Chris Koss remembers the chant of “Don’t be last, don’t be last” as he was handed a bottle of alcohol at a fraternity event last year.
Koss, a senior majoring in psychology, also remembers standing in silence for hours in the sweltering heat of a pitch-black basement while wearing a suit.
Memories of hazing at an unnamed fraternity led Koss to create the organization Greeks Against Hazing. This week, some fraternity members are wearing shirts that say “Anti-Hazing” around campus.
“Hazing is secretive [and] coercive,” Koss said.
He is also the president of Theta Chi fraternity, which deems itself a “non-hazing” fraternity. Koss said he joined Theta Chi after his experience with hazing in another fraternity.
He said he loves his brothers and fraternity but wants Greek life at USC to be held to a higher standard. Koss plans to hold seminars and discussion groups about hazing, inviting all Greek members to be educated about the issue.
“The only way to stop hazing in my mind is if everyone agrees that hazing is a bad thing. That’s what I want to do,” Koss said.
So Koss is striving to make hazing a thing of the past for all the fraternities on The Row, because, he said, the activity hurts not only the house’s pledge class but all fraternities.
“It’s really rooted in the egos of the people who are the hazers,” he said. “I think it’s hurting the greek system as a whole.”
Interfraternity Council President Eric Ronan said that the idea of stopping hazing is already shared among all fraternities.
“There were no instances where any fraternity was caught for hazing. The IFC has a strict no hazing policy here at USC,” Ronan said.
As president of IFC, Ronan required to report any hazing incidences to the police.
“Here in California it is against the law and, therefore, people are not participating in it anymore,” Ronan said. “People always hear about rumors, [but] I wouldn’t say any of that is true.”
Although hazing has a vague definition at different universities, the office of USC Student Organizations lists branding the body, peer pressure, sleep deprivation and forcing substances on pledges as examples of hazing situations.
“Hazing is physical abuse,” said Daniel Shia, a junior majoring in business administration and member of Sigma Chi fraternity. “We try to have the pledges have a pride [of] their own rather than kind of force them into it.”
Lucas Biging, a senior majoring in geography, is also a member of Sigma Chi. He said his fraternity has a policy like Theta Chi’s but admits such no-hazing practices are a rarity on The Row.
“We don’t haze … We’re one of the few though,” Biging said.
Despite the efforts of IFC, various fraternity and sorority members who wished to remain anonymous admitted that hazing still exists.
“I had some people come up to me and say, ‘There’s no such thing as fraternities that don’t haze,’” Koss said. “It sorts of gets passed down through the years and becomes the status quo.”
Only Theta Chi members have been seen wearing the “anti-hazing” shirts, Koss said.
Shia doesn’t think students have to wear such shirts to show that they oppose hazing, however.
“I think it’s an image issue really. [But] nobody likes to be hazed,” Shia said.
And although Ronan acknowledges that hazing might be a part of the fraternity image, he says fraternities are more about making close friends than drinking and partying.
“I feel like I have a hundred best friends,” Ronan said. “You have the opportunity to get to know someone on a more personal level, things you wouldn’t tell anyone else. You have people around that you can trust your life with.”