In October, I decided to join the Phi-Delt sorority, which some of my friends belonged to.  I can’t go into great detail because I was told to keep certain things secret.  But I can mention things of more general knowledge, which “outsiders” were involved in, or which everybody knew about anyway.

My pledge folder, which held a pledge diary, was easy to spot because of the Greek letters on the blue cover, and the sci-fi pictures: The “Don’t Panic” creature from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a Vulcan hand signal, the Star Fleet symbol, one of the Doctor Who logos, and a picture of the head of the androgynous diplomat from Alpha Centauri on one episode of Doctor Who:

PledgeFolder

PledgeFolderBack

(By the way, no, I am not a science fiction fanatic; I just happen to like sci-fi.)  On the back is a drawing of me on a desert island.  I colored my folder because of a note from one of the actives: “Please color me!”

My fellow pledges were Rachel, Dori (the one who was in InterVarsity for a while), and Tammy.

Rachel’s reason for pledging: “It looks good on a resume.”  My reason for pledging: The sorority seemed like fun, and Pearl and Sharon were in it, along with other people I knew, such as my suitemate Mary.

Latosha once found me in the stairwell in the Campus Center, and we talked about pledging.  She said,

“I heard you were pledging.  It surprised me.  At first I wondered if you were doing it because Peter’s a Zeta and the Zetas are the Phi-Delts’ ‘little brothers.'”  I forget how, but she concluded that no, that wasn’t it.  Which it wasn’t: The sorority sounded like fun, and some of my best friends were in it.  I was also getting friendly peer pressure from my Phi-Delt friends.

At an open house for potential pledges on Monday, October 5 at 8pm, the actives said they wouldn’t make the pledges drink alcohol like the Pi-Kapps and frats might.  During pledging, the pledge master, Wendy, said, “We’d never make you pledges do something we wouldn’t want to do ourselves.”  However, her tolerance of being hazed must have been much higher than mine.

The Pi-Kapp room was right next to the Phi-Delt room in the Krueger basement.  Jennifer said, “When I pledged last spring, one night we came here to our room and saw a bag of manure outside the Pi-Kapp room.  We were so glad to not be pledging the Pi-Kapps!”

The Pi-Kapps were the enemy, and they partied too hard.  They made their pledges drink alcohol.  You wouldn’t want to be a Pi-Kapp.

The Phi-Delt room was prettily furnished with comfortable furniture, Greek letters, and various mementoes.  I don’t think there were paddles; at least, I don’t remember any.  Our InterVarsity group occasionally met there, and at least once I had a private conversation with Pearl there.

We drew names for pledge sisters.  I got Jennifer.  Rachel got Joanna.  A pledge sister was an active who mentored a pledge.

Among the pledges, it was universally agreed that even while so many of the other actives had seemed to turn mean, Joanna was the one who was still nice.  No matter what, no matter how the other actives treated us, she was always sweet and treated us more like equals.

Some of the actives were always nice, but several turned mean later on.  Jennifer, as my pledge sister, also seemed nice.  Wendy sometimes got disgusted with us, even though she was pledge master.

We could never be sure if the anger from the actives was real or just feigned because they were “supposed” to be mean to us during pledging.  I believe that at first, I thought it was all just a joke, that none of them were really mad at us.

Near the end, however, there were times they did seem truly mad at us.  I grew to dislike many of them–and what kind of beginning is that for a sisterhood?

Once, when the actives were gathered together for something at Dori’s house, she was scared that her brother and mother, who were there, would think the sorority girls were all b**ches.

She didn’t like the way they had acted there, whether it was in fun or not.  I wish I could say that Pearl and Sharon never joined in, but I do seem to remember being mad at them as well for a while, though I still hung out with them.

I seem to remember Pearl or Sharon saying once that there were people in the sorority that year who made it into something they didn’t like, and that when they graduated, it changed character into something better.  I believe Sharon was glad to be president one year because she truly could make a difference.

Later on, I asked Pearl if most of the meanness was just a facade, the punishments we were given just jokes and not real punishments, and she said that they were–except for sometimes.

One particular example was when the pledge class couldn’t go through a recital of the Greek alphabet in unison without laughing or smiling.  We thought it was funny to be reciting this stuff.

We thought it was all light-hearted, just a fun tradition of using Greek letters, and our standing there reciting the letters seemed like more of this light-hearted fun–and a bit ridiculous.  But they got mad at us and made us keep reciting it until we said it more seriously.

