Pledge Secrets

Main Description:

AB: “What other frat traditions can you tell me about?”

RD: “Ugh, it’s hard… there’s like, so many things I could talk about but I can’t tell you. Oh my god, I think I know one… Maybe I’ll tell you, but let me think about it for a second… Oh I know what to tell you, this is safe.”

“So, on the first night of pledging, it’s a really long night, and most of it’s just learning the fundamentals, like chants, and stuff. That’s the part I can’t tell you about, and there’s so much there. That’s like, the stuff that’s written down in the official Chi Delt* handbook. But what I’m about to tell you about is something that just our frat does. Anyway, like I was saying, after the pledges do all the chants and other things I can’t tell you about we do something called “shut-in.”* Everybody in the frat has to be there, and we all share really personal stories. It’s really late at that point, usually like four A.M., so were all tired as hell and like, just already really drained. You don’t have to tell a story, but like, you have to. I was never ready, so I don’t remember telling any good stories, but guys will talk about really dark and really personal stuff. They’ll talk about like drug addiction and abusive family members… God, people have shared some tragic things. Sometimes people share funny ones to lighten up the mood though. Anyways, it’s a pretty big deal. People will save bad things that happened to them just to share them at shut-in. Part of the shut-in thing is also being supportive. You cheer people on when they get upset or start crying.”

Informant’s interpretation:

AB: “So, why is this tradition so important to your frat, and to you?”

RD: “I mean, I think it’s the first time you get depth out of some people. Guys don’t usually talk about super heavy stuff, so a lot of people seem just like, kinda empty until they open up. It’s a moment of connection, which is pretty much why I joined a frat in the first place. I’ve always been anxious around straight men and not super close with them, so this was really, like, probably the first time in my life I ever felt a deep connection with a straight guy.”

Personal interpretation:

The informant emphasizes the importance of connecting with fraternity brothers in this tradition. As he notes, American men are typically not open about personal difficulties, so moments like this are crucial to establishing the bonds of trust needed between fraternity members. The name, “shut-in,” suggests the security of the stories shared that night, alluding to the importance of trust.


*names invented to respect informant’s wishes