Fraternity Without Pledging
Zeta Beta Tau is proud to be the first fraternity that abolished pledging.
Zeta Beta Tau’s brotherhood program is known as THE JOURNEY. This program focuses on the lifelong commitment that brothers make to ZBT and to each other. We believe brothers need to earn their membership every day. Learn more on THE JOURNEY.
Why Does ZBT Prohibit Pledging?
Pledging always results in hazing.
Hazing inevitably results from the dominant-subservient structure of pledging and the absolute power that brothers have over pledges. In addition, the last group of pledges always wants to “do it” (hazing) to the next group. The chapter’s pattern of hazing often starts with small things. Those small things are expanded upon with each new class, until someone gets hurt, or the chapter gets caught.
What is hazing?
“Hazing” refers to any activity expected of someone joining a group that humiliates, degrades or risks emotional and/or physical harm, regardless of the person’s willingness to participate. Hazing is abusive, derogatory and intimidating.
Pledging is destructive to true brotherhood.
Under pledging systems, the chapter is run by the chapter officers who do the planning and decision making, and the pledges who do the dirty work. They know that the chapter won’t take action because of the “once you’re in, you’re in” attitude created by pledging. “I’ve done my time” gives someone license to pick and choose their participation, regardless of the chapter’s needs. Apathy is permitted and encouraged in fraternity chapters that pledge.
Pledging doesn’t do what it is intended to do.
- Make someone “earn” his membership. Their mistake is in assuming that “earning one’s membership” ends on the day of initiation. All successful organizations believe that “earning” one’s right to membership is a day-in, day-out obligation; in ZBT, “earning one’s membership” starts on the day of initiation and continues for life.
- Bond people together. Bonding by forced (required) ordeal bonds only in terms of that experience. Hazed pledges may bond as a result of being hazed, but only as a group, not with the rest of the Brothers. Bonding that comes from freely chosen experiences is a highly personal phenomenon. People bond because they have something in common.
What, then, does pledging do that can’t be done without pledging? Pledging gives people the opportunity to haze other people by blackmail “if you don’t do what I want you to do, I’ll get you thrown out …” Pledging and hazing is fun only for bullies.
Hazing is illegal in most states and provinces.
Hazing is illegal in most states and provinces, and violates the rules and policies of all North American colleges and universities and all fraternities.
A true brotherhood is based on equality.
Pledging is an inequitable system, based upon organized mistreatment of people by treating them as subhuman. Pledging gives brothers absolute power over pledges; that power is frequently abused.
Here are answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about the membership development process.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is pledging?
Pledging a fraternity is often referred to as the time between when a bid is offered to a new recruit and he is formally initiated into the fraternity. For many fraternities, this period occurs over several weeks. Pledges have limited rights and extended responsibilities and have no guarantee that they will become brothers.
Pledging was not part of the founding of fraternities; rather it emerged as a practice after World War II.
The unnatural dominant/ subservient relationship between the brother and the pledge leads to an imbalanced fraternity. This imbalance may lead down a path that can spiral out of control, potentially leading to hazing.
How are pledging and hazing related?
Leading up to the decision to abolish pledging in 1989, the ZBT Supreme Council saw a continuous series of disciplinary problems and lawsuits that mostly resulted from hazing incidents. The Supreme Council determined that pledging did not promote the values of ZBT because pledging creates a two-tier class system that always leads to hazing. Pledging does not create good brothers — it teaches that once the pledge period is over, there is no further obligation to the Fraternity. Pledging makes good pledges, not great brothers.
What does it mean to be a fraternity without pledging?
Zeta Beta Tau prides itself that our brotherhood is built upon equality and that all brothers share equal rights and responsibilities from the beginning. This also places emphasis on the fact that ZBT is a lifelong brotherhood.
How does ZBT build brotherhood without a pledge period?
Pledging does not build a strong brotherhood in a chapter or prospective chapter. Pledging promotes animosity within chapters and prospective chapters by focusing on a pledge class. Brotherhood is built over a lifetime in ZBT through the shared experiences of our brothers.
Through THE JOURNEY, brothers are offered ongoing opportunities to strengthen their relationships with other brothers, develop leadership skills and become involved on campus and in their communities.
How does THE JOURNEY work?
THE JOURNEY consists of eight components:
- Brotherhood Orientation: Initiates begin their JOURNEY in brotherhood through a 1-day orientation to ZBT’s history, identity, and operations.
- Big Brother Mentoring: Initiates are paired with a big brother, who follows a formal process for providing mentoring and assistance.
- Brotherhood Building Activities: All brothers complete five chapter-wide activities each term to reconnect and strengthen their bonds of brotherhood.
- Brotherhood retreat: Brothers gather for a retreat each term to revisit ZBT’s precepts, Credo, and identity as an inclusive Jewish fraternity.
- Milestone workshop: Once each academic term, brothers look back on what they have learned through THE JOURNEY and plan their next steps in personal development.
- Educational programs: The Provost organizes educational workshops to help brothers achieve their personal development goals.
- Core and elective experiences: Brothers complete new experiences each academic term to prepare for success after college.
- Senior and alumni panels: Seniors and alumni share the lessons they learned through THE JOURNEY.
What do I do if I am hazed or if I see hazing activities?
If you or someone you know is subjected to hazing, call the anonymous hazing hotline at 1-888-NOT-HAZE (1-888-668-4293) or complete an anonymous online form here.