Hazed and confused
September 5, 2014
The hazing policy needs to be revised in order to provide a more clear and comprehensive definition of hazing.
Popular culture portrays hazing as a rite of passage or as an act of bonding that allows an individual to gain admittance to a particular group. Standing naked in the cold, stealing the mascot of an opposing group or consuming copious amounts of alcohol in the name of unity and camaraderie is the fluffy, yet wildly inaccurate, portrayal of hazing — which can be harmful and even fatal.
At this university, hazing is considered a violation of the Code of Student Conduct, and is even considered a misdemeanor in this state. While there have not been any hazing incidents reported this semester, the Student Conduct Committee is currently reviewing a bill that seeks to revamp this university’s hazing policy.
The Hazing Prevention Task Force, a group formed in December 2012, deemed that the current policy is not as comprehensive as it should be and that the definition of hazing requires more specific examples of the act. Though it would seem like a black and white issue, hazing seems to fall into shades of gray.
According to the Office of Student Conduct hazing includes: sleep deprivation, compulsory servitude, paddling, the forced consumption of alcohol or drugs and myriad other acts associated with hazing. The revision will provide a more comprehensive definition of hazing.
One point of concern with the policy’s revision is that it seeks to include a revision that would reprimand or punish victims of hazing who are willing participants. According to Andrea Goodwin, director of the student conduct office, this revision could potentially stop the vicious cycle of hazing. By punishing willing participants, the new policy could stop groups of new members from undergoing hazing.
This rationale makes sense. It would not be surprising that a group of people who were hazed before would want to make sure new group members “pay their dues.” This revision could better communicate to hazers and victims that participating in hazing can lead to violating the student conduct code.
However, how could the student conduct code determine whether a victim of hazing was willing? According to StopHazing, an advocacy website that seeks to end hazing, the act of hazing can be defined as an activity that endangers an individual whether or not they are willing to participate.
It would be difficult for the Office of Student Conduct to determine whether or not a man lying in a pool of vomit is there willingly, his autonomy aside. StopHazing also reveals that nine out of 10 individuals who experience textbook hazing incidents do not consider themselves to have been hazed. This alarming statistic indicates that many individuals cannot be completely considered willing participants. This could blossom into victim blaming of the worst degree.
If the University Senate Executive Committee passes the policy to punish willing victims when the bill is sent for review in November, the Office of Student Conduct can fall onto a slippery slope.
While it seems there is not a hazing epidemic at this university, the decision to revise the policy is necessary. Specifying what constitutes hazing at this university will clear up the muddied waters and potentially alert those who are unaware of their hazing. In order to avoid those elusive shades of gray, the policy needs to provide more specific examples of hazing. And instead of punishing the victims of hazing, whether they are deemed willing or not, the true perpetrators need to be punished: the hazers who continue the cycle of abuse.