Hazing in Campus Recreation: Part II

March 30, 2011

It’s Not Just a Greek Thing

Jean McClellan-Holt, Ed.D., CRSS
Assistant Director, Recreation & Wellness
Old Dominion University

Part I of this article focused on the definition of hazing, the types of hazing (Subtle, Harassment, and Violent), and delved into why hazing is so prevalent in society. Part II will focus on hazing prevention coalitions at two major universities.

In the past ten years, hazing has become more violent, more humiliating, and more sexual (InsideHazing.com, 2010). Fortunately, a lot is being done to promote the prevention of hazing. These initiatives include the formation of specialized anti-hazing organizations, the passage of anti-hazing laws on the state level, and the creation of collaborative hazing prevention programs at colleges and universities throughout the nation. Two such programs are the very successful Hazing Coalition at Florida State University, and a rather new program at Auburn University.

An email with questions on the creation of the Hazing Coalition was sent to Dr. Adam Goldstein, Associate Dean of Students at Florida State University, and Paul Kittle, Director of Greek Life at Auburn University. Below are their responses to these questions.

How did you get the ball rolling? How did you get other areas on board?
Dr. Adam Goldstein: The Florida legislature’s passage of the new hazing law in 2005 served as the catalyst for change in our community. We knew the law established felony and misdemeanor criminal classifications for hazing and believed our students were navigating a new legal landscape. But we suspected that most didn’t know about or understand the significance of this change. The simplest way to describe our thinking… is that we felt a moral obligation to inform our students.

The first step we took was to collect information from other institutions in the State. The Dean of Students offices of Greek Life and Student Conduct, two areas I supervise, sent messages through their networks to see if any other Florida campus had distributed information about the new law to their community. Our hope — which was very naïve — was that we would be able to adapt a resource created elsewhere. But we learned that the other campuses in the system had not yet taken this step.

The second thing we did was send a message to colleagues on campus — specifically those in student activities, Greek Life, Athletics, Campus Recreation, Student Conduct, and Housing. We asked them to informally poll student leaders in their areas to determine whether they had heard of the new law and understood what it meant to them. They sent their findings back to us, and we heard two things consistently: Not only were our students unaware of the law, they felt confused by the university’s hazing policy.

The third thing we did was convene a meeting of staff from the campus populations we had polled. At the beginning of the meeting I distributed and explained a two-page summary of the law that I had created by reviewing the legislation. We then shared our results from the campus and State assessments and asked a fairly simple question: “We think we have a problem, do you agree?” Looking back, this was a critical moment. As a group we agreed we needed to do something. We also agreed that the only way to do it right, was to do it together. By the end of our meeting, we agreed:

  1. We needed to educate our community about the law;
  2. We needed to evaluate how we were approaching the issue of hazing as a community;
  3. We would use the passage of the law as a catalyst for organizational and cultural change at FSU.

It has been a five-year effort (so far) and a lot of work. But, we believe our effort has resulted in several real changes in our community. Changes to how we educate students about hazing, we have a clearer and more consistently explained position on the issue, improved avenues for reporting hazing incidents, an increase in reporting, and improved response by law enforcement and campus educators. We believe the net effect of all these factors is a reduction of harm by hazing at FSU.

What obstacles did you encounter in developing the coalition?

TIME. Each of us has had to commit time and energy to this effort. But, it needed to be done. Once we clearly articulated the problem and collectively agreed to do something about it, the commitment was solid. We feel good about each other as colleagues and enjoy working together. This helps too. But, we also were fairly strategic about our progress. We took some low hanging fruit at first (i.e., close the knowledge gap about the new law). Once we saw that we could do this, we took on more ambitious projects (i.e., create a central resource for hazing information, resources, and reporting; establish a positive message on the issue; create new resources that engaged others). Each success provided fuel for another. Our conversation has ebbed and flowed at different times, but we have been able to bring everyone back to the table when needed.

What advice would you offer to an institution that is looking to start a hazing coalition?
Some things we have learned:

  • It is important to view the issue for what it is… one that affects athletes as much as Greeks, students in performing arts groups, service organizations, sport clubs, and religious groups as well. Addressing this issue effectively cannot be done by one person or single area of campus life. Effectively addressing hazing requires a campus-wide effort with leadership from the top and active participation by students, faculty, and staff throughout the community.
  • It is as important to explain the community we aspire to become as it is to explain our policies. We felt we needed to learn a new way to communicate with students about this issue. So, we explored our values and heritage as a community — and used them to explain why we don’t support hazing. This was a very different approach then we had taken in the past. And, it helped us institutionalize the effort and connect with more people.
  • We discovered that many students shut-down when we talked about hazing as a ‘policy’. So we learned to begin the conversation with a statement we all believe in: ‘As a community, we believe students should not be harmed or demeaned in any way when getting involved in campus life.’
  • Send students and staff to training opportunities like the Novak Institute, sponsored by http://HazingPrevention.org, and the National Hazing Symposium at the University of Maine. Our students and staff have returned from these experiences and immediately began implementing the things they learned. There is a model that works — and the Novak Institute teaches it. This has been money and time well-spent.
  • Students are the best advocates for change on this issue. During the first several years of our coalition’s activity — staff initiated most campus-wide programming on the topic. But for the past three years FSU’s Hazing Prevention Week has been initiated, organized, and predominantly funded by students. Students in our student government, sororities, fraternities, sports clubs, and music honorary fraternity have been leading the way. In 2010, two of the five students that attended the Novak Institute returned to campus and raised $6,000 from student groups and departments to plan and organize our most comprehensive Hazing Prevention Week yet. One of the five students that attended, returned to the marching band – did a presentation about what he learned – and made sure that the band and his music fraternity were included in the Hazing Prevention Week schedule. These are signs of true progress to me… There are so many places where staff feels alone on this issue. I don’t feel that way at Florida State University. I am proud to be a part of a community that works together to make herpes home remedies our campus a safe place to get involved in campus life.

