Talking hazing to prevent hazing among college students

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EL PASO — As part of Hazing Prevention Week 2015 at UTEP, students played a game in which they placed red or green pellets in boxes containing different potential scenarios: red if they thought it was not hazing and green if they thought that it was. Sometimes the scenarios fell into the “gray area” for participants, highlighting one of the biggest problems of hazing for some students – knowing when the line has been crossed.

Delecia McPherson, president of the National Panhellenic Council at UTEP, said the scenario game and other exercises were great ways to engage students in discussions about activities that may humiliate, degrade, abuse or endanger group members or initiates – even if they seem willing to participate.

“I believe my knowledge on hazing has better informed students on what is considered hazing and how we can question situations that may draw a fine line on the subject,” she said.

National Hazing Prevention Week ran from September 21 through the 25. Students distributed “Hazing Prevention Week” buttons and placed their paint-covered hands on a banner to make the statement “These Hands Don’t Haze.” The campaign aimed to bring awareness to prevent hazing for all college students, not just those in fraternities and sororities.

hpw5.jpgThe national project is organized by HazingPrevention.org which was started in 2007 by Tracy Maxwell, to focus on preventing hazing from happening instead of waiting to punish those who haze after the fact. According to the organization’s website, “more than half of students in colleges and universities involved in clubs, sports teams and organizations have experienced hazing.”

The goal of Hazing Prevention Week is to encourage students and faculty to report hazing incidents if they happen to them or someone they know.

Hazing is an issue that has been prevalent since the beginning of institutions. According to Associate Professor of Journalism and Hazing Prevention blog author Hank Nuwer, the first reported incident of a hazing related death was in 1838 at Franklin Seminary in Kentucky. Nuwer also states that there has been at least one hazing death every year since 1969.

Members of Zeta Tau Alpha sorority at UTEP's Hazing Prevention Week event. Photo by Kennedy Barnes, Borderzine.com

Members of Zeta Tau Alpha sorority at UTEP’s Hazing Prevention Week event. Photo by Kennedy Barnes, Borderzine.com

Thirty seven people were charged in connection with the death of 19-year-old Chun “Michael” Deng at Baruch College in New York, who died during a Pi Delta Psi new member hazing ritual in 2013. Deng was forced to carry a backpack filled with 20 pounds of sand while blindfolded. After being beaten and struck repeatedly on the head, Deng fell unconscious. Members of the fraternity changed his clothes and waited two hours to drive him to the hospital, where he later died.

Police said that the delay greatly contributed to the young man’s death. The charges filed against the students include criminal conspiracy, hazing, as well as third-degree murder. 44 states in the United States have laws regarding hazing, including Texas. Other states, such as New Mexico, Hawaii, Alaska, Montana, Wyoming, and South Dakota do not currently have any laws.

UTEP currently has 6 active fraternities and 7 active sororities. Four Greek organizations have been disciplined for hazing, including Sigma Lambda Gamma, Delta Sigma Pi, Lambda Chi Alpha and Phi Delta Theta, according to an email sent to students in August by Catie McCorry-Andalis, associate vice president and dean of students. The email noted that “in accordance with State law (Texas Education Code Section 51.936 and Sections 37.151-37.157), educational institutions shall distribute a list of organizations that have been disciplined for hazing or convicted for hazing on or off campus of the institution during the preceding three years.”

hpw6.jpgAntton Robinson, a sophomore at UTEP, said that he thinks hazing is a complete waste of time.

“No one gets anything out of it but embarrassment, laughs, and in some cases bodily harm. It’s just not worth getting into trouble for or steering away possible members,” Robinson said.

In order to combat hazing, UTEP has set requirements that members of fraternities and sororities on the campus of UTEP must meet in order to stay active. These include attending risk reduction training workshops and the completion of risk management modules on the UTEP website. Education is considered one of the most important components in preventing hazing.

“Hazing is unfair and immoral. Anyone wishing to join an organization shouldn’t have to go through hazing as a way to prove their worth as an individual,” McPherson said.

 

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