Hazing Prevention

Student Voice Can Influence the Administrative Agenda

This article was originally published in the 2013 National Hazing Prevention Week Resource Guide ‘Know.Decide.Act’

Student Voice Can Influence the Administrative Agenda

By Molly Peirano

I was not very familiar with hazing prevention and had failed to realize the impact of subtle hazing, so I had a lot to learn at the institute. With an abundance of new knowledge from the Novak Institute, I was curious to find out what hazing looked like on my campus (The Ohio State University), what research had been done around the subject of hazing on campus, and what efforts were made to prevent hazing.

Upon my return from the Novak Institute, I heeded the urge of Kim Novak to speak up, and I reached out to The Ohio State University’s Assistant Director of the Ohio Union, Sharrell Hassell-Goodman. Since Sharrell works with Fraternity and Sorority Life and I was active in the community as a member of Delta Gamma, I felt comfortable to begin conversation with her about hazing and hazing prevention on OSU’s campus.

During our initial meeting, Sharrell explained the data that OSU did have about what hazing looks like on our campus, how hazing is perceived, etc. She also enlightened me about previous and current efforts from Fraternity and Sorority Life with hazing prevention. We both agreed that hazing prevention needed to be brought to the forefront and we determined that we should form a hazing prevention workgroup.

As a member of your campus community, whether you are in a club or organization, on a team, or a student, you should feel empowered to start the conversation about hazing prevention. On your college campus, find an administrator, a student affairs’ professional, an advisor, or another trusted person with whom to discuss hazing prevention. Someone who is more familiar with the institution can provide insight about any research that has been done concerning hazing in the community or past or current attempts with hazing prevention.

This historical knowledge can help you figure out what has been successful and what has not, so you have a base to make decisions about what approach may be right for your community. Also, remember that despite often-busy schedules, most administrators, student affairs’ professionals, and campus advisors want to engage with and hear from students, so it is important to initiate this conversation about hazing prevention.

Once Sharrell and I decided to form a hazing prevention workgroup, we brainstormed topics that needed discussed and main objectives for the group. In order to formulate the topics and the objectives, we utilized materials from the Novak Institute for Hazing Prevention and also considered basic questions, such as: 1. What do we know about what hazing looks like at OSU? 2. What should hazing prevention look like on our campus? 3. How can students engage with their peers in hazing prevention? Sharrell and I also established who would lead each part of the meeting, so that it was both staff and student led.

Once we had discussion items for the initial meetings, we established a list of administrators, staff, students, fraternity and sorority advisors, and fraternity and sorority headquarters staff to invite to join the group. It was our intention to involve all facets of the campus community, so we reached out to many areas of student life, including those working in the areas of leadership development, athletics, parent/family outreach, clubs and organizations, and fraternity and sorority life. Unfortunately, the meetings primarily only consisted of those with a direct connection to fraternity and sorority life.

As a student, try to find a way to collaborate with a professional. This will help incorporate both professional and student perspectives, which will allow you to meet the institution’s needs and expectations and help speak to the current student population. Also, there are often many demands placed on campus professionals, so your assistance with hazing prevention efforts can help ensure they remain on the forefront and are completed. Try to be inclusive in your approach to hazing prevention, since students are affected by so many areas of campus life; if you are in the performing arts group, do not hesitate to strike up conversation with or invite those in honor societies, military groups, athletics, etc.

Despite your efforts to have a comprehensive approach, do not get discouraged if all areas of your campus are not ready or able to participate in hazing prevention efforts. Work with the students, professionals, or volunteers that are willing and able to participate and continue to invite those from other areas. Perhaps, they will be able to join at another time or can provide insights from afar.

The hazing prevention workgroup meetings continued, and we began to invite more students to engage in the conversations. OSU Fraternity and Sorority Life also hosted more co-curricular leadership classes, which discussed personal values and fraternal values. Many of the students from the workgroup and the classes felt empowered to carry these conversations to their own organizations, and a few were able to abate hazing traditions in their organizations.

With more students in the OSU community willing to discuss hazing and hazing prevention, more students stopped being bystanders and reported acts of hazing, suspected acts of hazing, or behaviors that could eventually lead to hazing. With an influx of hazing reports, the Vice President of Student Life at OSU charged a task force to address hazing concerns. Members of the hazing prevention workgroup began meeting with the Office of Student Conduct to develop an investigation process.

With this new charge from the vice president, members from all areas of the campus community joined in the discussion of following up with hazing incidents and how to prevent hazing in the future. We were able to develop a student-led investigation process for hazing incidents and sanctions that involved an educational element, in order to hopefully prevent similar occurrences in the future. Once the conduct elements were established, a group continued to meet to develop a comprehensive plan for hazing prevention, and it was recently submitted to the Vice President of Student Life for approval.

Your efforts can often evolve, so, again, do not give up if everyone you would like to have involved in your hazing prevention efforts is not willing or able to participate at first. The simple conversations you have with those who are willing to engage can create a huge impact, such as the students speaking up for the hazing that was occurring. Most importantly, be willing to speak up and make hazing prevention a point of conversation. With patience and persistence, you can help make hazing prevention a priority on your campus’ administrative agenda. You are a student, and your voice matters, so speak up and help prevent hazing.