OSU remains vigilant in the intolerance, prevention of hazing on campus

(Left) Violence Prevention Coordinator Elizabeth Kennedy, Assistant Director of Student Life and Director of the Center for Fraternity & Sorority Life Leslie C. Schacht Drey, Assistant Director of Sports Programs Joe Schaffer and Director of Student Conduct & Community Standards Carol Millie are all involved in the hazing prevention program at OSU.

Sydney Sullivan, News Contributor

Members of Student Conduct and Community Standards reach out to organization leaders.

More than half of college students participating in clubs or organizations experience hazing, according to the National Study of Student Hazing.

Student Conduct and Community Standards sent out an email to all student organization leaders and advisors around mid-October, reminding them there is no place for hazing in the Oregon State University community and attached a list of what actions qualify as hazing.

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According to the Code of Student Conduct, Hazing is inclusive of many behaviors, some of which include endangering someone’s physical health or safety and removing public or private property. Even if someone cooperates or willingly participates in an event of hazing it does not excuse the violation. Failing to intervene may also violate the hazing policy.

According to Carol Millie, director of Student Conduct and Community Standards, the code is a document which was crafted by various members of SCCS and the following campus partners—including University Housing and Dining Services, Equal Opportunity and Access, the Associated Students of OSU, ASOSU’s Office of Advocacy, the Center for Fraternity and Sorority Life and Faculty Senate.

“We all took the time to sit down and thoughtfully write out and describe behaviors that we believe should be prohibited because those behaviors jeopardize the learning environment and the safety of our campus community. Hazing was a behavior we unanimously felt should be prohibited,” Millie said via email. “While the stereotypical views of hazing are focused on violent behaviors, there are many forms of hazing which students often do not realize are hazing. We attempted to identify many of those behaviors in the code. It is important that our campus community understand that hazing is any activity that is unintentionally humiliates, embarrasses, degrades or endangers that person regardless of the person’s willingness to participate.”

Hazing is difficult to concretely define, as it is not always about the specific activity, but about the impact of that activity, according to Millie.

“For example, cleaning a bathroom is a normal everyday activity that we all engage in. However, cleaning a bathroom can be hazing when cleaning a bathroom is assigned to an individual, or groups of individuals, who is in the process of joining a group and the purpose of having them clean the bathroom is to demean those individuals or to engage the individuals in servitude to the other members of the group,” Millie said in an email.

There are myths and stereotypes that surround hazing, and a predominant myth is that hazing only occurs in sororities and fraternities, according to Leslie C. Schacht Drey, assistant dean of Student Life and director of the Center for Fraternity & Sorority Life.

“I believe the misconception that hazing exists only among fraternities or sororities can be connected to depictions of Greeks in popular culture, including movies, TV shows, books and articles,” Schacht Drey said in an email. “This stereotype continues to perpetuate in that very serious and public hazing cases involving fraternities and sororities have also been well covered in news media.”

According to Schacht Drey, while these hazing cases that have been covered by news media are devastating due to the loss of student life, there is a possibility that they can serve society by educating young people on the extreme risks of hazing behavior, and hopefully prevent hazing behavior from happening in the future.

“While each of the 47 recognized fraternities and sororities at OSU have their own internal approach for hazing prevention and holding their members accountable, all OSU students and student organizations are expected to adhere to the OSU Code of Student Conduct (where the hazing policies can be found),” Schacht Drey said in an email.

Hazing is not tolerated in the community and when reports of hazing come in they are taken very seriously, according to Schacht Drey. To determine if a violation of the Code of Student Conduct has occurred, the report is investigated by SCCS. After the violation has been confirmed, the accountability process will begin, Schacht Drey added.

 “Fraternity and sorority leadership are educated annually at Risk Management 101, a program hosted in January that reviews risk reduction-related resources available to student organizations and the applicable OSU policies and state and federal laws,” Schacht Drey said in an email. 

Although hazing trainings are required for members of fraternity and sorority life, instances have still been reported to the school.

On Nov. 22, Interim Associate Vice Provost for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Melissa Morgan sent an email to members of the OSU Chapter of Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity stating that she was provisionally revoking the chapter’s Affiliated Housing Program status due to reports received on Nov. 20, 2017.

“These reports raised significant concerns about student safety and indicated that the OSU chapter of Tau Kappa Epsilon may not be a safe environment for students,” Morgan stated in the email.

These measures will remain effective until the university has completed its full investigation of the reports.

Additionally, the Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity at OSU was suspended in 2016 for five years due to hazing and harassment violations, according to the Gazette-Times. The fraternity is able to apply for reinstatement in the spring of 2021.

Sport Programs has no tolerance for hazing as well, according to Sam Rodenberg, sports program coordinator for the Department of Recreational Sports.

“Infractions are sent to the OSU Office of SCCS for investigation and disciplinary actions if necessary,” Rodenberg said in an email. “Additionally, the Sport Club Committee, comprised of five students and three faculty members, could have further disciplinary actions toward a sport club that permitted or engaged in hazing as an organization, such as loss of funding, reduction of activity or additional training if the Sport Club Committee deemed such consequences appropriate.”

Hazing is seen consistently throughout organizations on campus and can occur anywhere there is a group of people coming together, according to Rodenberg.

“Students join different groups to get a greater sense of belonging, and we try to educate our sport clubs that hazing is not only unacceptable, but is detrimental to the success of their organization,” Rodenberg said in an email.

According to the Code of Student Conduct, compelled ingestion of alcohol, food, drugs or any other substance; kidnapping or abandonment; creation of unnecessary fatigue (such as through sleep deprivation, labor or calisthenics); personal servitude or unbalanced or unreasonable labor or workshare, such as house-cleaning, collection/assembly/purchasing of supplies or materials are all forms of hazing.

“When we make a certain part of the organization or these specific tasks we know others wouldn’t do, we know it’s kind of like the degrading tasks. Like only new members clean all the bathrooms and the showers, whereas maybe those of us who are already part of the group we pick up the newspapers in the living room,” Millie said. “It’s the degrading piece and it’s a specific group having to do that.”

According to Schacht Drey, hazing generally occurs within a group environment to establish or achieve a kind of group identity, rite of passage, hierarchy or other aims. Unfortunately, some of these aims are established through hazing, but Schacht Drey believes there is always a better option.

Danté Holloway, the coordinator for clubs and organizations on the Oregon State University campus, cites three main reasons for hazing:

“Some might engage in it because they see it as a rite of passage or initiation into the group. Some might engage in it to maintain a position of power over someone else,” Holloway said. “And the saddest reason people might engage in it is in the name of tradition.”

Millie feels that hazing is damaging because it tries to force connection in community through traumatic events or degrading someone.

“I don’t think that builds a healthy, value-based, community. It starts building incongruence if your values are integrity and honesty and supporting the people in your organization and yet we do harmful stuff to get to there. I think it ultimately damages your organization.”

When people are forced to engage in these hazing activities they can sometimes develop lasting triggers which can affect them long-term, according to Millie. Some individuals may even come into an organization with pre-existing trauma and are then harmed by having to endure these hazing activities.

“I think it’s problematic and harmful to an organization because we’re having these artificial ways to connect which ultimately go against our values and our treating of a fellow human being” Millie said.

Hazing is not currently a “prevalent issue” at Oregon State University, says Holloway, but due to incidents across the nation, officials here are stepping up in order to educate student leaders in their responsibilities to not only prevent hazing, but to intervene and report it as well.

News Contributor Arete Caldwell contributed to this article.