By Ryan Long
In an effort to address hazing, all Stanford athletes and new members of campus Greek organizations were required to attend an information session in CEMEX Auditorium on either Sunday or Monday. The event sought to educate attendees on the dangers of hazing and encourage them to instead focus initiation practices on positive team building.
Fraternity and Sorority Life (FSL) Director Amanda Rodriguez and Assistant Athletics Director Kristen Azevedo co-organized the event, which was the first of its kind. Attendance was required of student athletes, in accordance with NCAA protocol.
According to Student Affairs spokesperson Pat Harris, it was considered “best practice” for all fraternity and sorority members to attend, but new members were required to do so by FSL.
The event was not created “in response to a specific incident,” according to Harris.
University efforts to reduce hazing have increased as of late, as with the creation of an online Hazing Report Form through which students are encouraged to confidentially report incidents of hazing to the Office of Community Standards (OCS).
Stanford defines hazing as “any activity done in connection with a student organization … that causes or is reasonably likely to cause another student to suffer bodily danger, physical harm, or significant personal degradation or humiliation even if no bodily danger, physical harm, or significant degradation or humiliation in fact results.”
The University prohibits hazing with potential disciplinary action including expulsion, loss of organizational recognition or ineligibility to remain a member of an organization.
While some athletes said that attending the event was helpful in improving their ability to clearly distinguish what constitutes hazing, they did not feel as though the hazing practices discussed are prevalent at Stanford.
“It was very eye-opening to see what’s going on around fraternities and sororities in the country, [but] as an athlete and not a member of Greek life, I didn’t feel like it [was] too relevant to what’s going on in our cultures,” said lacrosse player Taylor Scornavacco ’21. “But I definitely see why the talk was very important. I do think that they could’ve done a better job of tailoring it more toward athletics, but regardless it was very interesting.”
According to students in attendance, one of the University’s main goals in hosting the event was to foster communication among athletic and Greek-life communities about hazing practices and culture.
“The event was emotionally moving and allowed me to further empathize with those who go through hazing,” said fencer Ywen Lau ’22. “I have come to a greater understanding of the problem and will keep the lessons learned in mind as [our team] hosts team bonding activities.”
The event also explored how to intervene when hazing happens. Scornavacco said that the three presented options for dealing with hazing are that “you can be direct, you can distract and then you can delegate.” She also noted that a big focus of the talk was speaking up about issues as they were happening rather than after the fact.
Students who would not feel confident enough to intervene directly were taught that they have many other options. For instance, a lesson given during the event taught students to distract a hazer or request an intervention from another responsible figure in situations where forceful intervention wouldn’t be viable.
Event organizers also provided students with a methodology for creating support systems against hazing. A sophomore in the sorority Sigma Phi Zeta described this method as “recognizing when the power dynamic [between a group member and the organization] is being abused to shame, humiliate or degrade someone” and then taking action by “referring [that person] to resources” outside of the organization.
Pluralistic ignorance, or thinking that you are the only person opposed to a situation that everyone else seems to be going along with, is one of the main reasons that indecent hazing happens so often when organizations initiate new members, the event discussed. By constructing a network of students who can look for warning signs of hazing, students can combat pluralistic ignorance and suspected hazing behavior can be ousted.
The event organizers declined to comment.
Contact Ryan Long at rylong ‘at’ stanford.edu.