At the time, I believe I thought their anger was just a facade, that they probably thought it just as funny and perhaps had even recited the alphabet in the same way when they were pledges.

But Pearl later said they truly were mad about this, since the Greek alphabet was really important to them, like the rest of the sorority traditions.  I still couldn’t figure out what all the fuss was about.  Important or not, couldn’t they at least have some fun with it?

The final walk, the one I wrote about which took us out in the cold, was a real punishment, I believe.  They talked as if there would have been such a walk anyway, and they did have two of their own walking with us, but it still seemed to go far and beyond what any walk should have been.

****

Now that I’ve given you an overview of what pledging was like, kind of like the first chapter of Genesis gives you an overview and then a chapter or two later you get more detail about the Creation story, now for more detail about pledging.

Once, the actives told the pledges to go into Grossheusch and probably Muehlmeier to collect guys’ underwear.  Of course I shirked from this, being a conservative Christian.  The actives half-jokingly accused me of a lack of unity.  (“Unity” was bandied around a lot.  The actives encouraged us pledges to develop it among ourselves.)  However, this qualifies as hazing.

We knocked on Timothy’s door–Timothy, the guy who almost moved in with my suitemate Tom the year before.  When one of us asked for a pair of underwear, he whipped off his pants and underwear and gave us his briefs.  I must have averted my eyes, since I don’t remember a “visual.”  This shocked all of us, but we laughed about it afterwards.  I hope the underwear had no skid marks.

Early on in the pledge month, as we pledges went out on some odd quest, I said I had finally found the college antics I had always expected in college.  On TV and in movies, people would steal the other team’s mascot.  On Ozzie and Harriet, one of the Nelson boys and his college friends did an elaborate prank.

I had expected to see these things happening in college all the time, and had been a bit disappointed to not see any.  But in the sorority, we were doing so many crazy things that it seemed I had finally found what I had craved.

I liked the thought of the Zetas being our little brothers once we became actives.  I liked this special bond with them.  And no, it wasn’t because of Peter: it was because of Darryl, Steve, Marc, and maybe a few others I knew or knew of who seemed cool.

I was still shy and hated to raise my voice, was uncomfortable saying hi to people I barely knew (this was also a product of my big-city upbringing, where people didn’t usually talk to strangers on the street but allowed them some privacy by not looking at them), and was scared of the actives and their power to punish me with unpleasant errands or (so we were told at some point) blackball me into not joining the group, so of course I didn’t say hi to the actives I didn’t know very well, when I passed them on the sidewalk.

To a shy person such as me, social situations are divided into those with “power” and those without.  The ones with the “power” to take charge and say hi and things like that are the ones who are comfortable in the situation, who are older or have been in a group or organization longer than you have, or the ones who own the place you’re in.  The ones without the “power” are the newcomers.

I perceived the actives as having the power and me, as a pledge, as not having the power, so I expected that if anyone were to say hi first, it would of course be them.

To my surprise, Jennifer told me that the actives were offended because I wouldn’t say hi to them!  (Why didn’t they ever say it to me first, then, if it was so important to them?)  But even if I tried, my voice would probably have been so low that they wouldn’t have heard me anyway.

When the frats said they were service organizations, we saw that as a joke.  Everybody knew the frats spent most of their time partying and hanging out.  It seemed that the service they did do was to make sure they got in their obligatory service and didn’t lose their right to be a fraternity on the Roanoke campus.

When we had to do chores for the actives, Sharon asked some of us to wash her dishes.  She felt bad, however, because these dishes had been sitting around for some time and were moldy.  I don’t remember what happened to those dishes.  I hope she threw them out instead.

Once, when the actives took the pledges down to the lake and island, I was blindfolded and Pearl was driving around in her scooter.  Something happened on the mud or on the bridge that made her temporarily lose control, and next thing I knew, she was crying out in shock and dismay and a bit of amusement as the scooter banged against my heels.

I wasn’t hurt at all, and she soon got the situation under control.  But after that we joked about Pearl running me over with her scooter.

On October 12, I joked around with Pearl.  I made a low bow and said, “Greetings, active,” after class.  I gestured her inside when I opened the Krueger door.  I put my palms together like my genie Zara, and said I’d wait in line so she’d have someone to stand by.

She thought it was funny, and told the others as I went in line.  Then Rachel started calling me a brownnoser.  It was fun.  Behind it all was an ever-present, “NOT!”

