Hazing and the college athlete

Hazing is a topic that often is not discussed among many people because no one is sure how to talk about the subject. There have been many document cases of hazing both at the high school and college level. There have been some glaring cases of hazing at several marquee college programs throughout the country in the last several years some resulting in the death of freshman athletes and many resulting in lawsuits and suspensions of team-members and athletic programs.

Hazing defined by Webster’s Dictionary means: To irritate, annoy, to punish or harass by forcing to do hard, unnecessary work. To initiate or discipline fellow students by forcing to do ridiculous, humiliating, or painful things.

There can be various degrees of hazing such as making players dress up in funny cloths or go on strange scavenger hunts or making them get funny haircuts. The more dangerous forms of hazing involve making student-athletes drink excessive amounts of beer and/or liquor in a series of games or challenges or making student-athletes do lewd things with their bodies or the bodies of others. Some can involve the consumption of strange food or things that were not meant to be food at all (goldfish in some cases)

A recent report by Hank Nuwer of Alfred University (NY) indicates that over 80% of college athletes admitted to being hazed at some point in their initiation process, involving drinking alcohol as well as things involved with nudity and sexual exploitation.

Hazing isn’t reserved for fraternities or sororities or big Division 1 schools, it happens at every level of college both in the Greek system as well as the athletic system.

The Massachusetts institute of Technology where one could argue has the smartest college students in the entire country if not the world, made headlines when a freshman fraternity pledge was found dead in his dorm room as a result of alcohol poisoning in September of 1997, a few short weeks after he started school. Like many other hazing incidents, the pledges were asked to consume dangerous amounts of beer and liquor in a short amount of time. The student ultimately lost consciousness, began to vomit, which led to him choke and he ultimately went into a coma and was pronounced dead shortly thereafter. When medical personnel first reached the student that night, his blood alcohol content was .401 or 5 times the legal limit in the state of Massachusetts. The death resulted in the members of the fraternity being charged criminally, and a civil lawsuit against the university, which was later settled. In this case, even the smartest kids in the world were capable of one of the dumbest acts you could see.

Three reasons why hazing still exists.

  1. The upper-class students organizing the hazing were hazed themselves, so this is their payback (what goes around comes around) and they feel almost like they have the right to do this because “it was done to me”.
  1. The willingness of underclassmen to participate in these hazing rituals. While no one wants to be made to eat strange food, run around naked or consume large amounts of beer and liquor, the fear and resentment of not participating is sometimes worse and lasts longer than the actual hazing acts themselves, so they accept it and hope it ends soon.
  1. No one wants to do anything unless someone dies and they (both the participants and the organizers) assume waking up the next day with a hangover or no hair is “OK” and “good fun.”

Everyone reacts different to hazing, some student-athletes participating think its fun, some don’t care and others have traumatic experiences that result in depression, dropping out of school, and sometimes death.