Honor the Pledgeship

A man’s right to initiation requires something from him…

There are few things more woven into the fraternity culture than pledgeship and the tradition of earning your way to become a brother. The need for initiation is a primal part of the male psyche and pledging, in its correct form, offers this. In a culture that seems to have lost the value of that process, the fraternity is one of the last places other than the military that recognizes the need for a rite of passage and an experience that includes obstacles to overcome. Those of us who have joined the ranks by taking part in this sacred practice would probably agree those were some of the best and worst times of our life. We will never forget them.

Now, most of you have been through months of rush to land yourself the pledge class. Those golden sons who have been wined and dined and probably have an elevated sense of themselves are about to be brought down by the humbling reality of pledgeship. It can be a big shock to most guys. But I thought, to give it some perspective, I would share a little advice with all those new pledges. Or maybe for you to pass on.

1. There is no such thing as a free lunch

Many of you enjoyed parties and ate meals that seemed free. I assure you, nothing is free. People took a lot of time to get know you, invited you to their home, and invested their time and money. Now that you signed things are going to change. You might ask, “How could the guy who recruited me all of a sudden change his tone this drastically?” It is a little confusing, but you need to understand and find your place in this pecking order. Before we get to the mountaintop we usually need to experience the valley. So now, it’s your chance to earn your place and prove they made a good choice and payback those ‘free lunches.’

2. You are about to learn that life can be unfair.

You will learn this more and more as an adult, but take these coming days as training. One of the most important parts about life is to learn that things aren’t always in your control. You might be asked to do favors that seem odd and way out of your way. Some of you might get singled out. A few brothers have already had their eyes on your exuberance, and probably plan on doing all they can to give you a wake up call. Trust me, this is a good learning experience. Whether deserved or undeserved, life is like that. Humility is one of life’s greatest teachers, but it’s a hard one to take, so try and roll with the punches.

3. Respect the traditions

We live in an era where nothing is sacred. We don’t respect rules anymore. Authority is looked down upon. But you are part of a tradition that has been taking place for hundreds of years. The same rituals that could have been your great-great grandfather’s have existed for generations. While some feel foolish, they all have their reasons for existence. Some for your good, others so you will come to appreciate your brothers. You might find some unusual, but you need to respect them without question. Learn about the history and the past. You will have that with you for the rest of your life.

4. Don’t call your mother

Many of you have been praised and coddled by your mom. We live in a generation of what they called helicopter moms (overmothering and underfathering is rampant). This is the time in your life to start finding your way without her. Pledgeship is not the time to lean on her. Don’t tell her every detail. Of course she is worried. She has memories of putting you on the school bus, but start learning how to be your own man and call her every once in awhile to let her know you are okay and that you could always use another bow tie. If something happens or you’re upset, call your dad and talk it through. Leave your mom out of this pledge part. This is a guy thing.

5. Earn your way

Some of you will try and just blend in. To follow in the middle of the pack of sheep and not rock the boat to get noticed. While staying under the radar, I would encourage you to lead and be an example to your pledge class. While you might become more of a target to some actives, it’s worth it. Take one for your class. I regret not doing this more. I think this is where great character is built.

6. Clean with a smile

Think about it. Would you work 10 years of your life to get taken care of the other 70? It’s a great system that actually works with no default. You put in a semester and then you can be treated like royalty the rest of your days.

And lastly, to the brothers. I am not here to tell you how to treat the pledges, you make those decisions based on your convictions, but I do want to point out that this is a great opportunity. We are the last remaining bit of a class of American men who won wars, conquered the west and built American industry into a globe spanning force. The kind of men who did that learned from other men the skills needed to succeed. I believe that fraternities still teach those skills. For a pledge, part of the reason to even join a Fraternity is to gain instruction, for brothers this is an opportunity to teach, to help build something new, moreover, this is opportunity to practice leadership. There is an old saying that goes, “Leave something better than when you found it.” I think that maxim is needed now more than ever. We are a nation that lacks leadership. If this country is ever to regain it’s social stability, a new generation of dynamic thinkers and leaders is desperately needed. You are that generation. Part of your responsibility is to build men of character to accomplish that work.