I wasn’t brownnosing; I was just having fun.  Then I drew a picture on Pearl’s board of Zara coming out of her water jar and saying, “Your wish is my command, mistress!”

The next day, I found several notes about it, ranging from, “Bebe hasn’t got enough brown on her nose for everybody.  We’ll have to fix that” by Sharon, to “Nice picture, but it should say MASTER SIR (followed by ‘In your dreams, man cub’).”

****

On October 14, I got kidnapped by the actives: Jennifer told me to come to the Phi-Delt room at 8:15 to interview her before the meeting.  When I arrived, I saw actives whispering together by the room, and began to worry.  When I got down the hall, two of them grabbed my arms and said, “You’re being kidnapped.”  They took me out to a car, and stuffed me in the back with another active and Jennifer.  It was fun.

They took me to one active’s family home, ordered pizza, and played the Grease soundtrack.  Somebody passed around playing cards with pictures of Chippendale dancers.  I don’t believe I sat there in judgment, but I didn’t join in as the others goggled at the cards, because it was against my religion.  One of the girls picked out a dark-haired guy with glasses and blue-green eyes and said, “Here’s one you might like.”

When explaining what pledges could do while kidnapped, the actives included homework, just as naturally as if it happened all the time.  Yet when I said I wanted to do homework, they acted like I was strange, and said, “NOBODY ever does homework on kidnaps!”  But I was a student first, pledge second, and I had a lot of homework to do.  My teachers would not have accepted the excuse that I was at a sorority party.

They were supposed to kidnap at least one pledge, and we were supposed to kidnap at least one active.  Since I’d already been kidnapped, I couldn’t be kidnapped again, so I was safe after this.

The other pledges finally found me after calling up a lot of S– numbers to find me.  They said I was the most popular person in S– that night.

Our punishment for me being kidnapped, was to bum pennies from people on the afternoon of the 18th.  People were pretty nice, but a few of them gave us funny looks.  On the 21st, we had to get 50 people (preferably guys) to sign a roll of toilet paper, without ripping it.  We got at least 51 in half an hour.

On the night of the 18th, we went on a scavenger hunt dressed in bathrobes.  Dori wore a shower cap, Tammy wore a Burger King crown, someone had Pearl’s Spike, and I had a soft, cuddly Garfield.  We got funny looks from people.

The worker in a gas station, our first spot, gave us such weird looks that I showed her the sorority button on my robe as we left.  Rachel told everyone we were sleepwalking.  A guy employee in Hardee’s, obviously in on it, laughed his head off.

In another place (the wrong one), there were a bunch of guys a little older than us.  Dori told them, maybe to a comment that we looked good, that it was the latest style.  She also told the guy in Hardee’s that it was a winter version of a bathing suit contest.

We were supposed to tell people we wanted to be dressed like that.  At a small Dairy Queen (another wrong place), some girls there, probably our age or younger, saw us, and one said something like, “I don’t know.  They probably don’t dress like that all the time.  I hope not!”

I believe all the Greek organizations would send pledges on night walks.  This was no secret; I heard stories about such things even when not pledging.

We’d be driven out somewhere, then have to make our way back without letting the actives see us, because they said they’d take us out even farther if they did.  We were told to dress warmly for these walks, and if we had to change, would be given a chance to run back to our rooms and do so.

It was fun at first, all this wandering around in corn fields and by the side of the road, trying to find our way back in the dark and without being seen by any passing cars.  We all loved it.

I said it reminded me of the End Times (when interpreted literally), with Christians wandering around during the Tribulation without being seen by the authorities who would kill them.  It wasn’t terribly cold yet, though it was fall and starting to get cold, and we were (except for the last time) taken only a short distance away and could find our way back pretty quickly.

On the 25th, I wrote in my pledge diary, “Starting to get stressed out.”

On the 26th, we did a carnival of some kind; the actives changed the meeting time on us, which inconvenienced the pledges.  Rachel and Tammy were ticked about everything.

That night, I learned that I was not the only one thinking of quitting: Tammy had the same thoughts.  Sometimes it just seemed like too much to do, with everything else.  The actives were also ticked with us, and sent us on a walk with a piece of toilet paper that was not to be torn or wrinkled.  But by Grossheusch, we saw a huge, white shape, probably an owl, fly from a tree.

On the 27th was a Trust Walk, a kind of obstacle course, with our pledge sisters.  You were supposed to wear a blindfold and do whatever your pledge sister led you to do, showing your trust in her.

