What you would do if you really wanted to prevent hazing

Now that National Hazing Prevention Week is over, what are you doing to prevent hazing?

Since the first National Hazing Prevention Week in 2005, individuals, campuses, and organizations have been amping up their awareness campaigns in an effort to bring the conversation about hazing out of the darkness and into the daylight.

For at least one week, "Mission: Accomplished."

Now, most, if not all, of those individuals, campuses, and organizations have turned their attention to the next batch of awareness campaigns

But what, really, has changed?

Professional sports teams continue to haze, the Miss America Organization has barely acknowledged claims that this year's winner was disciplined for excessive hazing, and at some point in time, yet another family inevitably will be forced to deal with the consequences of hazing.

The work most certainly is... not... done.

You might think of National Hazing Prevention Week as the advertising and marketing side of your hazing prevention production. As an analogy, if your hazing prevention strategy were your homecoming concert or football game, the product on the stage or on the field would be the result of weeks and months of practice and preparation, not merely the marketing of the event. The awareness week is simply your marketing, if you will, an invitation to participate in the larger strategy... and work.

I had the opportunity to work at the University of Maryland-College Park, where Dr. Drury "Dru" Bagwell's leadership and legacy were a part of the campus culture, so I benefited from his contributions, including his work with a chapter where I served as house director for two years.

One of Dr. Bagwell's most frequently quoted pearls of wisdom was: "If you really were against hazing, you would be sitting outside of the chapter house in the bushes with a camera."

The point is that hazing does not stop because of an awareness week. Hazing stops because individuals make it stop. They interrupt it when they see it. They prevent it when they see it coming. They create cultures that do not allow it to begin in the first place.

A lot of ink and pixels have been used outlining proven strategies to stop hazing. For my money, there are none better than Dr. Linda Langford's "A Comprehensive Approach to Hazing Prevention in Higher Education Settings."

In it, Dr. Langford outlines a number of key initiatives for creating (and sustaining) a comprehensive hazing prevention strategy:

  • Identify and address multiple contributing factors from the individual level to peer, group, institutional, community, and public/societal levels.
  • Conduct a local analysis of your group's, institution's, community's culture. 
  • Include prevention, early intervention, and response components.
  • Use multiple, coordinated, and sustained strategies.
  • Make sure programs, policies, and services are coordinated and synergistic.
  • Ensure that each component of the initiative has clearly defined goals and objectives that are informed by data and research.
  • Build collaborations.

So, to borrow from Dr. Bagwell, who are we training to be on the lookout, and how are we training them?