Other information about Florida State University’s hazing coalition:

The coalition created http://hazing.fsu.edu, FSU’s central location for hazing information, education, and reporting. Working together, we target high risk populations with resources specific to each community, provide information to parents about how to talk with students about the issue, provide an interactive quiz for members of the community to test their knowledge about the issue, and maintain an on-line reporting feature that allows for a quicker and more coordinated response to incidents that occur. Our member offices have financially supported student and staff participation at the Novak Institute for Hazing Prevention, an annual Institute that teaches how to implement effective hazing prevention strategies (sponsored by HazingPrevention.org), and the National Hazing Symposium held at the University of Maine. In 2010, Florida State University received the first annual $10,000 award for Innovation in Campus Hazing Prevention and Education offered by Zeta Tau Alpha and HazingPrevention.org.

How did you get the ball rolling?
Paul Kittle: Following a few semesters of constant hazing allegations and violations, our office, along with the then Dean of Students was looking for a comprehensive manner to address the culture of hazing in our community. It just so happened that the national hazing study was released around this time and the first hazing institute was developed and announced at this time. Two Greek life staff members attended the hazing institute and began the discussion about bringing this issue to the forefront of discussion on campus. This discussion led to the development of a multifaceted awareness campaign (www.auburn.edu/stophazing) which was introduced to campus via an open forum. We invited representatives from across campus to participate on the forum panel. The areas represented were noted in the national hazing study as areas where the potential for hazing most likely occurred. This began the campus-wide conversation on hazing in our community.

How did you get other areas on board?
The invitation to participate in the forum opened the door to getting other areas on board. The key to this was that the first person to accept their invitation to the forum was our university President. Once he came on board and publicly supported the need for open, broad-reaching discourse about hazing, the other areas were quick to support it. I am not saying that without the President’s support that others would not have been supportive, but it did not hurt. Following the forum we partnered with areas such as our Student Life Director’s team, housing, UNIV 100 instructors, and summer orientation to continue to present the hazing awareness materials and made ourselves available to present on the topic of hazing and hazing prevention when asked to do so.

What obstacles did you encounter in developing the coalition?
The coalition is now being formed after almost 2 years spent on an ongoing awareness campaign. The conversation about hazing was beginning to get talked into the ground and we were, honestly, losing some steam. A group was called together to discuss campus violence prevention efforts. From this meeting, it was agreed that instead of having a hazing awareness group or a sexual assault awareness group, meeting separately, it would be advantageous to combine all of these, and other topics, under the broader umbrella of reducing campus violence. This met with overall acceptance from the initial participants. The group now includes the Greek Life office, Conduct, Health and Wellness promotions, counseling, EEO office, public safety, and sexual assault advocates.

What advice would you offer to an institution that is looking to start a hazing coalition?

  • Be ready to debate to what extent hazing is a part of your culture — we did this via an outside assessment
  • Involve a broad cross-section of campus including areas such as Greek Life, campus recreation, university bands, athletics (our AD was extremely knowledgeable about hazing and willing to assist with our efforts), faculty, housing, Honors College, public safety, and local community groups such as church-affiliated organizations.
  • Utilize the awareness materials available to you
  • Do not make hazing a “Greek” thing. Hazing is a cultural issue and no group should feel unduly attacked or burdened with the issue
  • Get public support from key administrators: president and/or above is great

Hazing is an issue that affects campus culture, thus a community-wide response is needed. Coalitions are important in that they involve individuals from diverse backgrounds and provide an opportunity for them to be a part of the solution. The National Collaborative for Hazing Research and Prevention (2010) offers the following points on coalition building:

  • Start with a needs assessment
  • Develop a strategic plan with proposed outcomes
  • Keep the goal of the coalition in the forefront
  • Make sure coalition members are aware of how they will benefit
  • Identify other coalitions already in existence on your campus
  • Link coalition objectives to institutional objectives and missions
  • Have a long range plan


Goldstein, A. December 17, 2010, email correspondence.
InsideHazing.com. Web. 16 Dec 2010.
Kittle, P. January 14, 2011, email correspondence.
National Collaborative for Hazing Research and Prevention, “Hazing Prevention & Coalition Building” webinar, Nov. 10, 2010.

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