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Discussion panel on hazing within organizations addresses student questions and concerns

CMU organizations listen to panelists talk about hazing and learn how to prevent it on Sept. 20 in the UC Lakeshore Room.

Hazing is one of the only crimes in the U.S. where the victim does not need to state that something has happened to them for those at fault to get in trouble. In other words, most victims of hazing do not even realize they are being hazed, said panel member and assistant director of student organizations on Central Michigan University's campus, Dani Rossman. 

A panel of faculty members discussed the dangers of hazing and answered any questions that were presented to them on the issue on Sept. 20 in the Lakeshore Room of the Bovee University Center.

Hazing can come in any form — however, the most common  are physical, mental and emotional, Rossman said. She also said hazing is defined as anything new members of an organization are forced to do that has no correlation to said organization. It can be seen as a right of passage for most, and many continue it throughout the years because they see it as tradition. 

Although they see hazing as a big problem both in a broad sense and here at CMU, some Greek Life members find their own community to be a safe and friendly place. 

“Our organization talks about hazing constantly,” said senior Emily Durkin from Monroe, who attended this event. She is a part of the sorority Phi Mu on campus and said  members of the sorority discuss hazing extensively. They do this in order to make their new members feel welcomed and to make sure no one ever experiences it within their community. Although she sees her own organization as safe, she believes hazing is a huge problem within unrecognized organizations on CMU's campus. 

“It really gives Greek Life a bad name,” Durkin said of these unofficial sororities and fraternities. She said these groups change their names constantly so they won’t be recognized and they remain secretive for the sole purpose of continuing hazing. 

Fellow Phi Mu member and audience member Nicole Bossio, who is also a senior and is from Livonia, agrees with Durkin on the topic of unaffiliated Greek Life. In her own organization, however, she feels comfortable.  

“We have to go through at least one discussion as re-initiates about what hazing is, what it can take the form of, and what we can do to stop it,” Bossio said. 

She also said that they want to attempt to get as many new members as they possibly can and do everything in their power to not let them be scared away due to hazing. 

Hazing does not just happen in college as so many believe, but can start taking form throughout high school. Scott George, panel member and assistant director for competitive sports, talked about how hazing is definitely apparent in high school sports teams. It can be something even as simple as making the freshmen carry balls around, but it is still considered hazing and leads to worse forms in the future, especially in college because students now have access to more dangerous tools such as alcohol. 

“In my high school sports life we did have practices where we would swim until somebody threw up or the freshmen carried the ball bags,” said senior Rachel Sternik. 

She never realized or thought of it as hazing until coming to this discussion. 

Panel members ended the evening by talking about the different ways people can prevent and attempt to eliminate hazing. The best way is to confront whoever is in charge and attempt to change that organization's policies, Rossman said. George said it is also important to educate student leaders on the dangers of hazing and that they should do everything in their power to prevent it from happening.

The first step students can take if they witness or fall victim to hazing would be to report it to someone; whether that be an advisor, a leader or a trusted faculty member. Rossman discussed how it is often difficult for others to speak up when they see it, but how doing nothing can be just as bad as doing the hazing yourself.