With anecdotal evidence showing that hazing among college students is not on the decline and may even be growing more severe, several groups are joining forces to call attention to an issue often shrouded in secrecy because of the shame and humiliation it engenders.
Education efforts to raise awareness about the dangers of hazing now include the annual recognition of National Hazing Prevention Week in September and a November symposium co-sponsored by the NCAA.
National Hazing Prevention Week, scheduled for September 26-30, is an annual occurrence sponsored by Campuspeak, an agency that represents college campus speakers with a variety of messages geared toward Greek, residence life, leadership, athletics and health education groups. Hazing prevention is one of the group's issues, and the 2005 National Hazing Prevention Week will be the first collaboration of its kind.
"I'm hearing a lot about it, especially for a first-year event," Campuspeak Executive Director Tracy Maxwell said. "A lot of people seem to be talking about it and doing things. We hope it continues to grow."
The group plans to assess activities that took place during 2005 to make plans for the 2006 event, already scheduled for the last week in September.
The organization provided a programming booklet and activation kit to campuses nationwide. The booklet contains suggestions for activities designed to raise hazing awareness on campus. Maxwell said she heard of one institution that is planning to erect lawn signs for people who have died as a result of hazing, including their pictures.
"I thought that sounded like such a great idea," she said. "It will be very powerful."
Also, Denison University will host a speaker as part of its National Hazing Prevention Week activities, co-sponsored by the school's division of student affairs and the athletics department. Other schools also have marked the week on their institutional calendars.
Campuspeak has also established a Web site, www.nhpw.com, at which people can exchange ideas or ask for help. Maxwell hopes that site sees a lot of traffic after the week concludes, when institutions want to share their success stories.
"I'm anxious to hear what they've done after it happens," she said. "I'm hoping a lot of people take advantage of that."
The plans for National Hazing Prevention Week grew out of the National Hazing Symposium, held last November at Purdue University and sponsored by Campuspeak, the NCAA, the Association of Fraternity Advisors and the Association for Student Judicial Affairs. More than 100 people attended the inaugural event, held in conjunction with the 2004 Indiana Greek Leadership Conference.
This year's symposium is scheduled for November 30 in Atlanta in conjunction with the Association of Fraternity Advisors annual meeting. Organizers are planning specific programming for the day-long event.
Mary Wilfert, NCAA assistant director of education services, said the symposium will take a global approach to hazing awareness and encouraging individual institutions to develop campus-wide environments that discourage hazing.
"We are bringing together people to walk away with what some are calling 'an ecological model' to offer guidance to create an environment that discourages hazing," she said.
She likened the approach to the evolution campuses have seen in the alcohol-abuse prevention arena, moving from attempting to change behavior to addressing environmental factors that could be shifted.
The symposium brings together leaders from a variety of collegiate communities, including those most associated with hazing, Greek organizations and athletics teams, as well as student government groups and high-school representatives.
Wilfert said some parents of hazing victims, activists and researchers also will be part of the event. Students and professionals are welcome.
Maxwell said she hopes the symposiums
and the recognition of National Hazing Prevention Week will help alleviate some of the frustration educators and ad-
ministrators often feel about the issue.
"It's such a difficult one to tackle. The secrecy makes it hard to deal with," she said. "So we want to get people talking about it, to make them more aware of it, to make it a week that will focus people's energy on being able to do something. A lot of people are frustrated that we talk about the issue a lot, but we're not able to ever do anything. I'm hoping that this will just be a catalyst for action."
She acknowledged that programming and events help discourage hazing, but education efforts simply are not enough -- campus departments need to work together across disciplines to combat the problem.
"This is not just a Greek problem, and it's not just an athletics problem. It can happen anywhere. I've been amazed about some of the kinds of groups that haze," she said. "We really do all have to work together to solve it."
-- Michelle Brutlag Hosick