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Hazing Prevention [Free Webinar]
Posted by On Wednesday, June 24, 2015

This Thursday we will be hosting a webinar with Dr. Gentry McCreary (register here) at 11 am PT / 2 pm ET. Dr. McCreary is a well-known expert on hazing prevention and the CEO of Dyad Strategies. A scholar and practitioner, he brings a valuable blend of hands on work experience and rigorous research to the problem of hazing on college campuses. During this 45-minute webinar, Dr. McCreary will examine the psychology of hazing and strategies that institutional leaders can take to reduce the prevalence of hazing on campus.

Dr. McCreary will discuss why students engage in hazing practices, factors that contribute to or reduce campus hazing culture, and both direct and indirect intervention strategies aimed at addressing hazing at the individual, organizational, and community levels.

If you’re interested in joining the conversation, please register for the event (space is limited).

[UPDATE 8/28/2015] The webinar is now available online: Hazing Prevention Webinar.

The Problem

As several recent high-profile incidents have shown, hazing remains a widespread problem on campuses across the country. In one of the few national studies of hazing, professors Elizabeth Allan and Mary Madden found that over half of students involved in clubs, teams, and organizations experience hazing, defined as “any activity expected of someone joining or participating in a group that humiliates, degrades, abuses, or endangers them regardless of a person’s willingness to participate.”

While almost three-fourths of members of athletic teams or a social fraternity or sorority reported being hazed, a range of organizations and groups haze, according to Allan and Madden. For instance, 64% of students who participated in a club sport, 56% of students who participated in a performing arts organizations, and 28% of students who participated in an academic club experienced at least one hazing behavior. Nor is hazing a higher education phenomenon. Allan and Madden found that 47% of students reported experiencing hazing before ever getting to college.

Hazing encompasses a broad swath of harmful behaviors, including forcing pledges or initiates to participate in heavy drinking, sleep deprivation, public chanting or singing, and even physical abuse. Hazing can cause psychological or physical trauma with potentially fatal consequences.

Indeed, as the recent controversy over one group’s racist chant illustrate, hazing rituals can also perpetuate harmful myths and stereotypes with consequences far beyond the organization itself.

Allan and Madden found, however, that “more students perceive positive rather than negative outcomes of hazing.” In fact, 90% of students who have been hazed don’t label it as such, and in 95% of cases where students recognized that they experienced hazing, they didn’t report.

While many students Allan and Madden interviewed justified hazing by arguing that it strengthened group unity, less than a third of students in their survey reported feeling more like a part of the group as a positive result of hazing, suggesting a disconnect between students’ perceptions of and their actual experiences with hazing.

These factors all contribute to a problematic hazing culture that has developed escalating concern among researchers and student affairs practitioners.

Cultures of Violence

Hazing does not exist in isolation. The cultures that allow hazing to continue (or even support it) may perpetuate other forms of violence on campuses. In fact, hazing does not hide in the shadows. A quarter of hazing behaviors occurred in “on-campus in a public space,” and a quarter of coaches or organization advisors knew their group was hazing, according to Allan and Madden’s research.

A few weeks ago, we wrote about a presentation at NASPA by Elizabeth Allan and Jane Stapleton. They argued that prevention efforts are too often siloed and that educators need to recognize the potential links between sexual violence and hazing (which often involves sexual violence).

Allan and Stapleton’s work demonstrates the importance of a multi-faceted approach to prevention that seeks to change the entire campus culture, and not just small enclaves. In short, by addressing hazing we can help address sexual violence as well.

Solutions

In the past, educators and prevention experts working with fraternities and sororities around hazing issues have stressed an organization’s values and getting members to act in accordance with those values or principles. Unfortunately, that approach hasn’t borne much fruit. But there are other promising directions.

Dr. McCreary’s research looks at the relationship between hazing prevention and moral development. McCreary points out that an organization’s overt or written values rarely exert a strong influence an individual’s decision to join an organization, which is more often based on the people in the organization or the tacit values expressed through the organization’s day-to-day behaviors. As McCreary writes of his own decision to join a fraternity: “I valued those people, but I didn’t join for values” (AFA Essentials 2014).

Among other approaches, McCreary commends empowering students to develop their own values instead of imposing external values onto them:

If we were truly concerned about student development, we would be creating cognitive dissonance in a way that would lead to a series of crossroads and, eventually, self-authorship. Conversations about how actions reflect values can and should be part of creating that dissonance, but when we impose new external formulas on our students, we are potentially retarding their growth and development. (AFA Essentials 2014)

In his presentation this Thursday, Dr. McCreary will go into greater depth on his research and best practices. We hope you will join us for this fascinating talk by Dr. McCreary. Register here.

[UPDATE 8/28/2015] The webinar is now available online: Hazing Prevention Webinar.

Citation:
McCreary, Gentry. (February 2014). “The Challenge of Values Congruence.” AFA Essentials.

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