Hazing misconception: It's not just in Greek Life

When new members of a basketball team are instructed to take an extra lap during practice, the concept of hazing doesn’t spring to mind for most.

However, leaders at Central Michigan University say that treating people in ways that seem like traditions — such as requiring extra laps for new athletes — is actually a form of hazing.

Greek Life organizations have traditionally been criticized for hazing practices on campus. However, club sports, academic groups and even marching band have had issues with the practice at CMU.

Tom Idema, director of Student Conduct, said CMU defines hazing as “any actions taken or situation created, whether on or off campus, to produce mental or physical discomfort, embarrassment, harassment or ridicule.” When hazing incidents are reported to the administration, Idema said the protocol is to speak directly with the associated organization. Halting the organization’s functions indefinitely would not be out of the question if the incident is confirmed.

Many are familiar with hazing in the form of forced consumption or physically dangerous tasks, said Jennifer Nottingham, director of Programs and Administration, on Feb. 17 at the anti-hazing panel in Pearce 127. The idea of servitude from newcomers of an organization toward senior members is a lesser recognized form of hazing.

Idema had a similar stance, stating that organizations partake in hazing practices while calling it “training” instead. This can blur the lines between team building exercises, which involve all members of an organization, and hazing, which isolates the newest members of a group and causes psychological or physical stress.

Although much of society considers the Greek community to be the primary hazing practicing organizations, those organizations take prevention seriously.

“CMU as a whole does a really amazing job at educating students about hazing,” said Macomb Sophomore Kellie Hoenig, a Sigma Sigma Sigma sorority sister. “That's really nice because hazing can occur anywhere — sports teams, bands, even friend groups.”

Katrina Crawford, assistant director of Fraternity and Sorority Life on campus, said there is a strong stigma associated with Greek Life and hazing. She also said many falsely believe hazing practices are easy to spot.

“The stigma persists because, unfortunately, hazing persists and the media has selected to highlight hazing incidents within certain groups,” Crawford said.

Part of the issue stems from the fact that “fraternities and sororities have the interest of the entertainment industry,” she continued, citing films such as “Animal House” and “Monsters, Inc. University.”

Because of the close-knit social ties between members of organizations, Danielle Rossman said many believe organizations stick together in silence regarding the practice. But at the anti-hazing panel, Rossman, who is the assistant director of Student Activities and Involvement, spoke of several incidents where student organization leaders have appeared in her office to express concern of practices that “don’t feel right.”

“Normally that conversation ends with suggestions on how they can get better,” Rossman said.

To report a hazing incident or clarify questionable practices within an organization, students can contact the Office of Student Conduct at 989-774-1354 and the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life at 989-774-3016. If an immediate danger to another’s life is present, the administration urges not to hesitate in calling 911.