5.18.2006

on hazing

a set of pictures is making the rounds on the internet. these pictures are of the northwestern womens' soccer team and their hazing rituals. for those of you of the pervert persuasion, i think you'll be mostly disappointed in the pictures as they are rather tame. however, word has gotten out and it turns out that you can find all sorts of pictures of hazing on the internets on sites such as flickr, webshots, and photobucket. anyways, the college oriented site, bad jocks, compiled a list of the most salacious hazing photos (links provided below). anyways, word has gotten out to the colleges and catholic u and quinnipiac university, who were included in badjocks top 12 are launching investigations. forthermore, northwestern has suspended the entire women's soccer team until it figures out what to do.

there are a couple of things that i want to point out about hazing at the college level. first, as someone who used to work in the world of student life administration, i actually have some experience with the world of hazing. although my experience was with greek organization hazing, it seemed clear to me back then and now that like alcohol, when it comes to hazing, colleges have their heads stuck up their collective ass. whenever parents or whoever express concerns about hazing, schools will conveniently point to their non-hazing policy, and say that they are very vigilant to make sure that hazing goes on. and in my experience, colleges don't really do anything about it. in every case where i told someone that hazing was going on, i got the same response, not a goddammed thing. think about it, how easy was it for this badjocks website to find examples of hazing for sports teams. like out of control drinking, cheating by major sports schools in recruiting, it's clear to anyone that even though we hear about seven or eight students dying and lord knows how many students getting hospitalized for alcohol poisoning, college administrations don't do anything about it. why do colleges look the other way for these things? it's highly illogical, but it's one of those examples where formal administration has not caught up with culture. my point is, that collectively, colleges and universities either know there's nothing that they can do to stop it, or they have no interest in stopping it. my guess is the latter. if they really wanted to, it would be very easy to find evidence and then suspend organizations. i suppose the problem with that, is virtually every sports team and greek organization would be suspended, and since large amounts of money are invested in both of these institutions, colleges are helpless.

the other thing that i thought was interesting was the top 12 cases of bad hazing that badjocks found.
Here's the Dirty Dozen.
1) Catholic University Women's Lacrosse Team Initiation 2006
2) Quinnipiac University Men's Baseball Initiation 2006
3) University of California, Santa Barbara Lacrosse Initiation 2004
4) Wake Forest Women's Volleyball
5) Fordham University Women's Softball Team Initiation
6) Elon University Men's Baseball Initiation 2005-2006
7) Fairleigh Dickinson Women's Softball Initiation 2004
8) James Madison University Women's Club Soccer -
Double Play of the Day: Two different years from same team
9) Kenyon College Men's Baseball Initiation 2005
10) Princeton University Cheerleading Initiation 2005
11) Union College Women's Soccer Rookie Night 2004
12) University of Michigan Men's Lacrosse Initiation Pictures for both 2003 and 2004
- Another two-fer!
if you notice, none of these sports include football, basketball, or track and field, the sports dominated by african-americans (also notice that my current institution, UCSB, made the list!). i'm not saying that african-americans don't haze. some of the most intense hazing that i learned about involved the african-american greek organizations. but it was different, which i chalk up to as a function of the real motivations of greek organizations. all greek organizations purport to state as one of their principle causes as philanthropy, in addition to all of the other nice sounding principals (the reason for this of course, is that no one's parents would pay for membership in an organization whose formal chief principle was "ragin' keggers"). however, my experience leads me to believe that the african-american greek organizations, philanthropy is actually the guiding principle. don't get me wrong, they partied just as hard as the traditional greek organizations, but their motivations were actually guided in brotherhood or sisterhood, and service to the community. for example, while most greek organizations do one philanthropy event per semester, the african-american greek organizations did one per month.

don't get me wrong, i'm sure that the football team and the basketball team have hazing rituals as well, and i'm sure that the african-american greek organizations haze as well (the sigmas are well known for branding their members...as in branding with a hot iron). the point is, the toxic kind of hazing that results in phychological and often physiological damage, is much less prevalent in the african american college students than white ones, and although completely unscientific, i think the list above is evidence of this. i know that pro-sports team have rookie hazing rituals, but they are on the level of having to carry luggage for the veterans or occasionally having to sing for their teammates. pro sports organizations know that if hazing gets out of hand, it could result in one of their assets (players) getting hurt, so i'm pretty sure that if it ever got out of hand, they would deal with it in an appropriate and severe manner. i mean, look at how they deal with public comments about officiating.

