproved membership activity, the blame should be on the student for proceeding in the endeavor.

Autumn Harris, 22, a social work student from Tampa, feels the entire student body is suffering because of the actions of a few, and that hazing is a part of daily life.

“I’ve been hazed — hazed by my mom, my aunts, family members, friends and mentors, only to do better in life,” Harris said.

The body of clubs and organizations should not be penalized for the actions of a few. The best solution to end hazing is to address the individuals involved and use the incident as a didactic moment for those not involved.