This was supposed to be a secret thing that Memadmin considered hazing; once or twice, there was a bustle because they saw Memadmin’s car (so they said).  They said that Memadmin hated the Greek organizations and wanted them gone, and would find any excuse she could to get rid of them.

The Trust Walk was by the suites, probably in the courtyard or maybe in the yard behind Hofer.  I think it was at night.  It was snowing and cold.

Jennifer took me to a stairway in the suites and had me crawl up and down and go under things which I couldn’t see, with me, all the while, trusting that she was leading me in the right direction and wouldn’t let any harm come to me.  We didn’t know where we were at the time, or that there really wasn’t a low fence above our heads.

On the 28th, we unsuccessfully attempted to kidnap Sharon.  We hid in the darkened RA supply room for this.  There had been tales that it was haunted by a spirit of suicide, and that it had been made into an RA room because at least two girls who’d lived there had committed suicide.

But no ghosts bothered us that night.  I took off work and Rachel skipped her late French class, which was, I think, with Ruth.

****

Hell Week was aptly named: it was the week of testing, after or during which you would be initiated.  You had to follow so many rules it was hard to remember them all.  The Phi-Delts had to be dressed up every day, for one.  I won’t go into everything I remember because I’m not sure how much of it is secret.

Our punishments were carrying around various items, which I also won’t name, though everybody in the school would have seen them.  These items were always in danger of being stolen by frat pledges.  The Phi-Delt actives called it “Help Week,” but everyone else called it Hell Week.  I’ve mentioned elsewhere some of the things other pledges had to do.

On the 31st, I spent all day cleaning my room and ironing.  Though no one ever actually checked my room, the word was that we had to have even our underwear ironed for Hell Week and that the actives could come check our rooms at any time.

The first day of Hell Week was Sunday, November 1.  I got to hold Baby Omega, a hard-boiled egg in a miniature baby basket, decorated to look like it had a face and was a baby in a basket.  It was cute.

Though we were supposed to ignore “evils” (males) as if they didn’t even exist during Hell Week (which I believe the actives said we were excellent at), we were allowed to talk to men if it was for or in a class or if it was a teacher or if we were at church.  So when I went to church on day one of Hell Week, it was a relief to be able to talk to the men and boy there.  I told them about the “evils” stuff, and they laughed.

I expected Hell Week to be a bit of a trial, but until I got involved in pledging, I didn’t realize just how taxing it could be.  I couldn’t memorize all the rules they gave us (I think there were several pages of them), and often forgot them.  (I bet NVLD had something to do with this.)

I had no idea I was supposed to greet all the actives before sitting down at meals, for example, until they got mad and told me I had to do it.  Rachel later said it was pretty stupid not to, but it wasn’t stupidity, it was ignorance.

Then we also had to get up and wear a dress for 7am breakfast, which was really hard to do after they kept us up late into the night.  Then they didn’t let us take naps during the day to make up for this.

In the evenings at the meetings, they would give us our points and I would find pages filled with various things I had done “wrong” and the points taken away from me.  I felt I could do nothing right.

I was punished far more than anybody else: Some of the point amounts taken away were so large that it seemed ridiculous, probably going into the tens or even hundreds.  My points were going into the negatives!  It was impossible to make them up now.

Then I’d be made to carry Sally, this big rag doll, which I believe was supposed to be a “punishment,” what the person with the least points would carry.  Carrying around Baby Omega wasn’t so bad; this was for the midrange of points.

But soon into Hell Week, I never got to carry her; I only got Sally.  I always had the least number of points of anyone.  I wanted to cry.

The thought of a whole week of this stuff made me only wish for the end of it–and wasn’t pledging supposed to be fun?  I also wondered how I could stand going through a Hell Week every semester until graduation, since even as an active I would have to deal with them: getting up for breakfast, going to meetings, that sort of thing.

We pledges often complained that the actives themselves showed a lack of unity by not always showing up for meals or meetings during Hell Week like they were supposed to, and often backbiting each other.

We were supposed to yell greetings (such as “Hello Miss —“) to the actives even if they were halfway across the campus and we saw them.

I felt physically unable to yell.  There had been various times throughout my life, including when Emily would yell greetings to me, when I had tried to yell and ended up barely speaking above my normal voice.  I had never even been able to scream, except maybe on a roller coaster (and even then I don’t think I was very loud).  To this day, it’s hard for me to get my voice that loud.

