Normalization of hazing is unacceptable

Troy Wilkinson

It’s national Hazing Prevention Week, so it’s prime time to bring up the problem of hazing once again.

Hazing has been normalized by our society, treating it as weird and funny more than what it should be treated as: inhumane and a grotesque assault on one’s dignity. It happens in more places than you’d expect too.

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Hazing is one of biggest stigmas when it comes to fraternity and sorority life. It’s not in all fraternity or sororities, but it’s definitely still widely prevalent in plenty of them. Hazing is within more than just fraternity and sorority life though. It’s in athletic organizations, honor societies, the military and a wide range of other ones too.

Hazing takes place as a sort of initiation, almost a bonding type of ritual, to become accepted into a larger group like a team or a social circle, but it’s completely backwards to haze an individual so they join an organization. Hazing is not bonding. It is in many cases ridicule, grotesque harassment and sometimes even a task so bad it completely ignores the humanity of the hazee.

Why would people choose to stay within organizations that haze? It seems like common sense to just walk away, but hazing leads to some oddly positive perceptions. For example, in a 2014 study on hazing it was reported that some of those who were hazed felt more like a part of the group, felt a sense of accomplishment, felt strong and thought they were doing better in classes.

People don’t realize how widespread hazing has been and continues to be. In a 2008 study, a report on hazing prevalence revealed that over 70 percent of social fraternity/sorority members as well as those in varsity athletics were hazed. The study showed hazing was prevalent in all sorts of organizations though, from club sports to honor societies. These are frightening figures, and show that if hazing hasn’t happened to you, it’s still rampant throughout college organizations.

If there’s any confusion about how bad hazing can be, let me give some examples. There were cases of a wrestling team sexually assaulting a teammate with a broomstick, a marching band beating a member with fists and instruments (which killed him), and also fraternity members making a pledged candidate run through a field blindfolded with a backpack filled with sand while members tried to tackle him (this eventually killed him due to a lack of medical help after being knocked out).

According to the same 2014 study referenced earlier, reasons many don’t report hazing include thinking it was “no big deal,” a “rite of passage” or that “it was tradition,” even saying that hazing “made me a better man” in some cases. Hazing, for many, has been normalized.

Hazing is not normal. It should never be thought of as normal. It can be seen as just friends messing with each other, but with hazing, there is a fine line and a slippery slope that can lead to fatal result.

The aforementioned 2014 study also showed that 69 percent of students in the study knew hazing was happening on their campus and yet it continues. So when you hear about a hazing ritual or an organization messing with its new members, speak up and realize that escalation will likely happen and lead to horrible rituals and results. Hazing, no matter how small, is unacceptable.

Collegian Columnist Troy Wilkinson is struggling to start kickboxing and can be reached at letters@collegian.com or on Twitter @BluMitts.