Dr. Susan

Northwestern Women's Soccer Team Initiation Pictures FAQ

Why is it important to highlight the photos from Northwestern?

The issue is not to further humiliate the victims or perpetrators. The goal is to wake up the authorities, who act as sleeping giants. It is the responsibility of all involved to realize and stop the hazing practices which are embedded in all sports; in teams for girls and boys, in high school, college and in professional sports as well. Each time we do not react to these kinds of findings we are condoning hazing. Each time the school reacts in a mild way, saying that we have to "trust our students" they are covertly accepting hazing. This would not be so bad if we did not know that there are dangerous activities that occur during hazings. Activities that end up with students being beaten, branded, overdosed on alcohol and sometimes students die. The point of exposing these activities is not to get the individuals in trouble. No, it is to get them to see the error in their judgement, and to train the professionals who work with our children to see and understand hazing.

Why are these photos so significant?

This album demonstrates the process of hazing. It shows the multiple steps taken by those being initiatied and reveals the time and effort that was used to plan the hazing event. The total album is similar to an archeologist finding a total dinosaur, instead of just a few bones.

How does hazing happen?

Hazing is a process that occurs in all kinds of groups in which there is a hierarchy or pecking order. The senior members who have status and power want to teach junior members "respect." They also feel that they have the right and duty to pass on the tradition of initiation to the new members. This empowers them to do onto others what has been done to them. I call this cycle the "blueprint of hazing." Victims become bystanders, watching the next group get hazed.

Eventually, they become the perpetrators, doing the hazing onto others. Then students pack up their hazing experiences and take it with them from high school to college, the military and the workplace.

Do the colleges know about these activities?

Most administrators will deny knowledge of such activities, and often they will say that they are "isolated incidents." However, it is difficult for anyone passing these girls to assume that the are all willingly walking around in their undies with t-shirts that have demeaning words scribbled on them. Therefore I believe that it would not be very difficult for some members of the college staff to find such activities, and at least consider the possibility that a hazing was in progress. The fact that so many teams post their initiations on the internet clearly demonstrates that hazing in athletics is part of the culture, and not "isolated incidents."

What do college coaches and athletic directors do to prevent hazing?

Almost all schools and teams will have a policy that prohibits hazing. Some teams have contracts which students sign that clearly states that hazing is not acceptable. However, little anti-hazing education is actually done in most settings. I believe the problem occurs because:

1. Many Directors of Athletics and coaches have themselves been hazed and hazed others. They believe that it is not so bad and may even help unite the team. Therefore they themsleves feel that rule is simply part of being

"politically correct" rather than a policy created to protect the safety of the students. Consciously or unconsciously the coaches deny, ignore or misinterpret the obvious signs of hazing and act as though it is not happening.

2. There is very little time, money, or effort given by the schools and athletic teams to educate the athletes. The NCAA found that 79% of their athletes had experienced hazing prior to college. Therefore the task is to change the expectations of the new students while changing the traditions of the old students.

3. I would like to emphasize the lack of money given to hazing prevention. Think about how much money universities spend to recruit top athletes, to maintain their fields, to hire the best coaches, and to create winning teams. Think about the amount of money earned from advertising and other sports related revenue. Now consider how much money is given to hazing prevention. For those who don't know, I would be surprised if $1000 a year is spent on hazing education in athletics at any school.

Who is responsible for hazing prevention?

I believe we all are responsible. Parents need to teach their children about hazing and they need to communicate that hazing is not acceptable, despite the fact that they may have survived their own hazings. Hazing has become more violent and more sexualized in the past ten years, and it is more likely to skid into the hazardous zone.

Coaches, athletic directors and school administrators of high schools and colleges are responsible to integrate hazing prevention into their programs in a continuous and meaningful way.

Everyone needs to realize that hazing is for losers. Hazing may lead to students being put in jail or in the hospital. Hazing may lead to athletes losing their seasons and scholarships. Hazing often ends up in coaches losing their jobs. Schools lose their reputations. As I said, hazing is a lose-lose situation.

I believe the federal government should be funding hazing prevention and intervention programs. A national 800 reporting system should be created, as is done with child abuse and domestic violence. One definition of hazing would also be helpful. Appropriate consequences which are meaningful and a deterrent should be incorporated.

What should the public/audience do?

My hope is that the parents of student athletes would start making demands on the athletic establishment to properly train coaches and athletes. There is no system of checks and balances. Often coaches and captains engage in behaviors which are demeaning, ridiculing, humiliating and even physically dangerous. The public accepts this as a way to train tough athletes. However there is no other system that accepts abusive behavior as a method of teaching students. Teachers or parents would be arrested for some of the behaviors which occur on athletic teams. If we do not demand ethical and appropriate behaviors from athletic leaders, then how can we demand such behavior from students?

Isn't some hazing acceptable?

Hazing occurs on a continuum, from mild to severe. When students dress up as babies, or boys dress up as girls, many people think this is harmless. Perhaps it is, however it is rare that hazing ends there. Usually the dressing up part is simply the "warm-up" activity. The purpose of hazing is for the leaders to demonstrate their power and control over those who have less status. As the hazing continues the activities may still appear mild but may have severe consequences. For example, it is common to lock new members in a locker. In 2005, this happened on a high school basketball team, though it went a little further. The vents were covered with materials which were soaked in a fragrance and which did not allow new air to circulate. The boy ended up with an asthma attack and in the hospital. Similarly, in April 2006, I heard of a hazing which began as many do. Students ate onions covered in hot sauce and other spicy substances. One student passed out and couldn't breathe. Thankfully he was taken to a hospital, where his asthma was controlled. Either of these students could have died. No one meant to harm them and the hazing activities appeared to be mild, yet one cannot predict the reaction that another student may have.

Why do teams post their initiations on the internet?

It seems that the students do not perceive this initiation as fitting the definition of hazing. They do not seem to recognize the demeaning and degrading aspects, nor do they take seriously the issue of underage drinking, providing alcohol to a minor, or engaging in drinking games which make it difficult to gauge when someone's blood alcohol level may be at a dangerous level. I assume that they do not recognize this event as hazing because they have not been exposed to ongoing and effective anti-hazing education.

If hazing is embedded in the culture of sports then how can the colleges or coaches change it?

I wholeheartedly agree that changing a culture and behaviors which appear to be the norm is extremely difficult, however, it can be done. For example, in the same age group, the government has successfully created a campaign which has reduced drunk-driving fatalities. Most kids incorporate the concept that "friends don't let friend drive drunk." Unfortunately, there is no such campaign about hazing, which is often done by leaders who are drunk or out of control.

What is hazardous hazing?

Hazardous hazing occurs when the activities cause long lasting physical or psychological damage. For example, in the Mepham hazing where football players were sodomized with broomsticks, pine cones and golf balls. More recently, The McGill Football team lost their season due to "Dr. Broom" another hazing in which brooms were used for sodomy. In fact, many of the athletic hazings which were reported during 2005 included various forms of sodomy or sexual assault. Students who are involved in these activities will be effected, psychologically, for life.

How can adults know when a hazing will skid into the hazardous zone?

We cannot know in advance. Just like we wear seat belts whenever we drive because we cannot know when we will have a car accident. In hazing, there are no safety features, no seat belts, no airbags, no designated drivers. This is why all hazing is dangerous; because we never know when the events will go too far, when an individual is too vulnerable.

Source: Dr. Susan Lipkins, badjocks.com/archive/2006/nw-hazing-faq.htm#Why%20are%20these%20photos%20so%20significant?

Related Issue: What makes a good coach, Notable Women

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