In a measure that amounts to more of a public relations measure than an actual enforcement tactic, Oswego State administration sent out its semesterly reminder to students and, more specifically, student organizations that any form of hazing is both a Class A Misdemeanor and a violation of Oswego State’s code of conduct.
While administration undoubtedly has good intentions with the email — the university, for both legal reasons and concerns toward its reputation, has every reason to want to prevent any potential hazing incidents — it is, unfortunately, a hollow gesture. The warning will likely either be ignored or glossed over by those it is most trying to reach. The email is sent out less as a measure directly aimed at the leaders of the student organizations who carry out hazing activities and more at students looking to join clubs or Greek Life, and thus who are likely to be hazed.
The email puts the onus on the students, likely freshmen who can be easily influenced by the more-popular and settled-in upperclassmen who are carrying out the hazing, to turn around and report the organization’s leaders. For a multitude of reasons, ranging for threats and intimidation to a hive-mind mentality, students are far more likely to simply take the hazing and move on. Those who are hazed may grow to resent those who carried out the worst offenses on them, but to turn around and report those who carried out the hazing assures that student will be ostracized from the organization he or she is attempting to join, and even, in the most extreme cases, will be in danger of physical or emotional harm.
If administration is truly serious about preventing hazing, it needs to take a far more proactive approach. Reports of hazing incidents from fraternities, sororities and sports teams circle around campus every semester, but usually are left to float from person to person, never actually leading to action from U.P. or judicial. The university, in coordination with city police, should use the full force of its investigatory strength to look into and root out any suspected cases of hazing.
Until organizations that haze feel that there is a real threat of university or police action, the culture will continue unimpeded. A simple email is not enough to shake a hazing culture that, for many student organizations, has been ingrained in the organizations for decades. Organizations must know that if they haze, consequences will be felt. That fear under the current policy simply does not exist, or at least is not strong enough.
That being said, the email is still correct in encouraging students to report hazing offenses. While we stress that administration should take a harder stance, we also recognize the difficult reality they face in enforcement. The majority of hazing takes place behind closed doors in facilities off-campus, all beyond the university’s realm of control.
All it takes is one: one student to stand up to the depravities of hazing and file a report, and the whole system will begin to unravel. Organizations that haze will surely take notice if one of their own falls under a criminal investigation and will be forced to rethink their current actions.
We realize how it can be enticing to get involved with Greek Life or other selective clubs on campus. We can even imagine how students justify in their mind that they are just part of a tradition that spans decades. But students should understand that nothing is worth physical and emotional abuse and harassment. Organizations that haze members are distorting the actual concept and mission of their organization and staining the reputation of the university as a whole. People who haze you are not then, and never will be, a friend or someone worth protecting.