Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Incorporated Southwestern Province Healthy Kappas Healthy Communities Newsletter April 2014 HAZING AND PSYCHOPATHOLOGY
Timothy F. Albert, Polemarch Southwestern Province
Samuel Odom, Ph.D. Healthy Kappa Healthy Communities Initiative Chairman Featured Contributors Stephen A. Broughton, M.D. Derrick Freeman, Ph.D. Romell J. Madison, D.D.S. Donald R. Parker, M.D. Rodney C. Perkins, M.P.H., M.S.N., FNP-BC Reginald D. Rigsby, M.D. Edward R. Scott, II, D.M.D. Douglas A. Turner, C.P.T. Derek L.West, M.D., M.S. Roger L.Wortham, M.D., M.A. The April Issue features mental health as the topic as our fraternity faces this perennial crisis. We must enlighten our membership to consistently bring about awareness in order to eradicate hazing or it will very quickly eradicate Kappa Alpha Psi (KΑΨ) Fraternity, Incorporated.
Hank Nuwer is the author of Broken Pledges, High School Hazing and Wrongs of Passage. Nuwer has investigated hazing extensively. The latter of these three books has been reviewed by StopHazing.org. I credit both Nuwer and StopHazing.org for much of the information and opinion presented here and draw attention to two of his central questions: (1) Why administrators, “fraternities and sororities continue to allow practices that frequently lead to death or permanent physical or psychological damage?” (2) Why “black fraternities become more prone to violent rites of passage than their white counterparts?” (I will spare you my diatribe on slavery correlates such as brutality, intimidation, name-calling and humiliation as the chosen methods to influence humans in answering the latter question. . . . YW!) By now we are aware of some of the unintended outcomes of hazing as relates to our beloved Fraternity. There are clearly membership processing, public image, legal, organizational and political impacts. There are health impacts, both physical and mental. We do not stand alone in attempting to explain and stop hazing. The spectrum of interested parties encompasses august colleges and universities, professional associations, professions, sports organizations, military organizations and routine secondary educational institutions. Society as a whole is affected. We are aware of hazing’s cultural underpinnings. These are generally referred to as rites of passage ceremonies. Sterling Watson, a professor of creative writing at Eckerd College, likely in response to the death of a pledge at Florida A&M University, opined that despite comparisons with rites of passage, hazing is absent of “transformative power” and is instead humiliation, degradation and psychosexual torture; it is “criminal conspiracy.” Intense indeed, but these feelings
Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Incorporated Southwestern Province Healthy Kappas Healthy Communities Newsletter April 2014 represent the revulsion many experience on learning the more sordid details and the devastating outcomes of hazing. Many of us argue that similar to oft-romanticized coming of age ceremonies or “rites of passage,” hazing has the goal of enabling some larger purpose such as fostering brotherhood, loyalty, oneness with the cosmos or enhanced spiritual evolution. Since this argument often represents the zenith from proponents of hazing (the debate typically devolves into mass mumbling and outright denial at this point in a debate), it is as good a point as any to survey psychological effects of hazing. These have typically been drowned in “de Nile.” What is hazing? States, universities and organizations have defined hazing. They generally accept that hazing intentionally produces “mental or physical discomfort, embarrassment, harassment or ridicule.” So! Hazing, by definition, has psychological detriments. Hazing includes a myriad of activities from paddling, exercising, disparaging, humiliating and intimidating. Substance use, eating, branding, disrupting sleep or study, kidnapping, confining, interrogating, blindfolding and filibustering have been included in more restrictive definitions of hazing, especially those written into university policies. Those policies subject participants (perpetrators and victims) to university, local and state legal (civil and criminal) judgment and penalty. Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Incorporated specifically has been in “opposition to hazing or unlawful or anti-social conduct of any kind since its founding,” as clearly written in its Membership Intake Policy Statement, which updates and further states our prohibition of hazing. The organization StopHazing.org (www.stophazing.org) extensively covers many aspects of hazing in its mission of “Educating to Eliminate Hazing.” Its website is essential background to my comments. Psychologically, keep in mind that there is the perpetrator and victim of hazing. Some of the effects are shared, often contemporaneously. They are certainly shared successively as victim becomes perpetrator. Also, consider the blurring of boundaries between victim and perpetrator. Either because of the “victim’s” cunning or his lack of conscious awareness of his victim status, he successfully goads the “perpetrator.” In its darkest form, think masochism. With that said, a range of psychiatric and psychological constructs can easily frame hazing: sadomasochism (as alluded to above), identification with the aggressor, isolation, suppression, dissociation, regression, undoing, sleep deprivation, psychosis, mob behavior, infantilization, homoeroticism, traumatic brain injury, fight or flight, projection, alienation and others. While many of these are easily identified in their association with hazing, the intellectually curious will uncover associations with the more unfamiliar constructs. And, yes, many life endeavors are associated with
Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Incorporated Southwestern Province Healthy Kappas Healthy Communities Newsletter April 2014 these. It is to the extent that such associations tend toward pathology, individually or group wise, that problems arise. For perpetrators it is revealing to determine (or even guess about) the balance of pathology and health displayed in exercises of authority and influence. Question whether there is denial of harm to self or to the victim. Is there a false sense of security that loyalty or respect has been fostered? Has the perpetrator confused of substituted process for outcome, means for goal? Has he suspended awareness of or desensitized himself to codified sanctions (i.e. looming punishments or penalties)? Does the action involve loss of judgment or impulse control due to mob actions, intoxication or any other reason? Has guilt or shame been repressed? I have framed these questions as a means of drawing from each of us as honest a response as possible. Therein lays your most reasonable understanding of any psychopathology associated with hazing. For the victim? Consider loss of judgment and impulse control due to mob behavior, intoxication or other factors. To what extent has a true sense of belonging developed based on individual self-worth. Are there feelings harbored that are associated with being traumatized and victimized and which are subsequently expressed pathologically? Has motivation been capped at superficial fact-finding and cliché repetition? Are you experiencing elements of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder or the frank disorder due to death or near-death events or other acute or chronic trauma? How are you handling any guilt or shame? And, the organization: With reliance on hazing, more noble organizational goals are often short-changed. Opportunities to creatively expand on traditional missions are marred, and so too are meaningful and productive organizational interactions and procedures. Despite laudable levels of achievement, the pettiness of hazing permeates and diminishes processes aimed at achieving goals and the goals that are set in the first place. Processes (meetings, for instance) are far less efficient and productive than they otherwise could be, tenaciously resisting change. Any time is an opportune time to build momentum that could improve on the essentials we want for effectively organizing. Hopefully this additional insight into hazing’s psychological effects encourages exponentiation of that momentum. At a minimum, we want to move beyond the external control and consequence of legal and criminal sanction. We want our organizational psychology to free itself of the mentality of hazing. AND, we want to maintain our individual mental health. For questions about this edition, please reach out to Brother Dr. Roger L. Wortham at email@example.com . Roger L. Wortham, M.D., M.A. Psychiatrist New Orleans Alumni Chapter
Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Incorporated Southwestern Province Healthy Kappas Healthy Communities Newsletter April 2014
Scenes from the 78th Southwestern Province Council Healthy Kappas Healthy Communities Initiative