I believe that, during Hell Week, I made myself look neither to the right nor to the left as I walked along the sidewalks, in hopes I wouldn’t see an active and have to yell at her.

I didn’t wear a dress in Food Service, though I was supposed to wear one the rest of the time, because that was hardly the place to wear nice clothes like that.  You’d sweat in them (it was very steamy back there) and possibly get ketchup or the weird Food Service smell on them.

When I was expressing my worries once, Rachel said the actives probably wouldn’t make me wear a dress to work because “they know it’s a suck job” or “sucky job” or “sh-ty job.”

Since I also hadn’t heard any rules stating that pledges could carry each others’ doll or egg or whatever, I had no clue that I could give Sally to one of my pledge sisters to watch while I was working.  So where else could I put her but in the coat room?  For what happened next, see a letter which I have copied below.

It may have been during Hell Week when Dori dropped out.  I believe Tammy dropped out a bit before that, saying she came into the sorority to meet people but I believe she said either she had no time or didn’t like the pledging stuff that was going on.

I didn’t know about it until somebody told me about it the next day, and I believe Dori was talking to us about it on the little lawn outside the front door of Old Main.

It seems like there were three of us during the first day or two of Hell Week, but soon there were only two.  I believe she told us she didn’t like feeling like she had to be friends with the Phi-Delts just because they were Phi-Delts, and may have said that this was especially because of how they were treating us.

The last walk, the one which I considered to be hazing and a true punishment, along with an unfair and dangerous one because of the possibility of frostbite, was on the second day of Hell Week, Monday, November 2.  I wrote about it in the letter copied below.

We were sent on this walk because we couldn’t find anything during an on-campus scavenger hunt.  Pledge “unity” had turned into an us against them attitude, since the way the actives treated us had made this necessary.  (One compliment they did have for us was that we were very unified.)

Rachel and I had a talk during the walk about both quitting.  I was so angry with the actives that I began thinking seriously about it, and I may have made up my mind before the walk was even over.

I keep thinking I made it halfway through Hell Week; maybe I quit on Tuesday night or Wednesday morning.  It was said that we would have only had to go through part of Hell Week, and that the night of the day I quit (and then Rachel quit) would have been the night we got initiated.  The word was that they were already getting ready for it.

Here is a clipping of my e-mail to Mike (Wendy’s brother) in late 1999:

Did you know I was part of the Ill-Fated Pledge Class of 1992?

“The Ill-Fated Pledge Class” was the Phi-Delt name for it.

For about a month I actually thought I’d like to be a Phi-Delt, me, the loner.  One person wondered if it was because my ex was a Zeta, but no, it was because I had friends in it and it sounded fun.

But as pledging went on, it just didn’t seem as much fun anymore.  Actives being mean may have been playacting, but it still was annoying, and I didn’t see any sense in it.

And we never could understand why we should take the Greek alphabet recitals so seriously.  It was just so funny to stand up there reciting it in unison for the actives.  But when we giggled we ended up getting demerits.

These demerits were made up by carrying out punishments which the actives gave us, such as bumming pennies or going on a walk.

Then there was the time I was forced to leave Sally in the coat room by the kitchen…I didn’t know of anything else to do with her, since I worked in Food Service and couldn’t have her with me, so they [somehow found her and] stuck her in the Phi-Delt room and made it look like she’d gone and gotten drunk because of me not watching over her…She was just a doll!

Then there was Hell Week… All those rules I could never memorize, constantly breaking ones I wasn’t aware of because of that, trying to get my homework done, trying to survive on little sleep and not being allowed to nap, actives acting meaner, then finally the actives get really upset with us (there were only two of us left by this time) and send us out on a walk in the frigid cold, so far out we have no clue where we are…

We had our pledge sisters with us, but they didn’t know any better than we did where we were.  We walked for hours trying to find the campus in the cold and dark, and by the time we got back, it was already 1:30 (on a school night), my feet had gone from chilled to [hurting to] numb (possibly frostbitten), Rachel and I had discussed dropping out (while the actives were out of hearing range), and I was mad.

There’s no way I’d ever want to go through that again.  It was that night or the next that I decided to drop out, and Rachel soon followed, after going through breakfast in the morning.

She told them I’d dropped out and then told me they were a bit ticked I hadn’t gone there myself to tell them, but after the late nights they’d been giving us, there was no way I wanted to dress up and go to breakfast at 7 in the morning.

