I tend not to get around to posting about news stories until they've been thoroughly gutted by the press, and the backlash has already occurred. That's not purposefully done to try to somehow get the last word on a subject, as I'd much rather blog about this kind of stuff when it's still going on, but because I'm trying to get these syntheses to work and because I've got the attention span of something with almost no attentions span, it's somewhat difficult to get around to typing something out.
But here we go anyway.
As most of you know (as the people that read this blog tend to be people that know me personally), I'm doing my thing at Northwestern University, which has been, if you hadn't seen, in the news a bit lately for the actions of one of the sports teams. Namely, the girls soccer team. During some form of event about a week back, the girls soccer team apparently blindfolded and bound the hands of the freshman players, drew things on them in marker and evidently had them do vaguely sexual things while remaining clothed. Someone posted those pictures on the web, and since then have been the subject of most of the coverage of Northwestern sports. Said photos have sinced moved elsewhere, and the entire soccer team has been suspended.
Sure, no one got hurt, and, according to at least one player in an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times, no one was forced to do anything and in the pictures everyone's smiling and happiness was never borne out quite so perfectly as when one is trashed and has phalluses written on their cheek. Or something. The problem here is twofold, for me. First, they know there are hazing regulations that the University enforces. It enforces them for a reason and by agreeing to be a member of the sports team, they're agreeing to abide by the University's policies. So I honestly don't understand the shock at being suspended for this. If the policies had been voted on and never announced, or if they hadn't existed but the University decided to come down on everyone anyway, then maybe some shock. As it stands, they should have known at least not to post pictures of what they were doing where people that might care and punish them could find them.
The second bit is that i disagree with hazing across the board, and support zero-tolerance policies where hazing is concerned. Was anyone forced to get drunk and have stuff written on them against their will? Probably not. But hazing tends to have a way of forcing people to conform to what everyone's doing without saying much at all. It could even take the form of an event in which the participants are told they can sit out. People being hazed are simply more likely to go along with it to avoid looking like someone that couldn't handle the task in front of their friends and people they respect enough to be in a situation where they could be getting hazed in the first place. While in this case the hazing appears to be relatively innocuous enough to the point that yes, the hazed were probably fine with being given free alcohol, the practice itself has a way of transforming into something that not all of the potentially hazed are okay with over time. While that would seem to constitute a slippery slope fallacy, caution, in the case of enforcement, must be the rule. Some may contend that this is about political correctness. Not wanting to make anyone feel bad, and so banning the practice of hazing outright, while it still may serve a function of binding the hazed together as a result of their ordeal. I do think that organizations that make a big deal about having to be humiliated or beaten to gain entrance to things should be held accountable for beating people, this is something that's much easier to have be a self policing kind of thing. That is, either the organization can elect not to do it on their own and use that as a selling point (in the case of Fraternities, who are competing for members), or kids can wake up and realize that getting beaten up/running around naked in the cold is something they don't have to go through, and that the organization that's going to do that to them may not have their best interests in mind. Let me then personalize this, move it away from the realm of policy enforcement and get to why I disagree with hazing.
For those of you who don't know me but are reading this blog and haven't been able to piece together from the links on the left side there that I was in a Fraternity in college, I was. It was good times and, if you can find a chapter that's worthy of having you as a member, I highly recommend it. And yet, because of the strict anti-hazing policy the Fraternity took, I never felt as though I was being pressured to do something against my will or in any way separate from anything that was being done by the seniors in the Fraternity. Bonds and brotherhood were formed, in the case of my class and those that preceeded and will follow (hopefully, that stance won't change) was necessarily left to discussion and the way any other friendship is formed, rather than through unification to get through an ordeal. I could never understand why, as a new member, being beaten with a stick or made to drink in a dark room (or whatever these kids are doing now) was something I would elect to go through to join a group. That is, possibly, a relic of the fact that my chapter had been recently reformed, and so there was a lot more pressure on the Fraternity to sell itself to prospectives, but I just can't understand why I'd elect to run around naked with a bucket of gasoline or something when I could just as easily tell this group of people that want my money or athletic skill to eat it.
To summarize, if you want to be in a Greek organization or soccer team or something, that's cool. You shouldn't have to jump through any crazy hoops to get there. Testing devotion of new members is pointless through hazing, I think, as it can be done in much more efficient ways that don't isolate the new members and beat up on them.
Then again, I must be missing something, as a lot of these kids seem very willing to undergo bodily harm for the organization of their choice.
When are people going to learn to stop putting up pictures of being general schmucks up on the internet? I can't read a news site anymore without hearing about how so-and-so hazed their freshmen/did massive amounts of drugs/burnt down buildings/whatever, took pictures of it and then posted the incriminating evidence on their damn Myspace. Here's a tip kids. Just because you're posting something on your own private computer, in your own private dorm room with your private door shut or, alternatively, in your own private basement/apartment/account on an computer in a library doesn't mean that that content is somehow not available to the entire world now. Don't want to get caught for having thirty pounds of marijuana? Don't post pictures of it on your Myspace now that it's common knowledge that law enforcement officials browse it to find idiots that post pictures of things they shouldn't.?