Over the summer, the College revised its policy on hazing (click for background information on last year’s hazing incident). In addition to spelling out the investigative process that a group of students would undergo if accused of hazing, the updated policy outlines specific activities that violate the College’s new rules. Listed below are some of the more eyebrow-raising examples:
- Shaving, tattooing, piercing or branding
- Throwing substances or objects at individuals
- Assigning unreasonable chores or acts of servitude
- Causing excessive exercise, sleep deprivation or excessive fatigue
- Interfering with adequate time for study
- Requiring the wearing of apparel or acting in a way that is conspicuous and not within community norms
(NOTE: Sleep deprivation or excessive fatigue? Middlebury, you’re hazing us.)
Violation of the aforementioned activities (among others) may result in suspension for an indefinite period of time, revocation of College facility use privileges and/or case referrals to local law enforcement. Those accused of hazing are given the opportunity to issue a response statement to the Dean of the College to justify and defend their actions.
Perhaps the most important section of the new policy is in the section on consent to hazing, which reads, “Because of the socially coercive nature of hazing, implied or expressed consent to hazing is not a defense under applicable State law or this policy.” In other words, an outside source determines if an action falls under the category of hazing, even if you wholeheartedly agreed to take part. Hazing is a violation of Vermont state law, but because Middlebury is a private institution, College rules take precedent of state laws in such situations.
In spite of the fact that athletic teams might be more prone to activities that border upon hazing, the general consensus among varsity athletes is that not much has changed, though several captains admitted to “playing it safe” to avoid any possible misunderstandings.
Hazing is one of those things where you know it when you see it. Taking part in or encouraging risky behavior can very easily be declared hazing, the benefits of which are insignificant to any and all possible consequences and punishments.
In reading the College’s revised policy on hazing, it seems that we (the students) are not the ones who can say what is hazing and what is not, but rather the College, whose goal is to protect students, school property and the Middlebury College reputation.
Readers, what do you think of the College getting to decide what is or isn’t hazing? Any of you on sports teams or in clubs this year that have historically had initiations? How have you seen the new hazing policy affect those initiations? Do you think this it is good for the community or a detriment to it? Do you think this hazing policy is an improvement overall?