A couple years later, I was mystified to hear that Rachel would have liked to try joining again.  Why, after all that?

I also talked with Rachel in her room before or after quitting, and she read a letter she had written about the Phi-Delts.  I remember something about a tree being used as an image, and her showing disgust about how the actives had treated the pledges and the actives’ lack of unity.  Then she asked me if I thought it was a good letter, and I did.

But one thing I don’t believe I knew at the time was that it was a letter, and not just a poem or essay she had written to make herself feel better, and that she planned to actually give it to the Phi-Delts.

The ironic thing about it was, Pearl later told me that the letter about their lack of unity had so distressed the Phi-Delts and given them such a common cause that they ended up more unified.

Jennifer soon pulled me aside, probably after Sophomore Honors and probably into a deserted hallway in Verhulst, the music building, and talked to me.  She was worried that I was mad at the Phi-Delts and felt the way Rachel did about them.

At that time, I felt I could truthfully say I wasn’t mad at the Phi-Delts.  (I was mad at some of them, but, I guess, not all of them as a whole.)  Perhaps she had tried to explain the actions of the Phi-Delts and put them in a nicer light, which would explain my change of heart.

Of course, I hadn’t yet read a letter Rachel would send to the campus newspaper in April.  Jennifer told me about the letter Rachel had dropped off in the Phi-Delt room–she just went down there while they were there and dropped it off–and I told her I hadn’t been aware she would actually show it to the Phi-Delts. I’d thought it was an angry letter which you write but don’t send.

She asked me not to talk to others about the secret pledging things we did, since part of the fun of being in a sorority is having these secrets.

Of course, things like walks and pledges avoiding evils and all that are common knowledge (all the Greek organizations seemed to do that), so I don’t feel bad about talking about those things.

As for any secrets I may have revealed here, well, for one thing I’ve been told they changed their pledging because Rachel revealed so much of it in her letter in April.  The things I’ve written here were, most of them, done in front of people outside the organization, either students or people in the surrounding towns.

Jennifer told me to keep my pledge diary so that, if I ever decided I wanted to pledge again, I could read it and remember why I dropped out in the first place, leading me to never make that mistake of pledging again.

I did, however, have to let her remove things from it, things that pertained to the actives which they didn’t want people outside the organization to have.  This included the actives’ schedules, mottos and such which we were to memorize, and the interviews I had done with the actives.

Cindy got really mad at Pearl and Sharon over how they treated pledges, and noticed, the day after I quit, that I sat by the non-trad in Sophomore Honors instead of by them.

I did this because, yes, I was still hurting and fuming over the whole thing.  I did soon start sitting with them again and forgave them, and it all seemed forgotten–though, possibly, not by Cindy.

After that, and after a Zeta party which I describe in the November 1992 chapter, I did not like fraternities or sororities.  I was told that the Phi-Delts changed a lot of things because of the “Ill-Fated Pledge Class,” and because of scathing letters Rachel wrote to the Phi-Delts and the school newspaper, and that I should pledge again, but I refused.

Though I didn’t think Rachel’s letter was appropriate, and she later regretted it, it spoke of things I was not aware of before, things which made it sound like some actives did not want me in the sorority for some mysterious reason.

We were told that we were the most unified pledge class; however, we were unified against the actives.  I don’t see how hazing causes unity in a fraternity or sorority.

To my shock, senior year, Rachel said she wanted to pledge again, but couldn’t now.  She even regretted dropping out.  How could this be, after the things we’d said to each other the night before dropping out?

Not all the actives seemed to join in the hazing.  Some were really sweet.  I think my friends and our pledge sisters stayed out of the worst of it, but it was still hard to deal with being reprimanded or punished by a group that included close friends.

I soon forgave my friends, but there never was any sort of relationship between me and my Phi-Delt suitemate, Mary.  I also had trouble with the pledge master Wendy.

That semester, only the Phi-Delts and the Zetas could have pledges, for some reason I’ve forgotten.  All the Zeta pledges also dropped out one by one, until neither the Phi-Delts nor the Zetas had pledges left.

On April 30, a letter to the editor by Rachel hit the school newspaper.  It filled the last page with complaints about the Phi-Delts.

The Phi-Delts were very upset, and also changed many of their practices to be less harsh, and because the letter gave away pledging secrets (one reason why I included the details I did in my account: they were no longer secrets anyway).

