Western rite of adulthood and network building.
Truly it's not so different from the rites of admission you have in tribal cultures.
I don't know specifically how it works in the US, but here in Belgium we have a long tradition of "students societies" in universities almost 2
Students aren't organized in "fraternities" but in "circles" depending on their faculty or geographical origins.
These circles will recruit new members each year (non mandatory today but in the past being a member of a circle gave access to some academic help and
a huge network of people).
New members have to go through various trials including drinking a lot of beer (but you can refuse it and drink water) and being humiliated, but also
learning student folklore, songs and latin locutions.
Eventually it always ends with the person being accepted as an esteemed member of the circle.
It can happen that some people abuse this situation to hurt or manipulate some new students. Usually the other members make sure it doesn't happen but
some people are just sociopaths who don't get the point of these rites.
Since it's not mandatory anymore there are less and less people partaking in it but also it reduces the privileges of members VS non members, which is
a good thing IMO.
I believe that in the US fraternity tradition has evolved a bit to become more about building networks of wealthy students so they can stick together,
get wasted, and find a job easier later while remaining within these circles.
It allows wealthy people to keep their social privileges by staying with people from the same social circles. It's natural and most people/socio
economic classes do this unconsciously through life, but it does tend to prevent social mobility.
Here studies are subsidized so wealth isn't a factor in joining a student organisation. It's truly more about perpetuating student folklore and
building a network of students, like alumni for people who graduated.
I enjoyed my participation in student societies and student life in general. It helped that the "hazing" part was really understood for what it was
(making the new student more humble to integrate him in the group more easily, and also to deliver a powerful experience that will serve as a bonding
agent between all the new students) and so it felt more like a play than a real will of humiliation. Older students had to make sure that no one was
ever in physical or psychological danger. The etymology of "to humiliate" is literally "to make humble" so if you wonder what is the original point of
hazing there you go.
Also when despite all this abuse does happen, then people have to face their responsibility and the abuser is denounced to the authorities. It's very
rare though compared to the occurrences of abuse in everyday's life.
edit on 30-3-2016 by SugarDaddy because: (no reason given)