The University of Maryland took part, once again, in National Hazing Prevention Week from Sept. 19 to Sept. 24. The annual several-day agenda aims to put an end to a common custom that goes on behind the closed doors of many college campuses.
The term “hazing” is officially defined by the University’s Code of Student Conduct as subjecting “any person to the risk of bodily harm, or severe emotional distress, or causing or encouraging any person to commit an act that would be a violation of law or university regulations, for the purpose of initiating, promoting, fostering or confirming any form of affiliation with a student group or organization.”
Anti-hazing activities, arranged by both campus and national organizations, were scattered throughout the week. The Stamp Student Union showcased an interactive “I Don’t Haze Because…” chalkboard. Another event at Stamp gave students the opportunity to sign a national pledge and print their hands on a “These Hands Don’t Haze” banner. Outside McKeldin Library, the Kappa Phi Chapter of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., passed out flyers regarding in-depth dangers of hazing.
Among other campus events, an advance screening of the film “Goat,” starring Nick Jonas and James Franco, played in Stamp, illustrating the dangers of hazing in a way students could easily resonate with. UMD was the first of five universities to see the movie before the official premiere this weekend.
Despite the movie being at some points difficult to watch, students seemed captivated, according to Shelly Brown Dobek, director of fraternity and sorority life at North Carolina State University. Dobek helped host the event, and led a post-film discussion, geared toward preventing hazing from occurring on campus.
“If we’re looking to build unity, we need to understand that the way that we get there needs to be a way that builds people up, and not tear people down,” said Dobek. “Understand that people bring their past with them, and what seems like a benign activity can really be a trigger for someone, and put them back through a really traumatic experience.”
Junior Carly Goodman, Sigma Delta Tau’s Vice President of Risk Management, sees hazing as a practice that does not do anything beneficial for sorority pledges.
“I hope sororities will see that hazing is an unnecessary and cruel way of creating a bond between sisters,” Goodman said. “I hope they see that this bond can be created in ways that are positive and empowering, rather than forceful and degrading.”
The University Recreation and Wellness Climbing Wall, on north campus, was promoted to provide an alternative to hazing.
“The staff are trained to offer a very inclusive environment, where regardless of ability or experience, anyone is welcome to come out and use our facilities,” said Mike Phaneuf, who is the assistant director of the Challenge Course programs.
Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs John Zacker said that although hazing in the news tends to be sorority and fraternity-linked, it is also predominant in other organizations, like athletics, bands and honors societies.
“I hope that students understand that the relationships they’re striving for, that sense of belonging they seek, not only can be created without hazing,” said Mathew Shepard, Coordinator of Student Conduct and Non-Academic Misconduct. “But that connections forged into healthy, inclusive ways are stronger and more sustainable than those based on pain and exclusion.”
Photos by Julia Heimlich