I won’t describe all of what she said, just how it affected me and my own account, since I don’t think there’s much point in rehashing all of her complaints.

She spoke of “psychological abuse,” such as being “ridiculed and degraded” with laughs, heckles, snide remarks and crudeness for not finishing the scavenger hunt on time.  She spoke of “mental abuse, belittlement,” “cruelty.”

I noted a few references to me, though I was not named: forcing even a “rather conservative” pledge to ask guys for condoms and underwear (I felt humiliated by this task and not having the option to sit it out), and “the only other [remaining] pledge” on the Trust Walk.

This part particularly bothered me, because I now discovered new reasons to feel paranoid, things I did not know before, and could have happily spent the rest of my life not knowing: Rachel was told to climb a stairway on her hands and knees, but walk back down; I was “forced to crawl” up and down.  The actives had also gathered an audience to watch us.

Another example of hazing is the point system the actives put us under.  Rarely did the other pledge receive a positive total of points at the end of the day.

It made me want to cry.

In fact, it was said that the actives would discuss in their meetings reasons they could take points away from this pledge the next time they saw her.  (All this, and more, because they did not want her to be a successful pledge.  Several members were quoted as having said, ‘I hope she quits.’)

WHAT?  WHY?  Why on earth did they have it in for me?  What could I have possibly done to make them want me to quit?  Me, who never wanted to offend anyone, who barely even knew any of them, and was usually called sweet, quiet, innocent, nice, kind, caring?  I could not recall ever doing anything to hurt these people!

I don’t know why they didn’t like me.  I try to be nice to people.  Here I was feeling a rejection I hadn’t felt in some time, and remembering that I’d felt like crying when things were going on.

It was especially bad because of what was going on with Shawn at that time, which already depressed me and did horrible things to my self-esteem.  I was glad to realize that it probably wasn’t the whole group doing this, just maybe a few people who didn’t know me all that well, that my friends there would never have done such a thing as those few people did.

This also reassured me that I made the right decision in quitting, because, as I jotted in the margin, this was “subtle, but classical, sorority snobbery”–and I wanted no part of an organization that behaved this way.  It was middle school all over again!  She wrote,

Is it really so difficult to tell someone when you don’t feel that person is ‘Greek material,’ especially if you pressure her into joining in the first place?

She spoke of backstabbing, gossip, complaining instead of changing, harassment, “criticize in the cruelest of ways,” “degrade to compensate for lack of self-esteem, belittle, or abuse others for their own pleasure.”

It confirmed that what I felt was abuse, really was, that I was not the only one feeling abused.  Even Cindy had been upset at them.

Losing hundreds of points for stupid reasons and having to carry Sally, that humiliated me.  And isn’t humiliation one of the determining factors for if something is hazing?

And if it was all just mind games, something they didn’t really mean and something they claimed to have gone through themselves that only brought them closer together in the end–why would I want to be with a group of people who treated people that way as a joke?

The fact that they didn’t apologize for the things they did need to answer for, or even try to explain them as misunderstandings or rumors, concerned me and made me even more glad I quit before I was initiated.

As I told Clarissa, the letter actually embarrassed me because Rachel would refer to the only remaining pledge besides her–and anyone who paid attention would know that was me.

This is a time when I probably most wanted to speak to Shawn, but he was gone home.  Though I’m not sure why I’d want to, after the psychological abuse he himself put me through, but I still suffered from Stockholm Syndrome.

Rachel later felt sorry for sending this letter to the editor, and even considered pledging again.  That surprised me.

Index 
Cast of Characters (Work in Progress)

Table of Contents

Freshman Year

September 1991:

 October 1991:

November 1991:

December 1991: Ride the Greyhound

January 1992: Dealing with a Breakup with Probable NVLD

 February 1992:

March 1992: Shawn: Just Friends or Dating?

April 1992: Pledging, Prayer Group–and Peter’s Smear Campaign

May 1992:

Sophomore Year 

Summer 1992:

September 1992:

October 1992–Shawn’s Exasperating Ambivalence:

November 1992:

December 1992:

January 1993:

February 1993:

March 1993:

April 1993:

May 1993:

Summer 1993: Music, Storm and Prophetic Dreams

September 1993:

October 1993:

November 1993:

December 1993:

January 1994:

February 1994:

March 1994:

April 1994:

Senior Year 

June 1994–Bits of Abuse Here and There:

July & August 1994:

January 1995:

February 1995:

March 1995:

April 1995:

May 1995: