Editorial: Halt the hazing

When you Google search hazing, this definition appears on-screen: “the imposition of strenuous, often humiliating, tasks as part of a program of rigorous physical training and initiation.” The term comes from the obsolete French word haser, meaning to tease, insult, frighten, or scold, especially when referring to cattle herding. But human beings, especially college students, are not cattle. We are far more intelligent and capable of processing more emotion than our beefy friends. Because this is true, it is time that students stop treating other students like animals being herded; it is time to treat fellow students like human beings.

Recently, the Dean of Students’ office concluded an investigation about a hazing incident on the men’s lacrosse team. As an institution that boasts its status as “No. 1 in the Nation in Student-Athlete Graduation Rate,” you would think that all of our athletes would demonstrate strong leadership qualities and a sense of dignity, pride, and respect both on and off the field. Why is it that students—not just athletes—feel the need to disrespect and mistreat each other? When referring to hazing, only so much can be said about our strong “campus community.”

Search “hazing” on Google again, and you’ll see pages and pages of college hazing incidents–many from the past, but some that are also shockingly recent. College freshman Chun “Michael” Deng, 19, from Baruch College suffered a fatal head trauma from a hazing ritual and died in February. A Huffington Post article by Associate Editor Tyler Kingkade from March 21 discusses the national Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity (SAE) organization’s recent ban on pledging, which was meant to ensure that new brothers would suffer no hazing. Potentially linked to this decision are the horror stories from an op-ed by Dartmouth SAE chapter member Andrew Lohse, published in The Dartmouth in January 2012. His piece described, in atrocious detail, the truth about his fraternity’s hazing: “I was a member of a fraternity that asked pledges, in order to become a brother, to: swim in a kiddie pool full of vomit, urine, fecal matter, semen and rotten food products; eat omelets made of vomit; chug cups of vinegar,” and much more. What a degrading and unfortunate way to treat human beings, especially those you would call your brother.

But perhaps most unfortunate of all, hazing is not something new to our campus. On May 13, 2011, Dean of Students Susan Lantz sent an email to campus announcing that the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity would be suspended from campus for four years as a result of “hazing and other violations.” Other fraternities have dealt with similar situations, and now one of our Division I Bison Athletics teams has followed suit.

When will it stop? When will hazing become a term for history books rather than a national problem? When will we begin to co-exist and treat others the way we want to be treated? Unfortunate wake-up calls like this current incident may be what it takes to encourage people to stop mistreating others. But as the tried-and-true saying goes, “actions speak louder than words.”

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