Hazing Prevention Week sees low turnout

Hazing Prevention Week, a program run by the Division of Student Life’s Hazing Prevention and Education Committee, was held from Sept. 19 to Sept. 22 and included a community talk, workshops for staff, graduate student staff, and student leaders, as well as a Haze Free Education Training session, but events saw a limited turnout.

Associate Dean Don Camelio, chair of the HPEC, estimated that there were 25 people at the community talk, 20 at the staff workshop, and a handful at the workshop for graduate staff.

Camelio described the community involvement in events during the week as in-line with general attitudes toward hazing on campus. “For a campus where I don’t think in all honesty a lot of recognition or awareness around hazing is present, I think that’s kind of a decent turnout.”

Other HPEC activities have faced similarly lukewarm reactions.

The committee piloted the Haze-Free Education Training program last year. Although Camelio wanted to pilot the program with sports teams, dorms, and FSILGs, the only groups that ultimately went through the training program were a few residence halls and sports teams.

Cheryl Silva, head coach of the MIT Field Hockey Team, encouraged her  team to participate. “I believe it is important our students learn about positive, ethical management techniques,” Silva said.

The HPEC also developed the Outstanding New Member Program which began accepting applications in Nov. 2014 to recognize organizations that “provide a welcoming experience by planning and implementing a positive program to build a sense of group identity and community.”

Although several groups began the process to receive recognition, none were recognized because none have completed it. “We’re hoping to have more,” Camelio said of organizations applying for the program. “We publicized it quite a bit but people just didn’t take advantage of it.”

Camelio said that there is a lack of awareness about hazing at MIT because subtle forms of hazing, which are more common than violent forms of hazing, “don’t really resonate… in people’s minds as hazing” because “[hazing] just hasn’t been talked about a whole lot.”

Examples of “subtle hazing” listed in the Mind and Hand Book include deception, name-calling, and the assignment of duties not assigned to other members. Camelio also noted a lack of actual data about hazing at MIT. “We’ve never run a survey, so we don’t have anything that tells us exactly what is happening,” he said.

Despite a lack of formal survey data, Camelio observed that reports of hazing on the Haze-Free MIT website went up during the 2014-2015 school year, then leveled off.

He attributed this trend to two developments that year: anonymous reporting became available on the Haze-Free MIT website and the hazing policy in the Mind and Hand Book was updated, which he said generated more discussion about hazing on campus.

Camelio said that “there are plans to reach out to various leadership groups to see if [he] can get nominations” for organizations to be recognized for the Outstanding New Member Program this year. Camelio said that the committee plans to continue expanding the Haze-Free Education Training program with more student organizations.

“Hopefully… I can get them to give it a shot, let us come out on a Sunday night or something like that and run the program for them,” Camelio said. Camelio also expressed a “big desire from everyone on the committee just to be able to get some data and actually do some campaigns.”

Although Camelio hopes for greater hazing awareness on campus, he hasn’t seen any major reports of hazing in recent years. The reports that he did see were typically from groups that did not consider their new member activities to be hazing. “Most of [the reports], in all honestly, seem to be things where people were engaging in things that they didn’t actually realize fell into the hazing categories,” Camelio said.

He added that after receiving support from the administration and working with the committee to change new member activities, groups reported for hazing were able to change problematic programs into successful new member welcomes. “In my experience,” Camelio said, “most of the groups that have gone through the process really are responsive in a positive way.”