my broader point is that college is seen as a liberal bastion where people are supposedly supposed to improve their character in preparation for a career and a member of civil society. in many cases, this results in the learning and adoption of liberal principles, but as much sociology would point out, the education system is actually just another cog in the socialization machine, so to counteract any liberal or emancipatory effects of college, other peripheral structures are set up to maintain the power heirarchy and status quo, such as greek organizations and the young republicans (i know that's a cheap shot, but we can discuss this in the comments section if you want).

the other point i want to make is that hazing although similar in form serves different functions in greek organizations than it does in african american greek organizations. likewise, it serves different functions in sports with lots of african-americans and sports with not a lot of african-americans. one, i doubt that any of the brothers or sisters would ever take that kind of crap from the type of student who would end up being the captain of the lacrosse team. second, for whitey, hazing is an exercise of power - letting you know who's boss and has little to nothing with bonding or character building. you might call it training for future oppresion. this seems clear since most of the activities deal with shaming or embarrasing the hazee. for non-whitey, it is an exercise in solidarity and discipline, and actually does end up having a positive effect on the hazee.

ok, disclaimer time: i've never been on a NCAA division I sports team or traditional greek organization, so i've never had to go through the hazing myself. furthermore, i'm obviously not a member of an african-american greek organization, so all experience i have is second hand, through association with my african-american students. lastly, my experience with the traditional organizations is also second hand, as i have often had to deal with the fallout from hazing, which as a hall director at the university of arizona, usually meant that i only dealt with incidents where hazing went wrong or negatively affected the community. so it could be that i am drawing conclusions on incomplete information.

sooooooo....for those of you who have gone through the hazing experience in any setting, i'd love to hear about your experiences and whether or not you thought hazing was a good experience. i'd especially like to hear from former division I athletes (particularly, the one that is in the sociology progam here at UCSB) and hear about your experiences with hazing and if they reflect the things that the above mentioned teams are getting in trouble for. i'd also like to hear from any college administrators who happen to stumble across this blog and hear their side of the story in their attempts to stop hazing.

p.s. one last observation - i really don't know what to make of the fact that 8 of the 12 on the list are women's teams. please feel free to comment on this as well.

p.p.s. hello soc 4 kids. i'm guessing some of you have some experience with hazing. let me hear from you!

5 comments:

Ian said...

Yeah... the reason you're not going to see football, basketball or track and field on the list has nothing to do with race.

Come on. Blacks (let's not just limit this to African-Americans) may dominate these sports on the highest level and in certain positions, but they tend to be limited to the dominant division 1 schools. In any event, football and basketball are the primary revenue generators and they also result in the largest alumni contributions.

Further, not only are the schools dependent upon these sports for revenue, but these teams tend to be more and more dependent upon recruiting success and the young stars. You can't recruit and keep a top young athlete if he expects to be hazed by the veteran players.

Hazing in these programs would poison the program and the school by proxy. By the way, most of your top sprinters on the track team have been the receivers, secondary and running backs of your football teams, so therefore the same rules apply.

H8R said...

ian if what you say is true then we would expect to find some lower division football programs on the list. not any big revenue or ego sensitive generating schools there for sure...

Ian said...

Even at the lower division schools, those are still the sports (Homecoming games, anyone?) that draw the money.

Bob said...

like i mentioned before, i know that the fact that the major sports are the big money makers is one of the reasons, but surely it can't be the sole reason. like i said, i'm not 100% sure as to why hazing happens, or why people do it, but i don't think it is at all unreasonable to think that the differences in the racial composition of these teams is one of the factors in the differences in both the level of participation, the intensity, and the motivations behind hazing. all that you say is true ian, but that doesn't mean that there can be some differences due to race.

Anonymous said...

all i know is that no one likes to play frat boy tickleass with grapes and bananas quite like whitey.