You are locked in a basement with 40 of your peers. It’s dark, hot and cramped. Your legs shake but you are ordered not to sit, or even use the bathroom. Hours pass until the door opens and your captors descend the steps.
The ritual begins.
This is not the setup for a horror movie, but rather a common account of what is called “hazing.” Scenes like this occur on campuses across the country, and by partaking in National Hazing Prevention Week from Sept. 21-23, Temple tried to ensure that students do not experience anything similar.
National Hazing Prevention Week, organized by hazingprevention.org, is an opportunity for schools to raise awareness about the dangers of hazing and what students and faculty can do to stop it. On Sept. 21, Temple hosted Bystander Intervention, a seminar that explained how to step in when witnessing hazing, attended by an estimated 150 students. At a luncheon on Tuesday, faculty and staff learned what role they can play in prevention. Finally, a guest speaker on Wednesday addressed a crowd of 900 club sport members in Pearson-McGonigle hall on her own hazing experience.
According to StopHazing.org, which was not involved with the event, hazing refers to “any activity expected of someone joining a group that humiliates, degrades or risks emotional and/or physical harm.” Activities range from forced alcohol consumption to paddling to sexual assault, and often have serious consequences. The University of Maryland reports from 1970 to 2014, there has been at least one hazing-related death on a college campus each year. Though most often associated with pledging for fraternities and sororities, hazing also occurs in sports teams and clubs.
The events at Temple were planned in large part by Program Coordinator for Fraternity and Sorority Life Megan Patrick, who believes that hazing does not belong in Greek organizations.
“Not only is it against the law in Pennsylvania and is against the Student Code of Conduct, but morally, it’s wrong,” Patrick said. “Specifically for fraternities and sororities, we are based on our history and our founders, and our founders certainly were not hazers.”
Still, the practice is common. A study by StopHazing found more than half of college students involved in clubs, teams and organizations experience hazing.
“People think that you need to earn your membership—this is how [seniors] demand the respect of the freshmen,” Patrick said. “People try to mask it as tradition and use that as an excuse.”
Sophomore architecture major Emma Palacio, who plays on the women’s ultimate frisbee club, attended the Wednesday meeting and has a different theory about why hazing persists.
“It’s a superiority kind of thing,” Palacio said. “Everyone goes through being objectified in that way. With sports, some are more aggressive than others.”
Palacio said she has not experienced hazing during her time participating in Temple sports. In fact, to Patrick’s knowledge, there have not been any reported cases at Temple.
“I think we have tough students who aren’t going to take being beaten or psychologically [abused],” Patrick said. “We have a committed faculty to make sure that it’s not accepted.”
Senior computer science major, president of the Multicultural Greek Council and member of Delta Chi Psi Alexander Tran said the organizations in which he is involved have no tolerance for hazing or abuse.
“We’re about brotherhood and community, and creating a place where people feel safe and like they belong,” Tan said. “Hazing does not fit into that environment.”
Despite this positive outlook, hazing’s more discrete forms may be going undetected. On its website, Colgate University describes a “subtle” category of hazing that includes manipulation and emotional torment, but is usually seen as harmless.
Palacio was surprised to learn Wednesday’s guest speaker was not aware she was being hazed until after the fact.
“It brought to my attention the mental side of it,” she said.
Still, many agree that more needs to be done to raise awareness beyond the designated National Hazing Prevention Week.
“Hazing right now isn’t a sexy topic,” Patrick said. “Until it becomes a topic of conversation that everyone is willing to breach, it’s probably going to continue.”
Brianna Baker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor’s note: Michaela Winberg, assistant lifestyle editor for The Temple News participates on the women’s ultimate frisbee club. She had no role in the reporting of this.