Attempting to define hazing by listing behaviors is futile and misguided. Hazing is not a behavior. It cannot be diagnosed simply by comparing observable acts with a list.
This sounds reasonable, but why do these strategies fall short (when used alone)?
There is more oxygen in the air in Vegas, we have increased exposure to risky situations in college, and there are social taboos against calling out a friend. Environment is a powerful enabler, and despite our best attempts to be the one to do things differently, the world around us always has a trump card.
On a recent hazing prevention project, we asked students how they felt about a series of situations commonly associated with hazing. To our great surprise, 75-98% of students found each situation to be unacceptable.
The lesson? We don't need to preach about the perils of hazing. Or hammer home the rules. Or argue about what's ethical. They get it!
I met Karen in first grade, and she quickly became my best friend. I remember being so excited every time we got the chance to play together, and I remember how much I hated it when one of us had to go home. I wanted Karen to be a part of everything I did: swimming, dancing, playing tag and hide-and-go-seek. At times when we weren’t allowed to play together, it though the world was about to end. It seemed as if I would we never be able to play Barbies again! When I went off to college and joined a sorority, I felt the same way about my new sisters. New member education was new, exciting, and always fun! I attended every single activity and wanted to be on every possible committee. I signed up for everything, and if I was unable to attend, it felt as if my world had ended. Just like my friendship with Karen, I was thrilled about becoming involved with a group of sisters that would be a major part of my life forever.
"They have to respect us!” This phrase comes up time after time when we are coaching fraternity and sorority leaders on how to improve their new member education programs. They insist that ‘respect from new members’ be listed as one of the goals. Every time I hear this, the voice of Eric Cartman starts shouting in the back of my head, “Respect My Authoritah!” For those who may not remember, here is a refresher: In season 2, Cartman becomes the sheriff of South Park. Despite constant efforts to be taken seriously, no one gives him the respect that he believes he deserves. In one scene, Cartman rides up on his big-wheel, pulls over his friend Stan’s dad (who was driving the speed limit), and begins challenging him:
Two weeks ago, Dallas Cowboys rookie Dez Bryant refused to carry pads for veteran teammate Roy Williams, and then later changed his tune. More recently, Tim Tebow accepted a ridiculous haircut in order to gain the respect of his teammates. A number of sports reporters then brushed off this poor example of role modeling as an ‘age old tradition’ which should be celebrated and upheld. (Read Searching for Heroes to learn more). Yesterday, Peyton Manning chimed in with his take on the issue and told a very different story. So, are haircuts, errands, and pranks really hazing? Should we be so concerned? Are they truly harmless? Which athlete’s example should we follow? The answers range dramatically depending on whose opinion you ask. This is one of the great challenges in overcoming hazing practices: how can these seemingly insignificant incidents fall under the same policy which targets alcohol abuse, sexual assault and physical attacks? We need some clarity here.
After a 44 year absence, the North Korean soccer team finally returned to the World Cup in 2010, only to lose three games in a row and return home. This is a crushing story for the country, but it is also to be expected for any team’s first appearance in a major tournament. Unfortunately, officials in North Korea didn’t see the same silver lining. According to a story on ESPN today, “The team and coach Kim Jong-Hun were summoned to a July 2, six-hour meeting at the People's Palace of Culture in Pyongyang and subjected to severe criticism.” Team members were confronted in front of 400 onlookers before being forced to reprimand their coach. The coach was also chastised by officials for betraying the country’s leaders.
Last week a colleague called me to ask for help. Apparently, a handful of chapters are showing a pattern of violations and confusion around risk management policy and the NPC unanimous agreements. She has now been charged with creating and presenting a policy training session for each chapter. She was concerned, because the program could very easily turn into the typical pain-filled policy reading. Instead, she wanted to do something more meaningful and interesting that might actually work. If she had done what most people do: