The College of William and Mary was recently awarded $10,000 from HazingPrevention.org in commendation of its efforts to prevent hazing and to further those same initiatives. While pats on the back are always gratifying, and the money will no doubt be put to good use, this is not the time for the College to rest on its laurels and bask in self-congratulation. In order for the College to continue to deal with hazing effectively, there is a stark reality that needs to be addressed.
Hazing is a part of campus culture, just as drinking and sex. But, unlike the latter two activities, hazing remains in a shroud of secrecy. It’s the stuff of hushed tones and hearsay, and because it is always below the surface, the College is not able to adequately educate students about it. It should not take a student landing in the hospital for the wider campus community to become aware of hazing. Students should be learning about hazing the moment they move in their freshman year.
Everyone at the College underwent Orientation — five days of inundation by information on the dangers of drinking, sex and plagiarism, and learning how to navigate those activities healthfully. But there was not enough on hazing, and that’s the problem. The College knows hazing is happening — it would be foolish to assume otherwise — but it’s entirely possible the College is unaware of just how widespread it is. The administration needs to take heed of the fact that hazing does not exist solely within the realm of Greek life. Many campus organizations haze, and with the strong push for students at the College to join organizations, it stands to reason many more students are being hazed than the College assumes.
Because the College doesn’t educate students enough about hazing early on, it becomes an unknown, fearful thing. Students who are hazed usually do not go in knowing what to expect, nor do they know when enough is enough. Hazing can be relatively benign — a bit of light drinking or not even that. That said, it can escalate, and when it does, students need to be smart and know they can always walk away. This seemingly simple idea becomes a lot more difficult for students to grasp when the College isn’t properly preparing them for the situation.
The College currently offers an anonymous reporting service whereby students can report incidents of hazing without fear of repercussions from their organizations. This was a good move on the part of the College, but it has not been publicized enough. If the College is going to provide resources for students to deal with hazing, it needs to ensure students are aware of those resources. A tab on Banner that leads directly to the reporting service is a possible streamlined and effective solution.
Cynical though it may sound, hazing isn’t going to stop altogether. What can change, however, is the College’s general attitude toward hazing and the resources it allots its students. $10,000 is impressive. Here’s to hoping it will be put to impressive use.
Meredith Ramey recused herself from this staff editorial to remain unbiased in her reporting.