The following message was sent to all CSU students on Friday, Sept. 30.
According to surveys, students arrive at CSU with two conflicting belief systems related to how to treat others. Students generally agree that marginalizing and humiliating others is wrong and, specifically, that it causes harm to the person experiencing that behavior. In other words, most CSU students would not intentionally make another feel humiliated simply for their own satisfaction.
On the other hand, data also reveals that many students arrive at CSU having already experienced these behaviors under the guise of belonging, and that most students believe being treated that way as part of a group or organization is “normal” and ok.
You may have already guessed that we’re talking about hazing. As a high school and even as a junior high student, you’ve already heard that hazing is wrong, and chances are you’ve already created your own belief system around hazing.
In fact, we know from surveys that 82 percent of college students think that humiliating and marginalizing others is not ok, and that they think hazing is harmful. We also know that only 50 percent of students correctly identify hazing when they see it. Most students believe the intent of those leading and creating the group dynamic is what matters, not the actions, meaning that if hazing is not intended, then causing someone embarrassment or humiliation as a condition to be a part of a group is ok and does not cause harm.
But research proves that belief system wrong.
Studies show that 71 percent of your peers who are hazed experience harm. This includes a decline in their academic performance; mental or physical withdrawal; anxiety, depression and exhaustion as well as disruption to eating habits (such as eating disorders); strain on relationships with friends and family; and lowered self-esteem.
Ironically, they also lose respect for the organization and its members who are hazing them. Creating a bond with someone by treating them poorly is not a solid foundation for group success.
Here’s how to recognize hazing. If secretive, embarrassing or demeaning behavior is expected of you or a peer as a condition of belonging to a group, it’s likely hazing. If requirements to be in a group include acts of power and control over new or potential new members, it’s likely hazing. Hazing occurs within a range of actions, with examples such as issuing demerits, to using demeaning names, to social isolation, to requiring participants to do embarrassing things in front of others, to forced consumption of alcohol or vile food or drink.
So, what can you do about it?
First, if you are being hazed or suspect that a fellow student is being hazed, report it to the university, even if you don’t have enough information to be sure. Most reports to universities are made by friends, roommates, parents and others who see a change in the student who is being hazed and want to help them. You can report through https://endhazing.colostate.edu/.
Second, if you’re part of a group that requires others to perform certain tasks that you know are uncomfortable or embarrassing to complete as a condition of new or continued membership, then it’s time to change your group’s actions instead of looking only at a group’s intent. Speak with an advisor or other trusted adult about activities that can build healthy groups.
Associate Vice President for Student Affairs and Acting Dean of Students