For that to happen, a pledge must first be deconstructed. Pledging is a lot like boot camp. It wears down the flaws of the individual in order to construct a strong and unitary group. But you have to remember to build them back into great men. Most guys forget that. It’s useless to tear them down if you don’t build them back up. Most of us never got that part of pledgeship, and so it’s up to you to offer something you might not have received yourself. That is the hardest part.

To all of you, may pledgeship continue in the form it needs to build great men. Yes, there is suffering required. A bit of sacrifice. It takes humility. But also remember this is your chance to form young men and give them guidance. There is nothing like a good instructive and evaluative experience of trial and struggle. Make sure you have the right guys there to interpret what is happening for them. They need it.

Pledge on.

By guest columnist Xan Hood, CEO/Founder Buffalo & Company

    1. SouthernByGodsGrace

      Second. Thank you Xan for your time and help. It means a lot to us Sir. Thank you.

      13 years ago at 10:04 pm
  1. The Frat Czar

    Frat. As. Fuck.
    I enjoy every single one of your articles sir. Now, if you’ll excuse me, there’s a Robert E. Lee tie in your store that I’ve had my eye on.

    13 years ago at 6:02 pm
  2. Davy Crockett

    We truly are the last remaining bit of the Americans that conquered the West and saved the world in the 40s. Keep the flame alive, gentlemen.

    13 years ago at 6:15 pm
  3. IvyFrat

    I have this to say: I have never seen a cocky motherfucker stop being a cocky motherfucker after pledging. I happen to like cocky people, so I’m fine with it. I grin every time someone says “Oh, pledging will take care of that” because it is forever apparent that pledging changes nothing. It doesn’t deconstruct, it increases Americans’ natural distaste for authority. It does, however, teach you that nothing in life comes free, and you’ll have to take a little shit if you ever want to dish it.

    13 years ago at 6:36 pm
    1. AnimalHouse1858

      I’ve seen quite a few cocky mother fuckers stop being cocky mother fuckers. You’re hazing wrong. NF

      13 years ago at 7:25 pm
    2. Fratbook Bro

      Not sure how you do it in the North, but in the South it doesn’t take much to put one of those “cocky motherfucker’s” that you speak of in their place. If you don’t know how to do it, then it would seem that your name is nothing but a farce and an overcompensation to the highest degree.

      13 years ago at 7:45 pm
    3. nubro

      Perhaps, Fratbook Bro, you are right. But you are surely wrong when it comes to use of the apostrophe.

      Nitpicking. TFM.

      13 years ago at 7:55 pm
    4. IvyFrat

      Don’t get me wrong, they don’t stay cocky through pledging, but once it’s over, they spring right back to being the same person. I found being in a fraternity much more transformative than pledging.

      Since it seems to count here, I’m from Texas, and yes my fraternity hazed balls.

      13 years ago at 9:51 pm
    5. Sig Fratling

      There are different kinds of hazing. Constructive, and pointless… You probably had pointless hazing. The idea of old school hazing was to have fun, but at the same time, let a young man know that he will never be free of authority. It is a chance to take a cocky idiot into a gentleman who respects others. Especially those with authority. It’s learning experience, and sadly, some chapters just do stupid shit. Yelling at pledges and letting them know that they did something wrong, or that they aren’t the coolest thing since sliced bread is how you haze properly. You don’t belittle them to where they regret joining, you just let them know that you’re in charge. The coolest thing my dad ever told me was this… “If you don’t haze the pledges, they will walk all over you, and then you will end up with a chapter full of cocky immature idiots.” That, and “Sure, here’s a beer.”

      13 years ago at 11:28 pm
    6. Future Value

      ^ I could not agree with you more regarding the pointless and constructive hazing. Sure, I was shot with paintballs, tackled like a ragdoll, and sprayed with water numerous times.. but the hazing that brought our pledge class the closest was good old fashioned verbal abuse.

      13 years ago at 8:18 am