The W’s campus has heard a lot about hazing. Stopping these practices has been one of the campus administration’s main goals in recent years.
But what is it? And how can it be stopped?
Hazing is defined as “humiliating and sometimes dangerous initiation rituals, especially as imposed on college students seeking membership to a fraternity or sorority.” Stophazing.org reports that half of college students experience hazing of some kind, and 95 percent of them fail to report it to officials. Most of those who chose not to report said that it was because they feared “negative consequences.”
So how does one go about preventing these dangerous rituals? What happens when someone does decide to risk the consequences and come forward? More specifically, what is The W doing to prevent hazing and ensure a safe Greek life or social club experience for its students?
Education is a key
The main step in preventing hazing is to fully understand what it is. The W, Student Life and sponsors take many actions in preventing hazing, and one of the most important is educating the individuals in the organizations.
“We do education sessions,” said Kendall Robertson, assistant director of Student Life. “So each year, student organizations are required to fill out the anti-hazing statement, which they can find on OrgSync. You check the little box that says, ‘I read and I agree.’”
There are several anti-hazing events that Student Life sponsors throughout each semester. Social organizations are required to attend an anti-hazing seminar in the fall. There is also an incorporation of hazing education into the Leadership summit held in the spring. At least 75-80 percent of students connected with a club must attend these seminars or disciplinary action will occur. This is to insure that the majority of the club is aware of university policies.
New members also go through a hazing prevention workshop that takes place towards the middle or end of September. National organizations are required to discuss hazing at their interest meetings before any applications are turned in from potential new members.
If a student reports hazing on campus, a specific process is set in place to handle those reports.
“If a hazing issue does come up, it’s reported through the university website, and it goes through the dean of students, and then that determines, you know, the process,” said Robertson. “So, officially, we’re not involved in the hazing procedure that goes on, so like if there was a hazing case that came up and it needed to go through the process, we would not be involved on our end, just because we are so involved with the students already. That would all be handled by Sirena Cantrell, Dean of Students.”
The goal is to make W social organizations a safe, fun group for everyone. Eric Harlan, social club sponsor and communication instructor, commended The W’s hazing policy for providing safe limitations for members.
“I am satisfied, and I am happy that the university is combatting hazing because when you get a lot of young people together without direction, sometimes bad things can happen,” said Harlan.
Reputations are at stake
However, there are downsides to The W’s policy.
“The hazing rule - what constitutes hazing - is vague,” said Harlan. “Depending on how you read it, everything can be considered hazing.”
Still, hazing can be detrimental to a person’s life, which is why The W works so hard to combat any issues that may occur. Farron Whitt, a nursing student at The W and a former member of the Mam’selles social club, knows firsthand just how seriously reports are taken.
“It went straight to the head person of [Student Life], which was a good thing, and she took it very seriously,” said Whitt. “It literally took her weeks to go through everything and she was calling in everybody. She wasn’t just taking one side or someone else’s side.”
Whitt praised Student Life for taking their time with the issue and not dismissing it. Now her goal is to make sure students are aware of the damage that hazing can do to a person.
“It’s not that they told us our hair looked bad or our outfits didn’t match,” said Whitt. “They got into our lives, which could have very bad, damaging effects if they would have told the right people or if I hadn’t known the police officers on campus. It could have affected my nursing career for me. I could have been kicked out of school, and The W’s got the best nursing program in the state. You get kicked out of here, other nursing programs won’t look at you, either.”
A campus commitment
Whitt warned students to remember that hazing is more than bullying.
“You would think that we’re in college and we’re mature enough, but that’s not always the case,” said Whitt. “When you start talking about drugs and alcohol and things like that, and blaming someone and saying that they’re hazing someone else, it gets a lot more serious.”
Perhaps that is why the university has been working to educate students about the practices and treat them seriously when they occur.
Dr. Jim Borsig has made combating hazing one of his top priorities since becoming president of The W in 2011. In a Visions magazine article he reiterated his commitment to creating a safe campus.
"We want to maintain cherished traditions while still fostering an environment of inclusion and respect," Borsig said. "Hazing endangers and diminishes our university community.
"I ask you to be willing to intervene and use your power to stop behavior that is wrong or dangerous and be willing to report it. Sexual assault, harassment, stalking and domestic abuse, as well as hazing and bullying, diminish each of us,” he said.