“There are hazers in this room,” Mike Richards, a West Chester University Greek student said looking into the packed audience in the Sykes Theater. “Some of you may already have been hazed.”
Asking how many students are a part of Greek life, hands in the audience raised towards the ceiling, crowding the area. Next the Greek speaker asked how many people in the audience are present for a non-Greek organization. No hands were raised.
One of the biggest misconceptions is the belief that only Greek organizations haze.
Richards noted that only Greek students were present, as they understand hazing is a problem on college campuses. As part of national hazing prevention week, speakers are making attempts to discuss hazing with sport teams, Greek life, and all students to prevent hazing actions from beginning or continuing.
“It doesn’t matter what our past is,” Richards said. “It is what it is.”
Richards said he would not talk about what his chapter or other chapters have done or have not done in their past. He told students hazing ends now. It ends without older chapter members influencing younger members to haze.
National hazing prevention strives to educate students to define hazing actions, in order to end it. According to www.hazingprevention.org, “nine out of ten students who have experienced hazing behavior in college do not consider themselves to have been hazed.”
Hazing can be prevented if activities are identified as hazing. Many “hazing practices” include alcohol consumption, humiliation, isolation, sleep-deprivation, and sexual acts, according to www.hazingprevention.org. See the website for a detailed list of questions one should ask themselves if they believe they are being hazed. Cara Jenkins, Student Affairs, identified hazing new members as any activity “not expected” of your initiated chapter members.
“Why do you haze?” The speaker asked the audience generally. The room remained silent as he reinforced, “if you don’t have an answer, then why are you doing it?”
The speaker argued that any individual across the nation “must care about your future” since they are enrolled in college. He reminded students hazing is a crime. The aspect of the law for Pa. is under chapter 20, Health and Safety, under the Anti-hazing Law. It can be accessed from the website www.hazingprevention.org. WCU is among many universities to have adopted an anti-hazing policy.
Wearing t-shirts printed with “what’s your excuse?” Richards raised several common reasons, rather excuses, that people use to explain their actions of hazing. “That’s the dumbest thing” he would respond to any excuse.
He addressed the excuse, ‘you have to earn your letters’ by instructing members to read over their bi-laws and ritual books. He asked students, “what does it say about hazing?” In response to the excuse of earning letters, one Greek member said members “aren’t meant to earn your letters, just respect them.”
He believes the people who haze their new members are considered the “worst members” of the chapter. They are the ones who “skip” a ritual event, who don’t go to chapter meetings and who “go partying.” “Why is that?” he asked the Greek life community.
According to www.hazingprevention.org, it says, “Someone who has just joined an organization or team could have a hidden background that would make them highly susceptible to serious repercussions if hazed.
One Greek member added that she had come to college from an “abusive household.” With this in her past, she said if her sisters hazed her, she wouldn’t know where she’d be.
A person’s background combined with physical or psychological harms “could put someone at higher risk of being re-traumatized through hazing.” Known as “hidden harm” of hazing, the concept relates to “‘baggage’ that today’s students can bring with them to high school or college.” The concept refers to “the fact that we don’t know everything about the newest members of our organizations” or “our best friends.” (www.hazingprevention.org)
The floor was open for discussion, beginning by reading note-cards that students could anonymously write questions and statements. Students asked questions involving a scenario and asking if it was hazing. The audience would fill with side chatter, but quiet down again to hear what student’s responses were.
“If you don’t know if someone is worthy of being a member when you give them a bid, then you’re doing recruitment wrong,” a fraternity brother said in response to the excuse to ‘weeding out’ new members through hazing.
One student mentioned hazing rumors are spread across campus, and then asked why no one does anything about it. As reported by www.hazingprevention.org nationally, “95% of cases where students identified their experience as hazing, they did not report the events to campus officials.”
An audience member shared a story of their friend, dropped off on a winter night and instructed they could not leave until the new members consumed the alcohol they were left with. The student said they did not know who to turn to.
According to www.hazingprevention.org, 36% of students say they would not report hazing primarily because ‘there’s no one to tell.’ The website advises students and friends to not be a “by-stander” to hazing and that the “most important thing you can do is report it.”
During the presentation, students asked who they could report hazing activities to, if they witness it or hear about it. Suggesting reporting it to an administrator, Greeks were told they can discuss the matter with Jared Brown, Director of Greek Life. Forming an alley with another student or friend developed as a suggestion, in case one finds themselves being hazed.
Ginger Rae Dunbar is a fifth-year student majoring in English with a minor in journalism. She can be reached at RD655287@wcupa.edu.