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Since the practice of pledging and all second-class status practices were abolished in ZBT in 1989, all men are initiated as full equals with full rights and respect within 72 hours of being invited to join the fraternity. Our leadership believes pledging is indicative of a culture of hazing that we do not support. All brothers take part in a brotherhood enrichment program that includes education and relationship building called THE JOURNEY.


THE JOURNEY is the brotherhood development program for all ZBT brothers, undergraduate and alumni. It is an evolving program and includes education for newly initiated brothers, brothers by class, all chapter/prospective chapter brothers, chapter/prospective chapter leaders, advisors and alumni. Related online resources are available to enhance the personal development and journey of all chapter/prospective chapter brothers.

THE JOURNEY program eliminates absolute power by eliminating the “second-class citizen” status created by pledging, and replacing it with quality standards, memorable events, education and a good time for all brothers.


  • ALL ZBTs ARE EQUAL. Pledging is prohibited. Separate membership statuses and terminologies (“associates,” “nibs,” “kids,” etc.) are prohibited. No second-class status is permitted.
  • The rights and privileges of a ZBT are granted immediately upon his acceptance of a bid. The maximum period permitted between bid acceptance and the initiation ritual is 72 hours. There is no minimum period required between bidding and initiation. Initiation forms and fees must be collected prior to initiation and remitted to ZBT within 72 hours of initiation.
  • Standards, practices, and activities that apply to one brother, apply to all brothers, regardless of class year.
  • All chapters and prospective chapter must use THE JOURNEY program.

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.

Pledging doesn’t:

  • 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 by one or more sadists in a chapter.

Non-Pledging FAQs

Zeta Beta Tau is proud to be the first fraternity that abolished pledging.

Zeta Beta Tau’s brotherhood program is known as THE JOURNEY. THE JOURNEY focuses on the lifelong commitment that brothers make to ZBT. We believe brothers need to earn their membership every day.

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 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/prospective chapter. Pledging promotes animosity within the 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 should be utilized by all brothers in ZBT. THE  JOURNEY contains multiple components, including:

  • Initial brother education where recently initiated brothers learn about the values, history and heritage of the Fraternity, as well as how to get involved in their chapter/prospective chapter and on campus.
  • All chapter/prospective chapter education where we promote a balance of fraternity activities in the areas of social, bonding, athletics, alumni, service and education.
  • All brother education where chapters conduct yearly programs on topics including but not limited to: alcohol use, risk management, sexual assault prevention, suicide prevention, health and wellness issues and more.
  • Education by class where specific educational programs are held for freshman, sophomores, juniors and seniors based on their interests, such as selecting a major, dressing for interviews and networking successfully.
  • Leadership education where brothers will develop skills in conflict management, goal setting and more to become effective leaders.
  • The Big Brother program where older brothers serve as mentors to newly initiated brothers.

The use of guest speakers and campus resources are encouraged.

THE JOURNEY at the chapter level

Every ZBT chapter and prospective chapter should observe ZBT procedures. View the following resources for more information: