The Benefits of Pledgeship
By Mason Grist
Pledgeship. Or should we call it New Member Education? I have never heard the latter used without a snide tone or accompanying smirk. The Greek community understands, in some capacity, that freshmen men have certain obligations during their first weeks as members of a fraternity, and the political correctness in dubbing this time “New Member Education” is absurd and unnecessary. To further this awkward political correctness, Virginia has enacted new legislation regarding hazing, which essentially labels as hazing any activity that is reserved solely for new members, regardless of their willingness to do said activity. To change the name is to imply that pledgeship is an all-around “bad” thing, and this is simply not a true fact.
Greek life has been, and will continue to be, an integral part of the W&L community. I think I speak for all Greek members when I say that pledgeship is a rite of passage. There are traditions in every fraternity that must be passed down through each generation in order to ensure a common experience, the basis for fraternal relationships. In Beta, pledges have historically painted up for every home basketball game to cheer on the team. This year, we struggled to find a way to do this and comply with the new Virginia Legislation and were lucky that no one reported our enthusiasm for W&L athletics as “hazing.”
The “education” part of pledgeship that is so stressed in the politically correct society in which we now live ties directly into knowing every member of the fraternity. Not only do pledges spend time learning about their brothers, but pledges also learn about the values and history of their respective fraternities. This knowledge is essential to being initiated as an active member of the fraternity, so that brotherhood is not restricted to a small group of familiar individuals, but expands to a national network of individuals who hold the same ideals and principles.
That being said, pledgeship does allow freshmen to meet both their pledge class and the rest of the fraternity in a deep way. I knew maybe half of my pledge class before pledgeship started, and in 6 short weeks I learned a lot about each one of them. Not only did I meet them, but I learned a lot about their character. I learned that my pledge class has a lot of different personalities in it, but by establishing a common experience through pledgeship, the fraternity allowed us to begin relationships which will, however cliché it sounds, last a lifetime.
I know every single active member of Beta Theta Pi thanks to pledgeship, and my social circle has expanded immensely because of these new relationships. Though sorority pledge classes are twice the size of fraternity pledge classes, the lack of a pledgeship process still confines the relationships that sorority women make to their respective pledge classes. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but I have made many good friends outside my pledge class because of pledgeship and those valued relationships would not have happened otherwise.
At W&L, we have a unique system in which the sophomore class of every fraternity has the option of living in the Chapter House. Pledgeship is a precursor to this amazing experience in that sophomores enter into their second year of college living with people whom they know not simply by name, but people with whom they have deep relationships. I look forward to next year, and the years that follow, because regardless of what happens in my busy life as a W&L student, I will be able to return to my house where I know I will have brothers who support me through thick and thin.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons