No one wins in campus hazing rituals - Macleans.ca

No one wins in campus hazing rituals

Would someone really want their first Google hit to reference such objectionable extra-curricular activities?

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Explosive revelations regarding hazing initiatives at a University of Alberta fraternity shocked and surprised the country within hours of the story going online last Thursday. But it’s far from the first time something like this has happened, and it’s becoming a bigger problem.

Related: Wasn’t hazing a thing of the past?

In September 2005, allegations arose around the McGill University football team initiation activities that included threats of sodomy with a broomstick.

Again, in January 2009, reports surfaced of students at St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia being beaten with tree branches, smeared with what they believed to be feces, and being forced to rub A535 on their genitals — all allegedly part of a residence initiation process.

And now, students at the U of A are coming forward with stories of what they reportedly had to endure in order to gain membership in the university’s chapter of the DKE fraternity.

Video footage obtained by The Gateway, the U of A’s campus paper, depicts sleep-deprived pledges eating their own vomit, being enclosed in a small plywood box and not being allowed to leave after the four-day event has begun.

All three instances received wide international media attention. Harsh punishments have traditionally been handed to the perpetrators, with universities making examples of them for other students thinking of doing the same.

Students at McGill were suspended and the football team lost its season. The StFX students were kicked out of residence, fined $50 each, given 50 hours of community service, ordered to take harassment counselling and banned from all student-sponsored social and sporting events, including use of the campus bar, for a year — the last of which was reversed after the students challenged the sanctions in provincial court.

While no one has been punished at the U of A yet, two investigations into the incident are underway — one by the university, the other by DKE International, the fraternity’s parent organization.

I have to wonder, with such substantial examples made of these three cases, why are students still willing to risk their reputations and possible academic expulsion or suspension, or even a criminal record, with such childish antics?

But it continues to happen, with organizers of hazing initiations across North America seemingly turning a blind eye to those who get caught. According to research completed by Hank Nuwer, an American expert on hazing, harassing initiation rituals are on the rise.

Nuwer told UNews.ca in February 2009 that there has been at least one hazing-related death per year in the United States since 1970, but the fall of 2008 saw eight.

While there have been no hazing-related deaths in Canada so far, I can’t help but think, no matter how important social status is to a person, a potential manslaughter charge is not worth the temporary feeling of power carrying out these initiations would bring. Not to mention, with the permanency of Internet archiving, would someone really want their first Google hit to reference such objectionable extra-curricular activities?

Photo: The fraternity house for Delta Kappa Epsilon, by Dan McKechnie, the Gateway