When a student accepts a bid, he or she begins pledging. Pledging periods vary from a few weeks to several months. Once pledging is completed, the young man/woman becomes a brother/sister of the fraternity/sorority. The young men who pledge comprise a pledge class. During the pledge period, class members learn about the ceremonies, traditions, by-laws, and national activities associated with personalities of their future brothers or sisters.
Fraternity pledge periods are generally more physically demanding and longer lasting than sorority pledge periods. Fraternity pledges are sometimes instructed to perform duties of a physical nature such as cleaning. Also, many fraternities insist their pledges show up for duty early in the morning.
This is fraternity pledge season on American campuses, when many students come to classes late or not at all. Instead, they try to meet the demands of ritual initiation. They memorize the Greek alphabet backwards, they chug grain alcohol mixed with mayonnaise and they attend secret meetings. They yearn to belong.
Fraternity life, assumed to be countercultural road kill in the 70's, is thriving again. There are black fraternities, Hispanic, Jewish and gay fraternities; of the nation's three million male undergraduates, 400,000 belong to Greek-letter organizations. Some frats run date-rape seminars during the pledge period. Others hit candidates over the head with dictionaries. Many do both.
Hazing occurs on nearly every campus every fall, and every fall, somewhere, the hazing process goes wrong, resulting in serious injuries and even death. Campus infirmaries and paramedics dread the season, when naked pledges are tied to trees, locked in car trunks, tossed into rivers, sent running through flaming gasoline.
Some pledge but some quit during Hell Week; some decide not to buy their friends. Many who stay believe all their lives in the mystic ties of brotherhood. But when former pledges get to haze, some have second thoughts. "Hazing is very educational about human nature," one rush chairman stated. "The nicest, politest, most churchgoing people turn out to be so mean and angry. And cruel, if you give them the little power."