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The Elephant in the Meeting Room

September 22, 2011

By: Dave Westol, Owner and CEO of Limberlost Consulting, Inc

It’s there. Standing right there. The elephant in the meeting room.

It is huge. It smells. When it shifts its feet the room trembles.

And of course, the elephant is a figure of speech—a very traditional reference to a topic or subject that no one wants to acknowledge but that everyone knows is there, and that you cannot ignore. You can’t look around it. You can’t look under it or over it.

The elephant is too big. The elephant in the Delta Sigma Pi meeting room…if your chapter has incorporated certain practices into its pledge program…is hazing.

Hazing is a practice that is looped and coiled with ironies. It is ironical that its proponents and defenders—in the opinion of your author ranging from ten to fifteen percent of your membership—are with a few exceptions those members who are the least motivated. The hazers, with a couple of exceptions, would not be included in a list of “best brothers”. It is ironical that the hazers attempt to keep the hazing a secret and yet brag about it with members of other chapters.

It is ironical that the first line of defense by hazers when practices are challenged is, “You don’t understand it” or “You have to go through it” rather than what we would expect from Delta Sigma Pi—a cogent, objective, professional and businesslike evaluation and assessment of what hazing practices actually accomplish for a chapter.

It is ironical that something that could and ultimately will result in an intervention with your chapter is rarely if ever discussed at a chapter meeting in an open, candid and honest exchange. The hazers do not want an open, candid and honest exchange. Therefore, voices rise…tempers flare…hands wave…and the same sad and sorry clichés emerge, such as, “You just wanna hand ‘em their badge!” or “I went through it so they have to go through it” What the hazers lack in numbers is usually balanced by volume and intensity. Those brothers with good questions are discouraged from asking questions.

And the final irony? That so many good brothers of Delta Sigma Pi will sit quietly as the elephant stands there, shifting from side to side, impacting four of five senses, at their meetings. Get on your feet.

Get your voices. Ask the questions. “Remind me again what the purpose of this activity is…tell me why we do this…explain to me why brothers don’t have to do this but our pledges* are required to do this…what is the educational component of this process…if we had to defend this before a group of objective people, what would we say…while the goal is important, isn’t there a better way to teach the lesson?”

The elimination of hazing begins with one voice. Be that voice. Challenge the elephant. You may be surprised to find that a number of your brothers agree with you.

Confront the elephant.

Editor’s Note: Dave Westol is the Owner and CEO of Limberlost Consulting, Inc., in Carmel, Indiana. He has spoken on over 400 campuses and at over 300 national men’s and women’s fraternity and sorority events on hazing, risk management, leadership and motivation, and had the privilege of speaking at Grand Chapter Congress in 2009. His clients include a number of national organizations and he specializes in board of directors orientation and development as well as other aspects of non-profit management.

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