Thursday 17 September 2009

The hazing of students should be outlawed

Hazing is a ritualistic test and a task involving harassment, abuse or humiliation used as a way of initiating a person into a gang, club, military organization, schools, colleges and universities. The definition can refer to either physical (sometimes violent) or mental (and often degrading) practices. Hazing is most frequently encountered in the United States and Canada however it is also encountered in other countries.

Hazing is often used as a method to seemingly promote group loyalty and camaraderie through shared suffering (male bonding in fraternities), either with fellow participants, past participants or both. Hazing has been reported in a variety of social contexts. Sports teams ranging from amateur junior football leagues to professional clubs have used ritual hazing ceremonies to initiate new members, especially when the new person is younger than the rest of the team.

As I see it, hazing is simply an activity in which people bully others in order to have some form of power over them, even if only temporarily. Freshmen in colleges are bullied by sophomores because the latter want to degrade those whom they treat as being lower than themselves in the college hierarchy. By doing so, it makes them feel superior to their victims.

The armed forces in various countries have long had hazing rituals, which often involve violence and punishments. In the United States, hard hazing practices from World War I boot camps were introduced into colleges. In the Russian army (formerly the Red Army) hazing is called ‘Dedovshchina’. Police forces, especially those with a paramilitary tradition, or sub-units of police forces such as tactical teams, also have hazing rituals. Rescue services, such as lifeguards or air-sea rescue teams may have hazing rituals. The senior ranks within Boy Scout Troops have sometimes developed hazing practices. Some workplaces use hazing to initiate newly hired employees. Inmate hazing is also common at prisons around the world, including frequent reports of beatings and sexual assaults by fellow inmates.

Hazing incidents including beating or kicking to the point of traumatic injury or death, burning or branding, excessive calisthenics, being forced to eat unpleasant substances, and psychological or sexual abuse of both males and females.

Several years ago, the Russian armed forces were deeply concerned that young recruits had been committing suicide rather than be subjected to more hazing. In Russia the victim of a high-profile hazing attack, Andrei Sychyov required the amputation of his legs and genitalia after he was forced to squat for three hours whilst being beaten and tortured by a group on New Years' Eve of 2005.

In Indonesia, 35 people have died since 1993 as a result of hazing initiation rites in the Institute of Public Service. In the U.S. hazing has resulted in several deaths and serious injuries. Matthew Carrington was killed at California's Chico State University on February 2, 2005.

As a direct result of these terrible events, a number of colleges and parents, as well as sorority and fraternity members are taking steps to bring an end to criminal hazing practices. Colleges and fraternities have also faced civil liability in actions brought for injuries and deaths caused by fraternity hazing. Hazing is considered a felony in several U.S. states, and anti-hazing legislation has been proposed in other states. Hazing is considered outrageous in the minds of students who want to feel safe and secure while attending institutions of learning. They see hazing as being socially unacceptable. There is anti-hazing legislation in several countries, e.g. in France (the French term is bizutage) imposing a punishment up to six months in prison or a fine of 7,500 euros.

In Canada, anyone who uses any form of physical force on anyone as part of a hazing ritual can be subjected to being tried for various forms of assault. For example, on September 11, 2009, a grade 9 hazing incident in Burlington, Ontario led to assault charges against two 17-year-olds. Five students attending the M.M. Robinson High School were forced into a wooded area by several senior students who pulled up in a van and then later paddled their victims and later still, marked their faces with inappropriate drawings.

Here are some examples of really stupid hazing incidents.

A pledge to Alpha Epsilon Pi at the University of Michigan was shot in the groin with a BB gun during a hazing incident. The drunken frat boy hazer thought the gun was unloaded and had pointed it at the eyes and faces of other pledges before the emasculating testicle shot took place.

The frat boys were at it again when 3 Phi Kappa Phi guys stripped a 19 year Old Cal pledge down to his boxers and fired 30 BBs at him from about 5 feet away.

A pledge for Kappa Alpha Psi at Louisiana State University was ritualistically beaten and left with a wound 7 inches around and 1/2 inch deep on his butt that required two surgeries. Apparently the pledge was told that it would toughen up his hide.

At Cornell University Members of a frat made new members lie down naked in a makeshift pool filled with six inches of ice water, beer, kitchen garbage, and urine. Other new members took turns standing on a stepladder above the pool and attempted to drop raw eggs into the mouth of each new members lying in all that guck.

Football players from Fairhaven High School in Massachusetts were in trouble for allegedly duct-taping a young player to a bed at a private sports camp, physically assaulting him and subjecting him to gross and lewd acts including; wait for it----tossing semen in a cup on him.

Members of the Dublin Coffman High School’s varsity lacrosse team were on a bus to Memphis, Tennesee, for a tournament at the end of March of 2006. Something happened on the bus that caused a player to tell his parents, who then talked to school officials, who then gathered the boys together and asked if anyone had fingers shoved up their rectum during the Memphis trip. To their surprise, one boy not only raised his hand but at least four others said they witnessed the incident. One coach allegedly held down a player while another player, wearing a black glove, inserted his hand into the player’s boxer shorts. The victim started screaming, "Get the (expletive) off of me. Leave me alone." Now here's the fun twist: one of the accused coaches had taken the classic stance that this was all just harmless horseplay (his attorney even used the time honored "Boys will be boys" line) and that it was being blown out of proportion because of "a few angry young men (players) that either dislike the coaching staff or aren’t getting any playing time and resent us."

What kind of people conduct and condone hazing incidents?

They are people who have no respect for the feelings and welfare of others. They are for the most part, bullies who cannot appear to go through life without being considered anything but superior to others. They are psychopaths who think the world is their own to play with. They are so insecure in their own lives; they can’t feel good unless they make others feel just as rotten as they are feeling.

What should be done with them?

If they haven’t physically hurt someone, they should be given a brief suspension from their learning institution but if they have physically harmed someone or their actions are so gross, that they are considered as a form of sexual abuse, they should be permanently expelled. If a coach or other instructor or teacher is involved, he or she should be immediately fired, irrespective whether the student is physically harmed or not. Further, the police should be contacted with a view of charging the miscreants if anyone is physically harmed and the perpetrators and the school should be sued.

Hazing should not be a way of life in schools or places of employment. Everyone has a right to participate in their studies or their work in an environment in which the rights of everyone is not tampered with. The rights I am speaking of are the rights to peace, tranquility and freedom from any unnecessary stress and embarrassment.

UPDATE  January 10, 2015: A former Florida A&M University band member, Dante Martin was sent to prison for seven years for the manslaughter of 26-year-old Robert Champion who was beaten to death during a violent hazing ritual in November 2011   

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