So your son or daughter comes home from college and announces that they intend to pledge a fraternal organization, join a club, or play a sport, and then you hear “oh, by the way, they have some kind of initiation rights”. Now What?
As parents being apprehensive about what indeed could be hazing is certainly natural. Many of these seemingly harmless rituals have turned ugly and resulted in students failing out of college, being injured emotionally or physically, and in the worst cases, killed. Studies have reported that there has been at least one hazing death a year for the last 45 years and a total of 170 deaths as recorded by a University of Maine's study of hazing practices on American college campuses.
So as parents how should we approach the subject with your son or daughter? Here are few things to consider:
- Help your college student understand that in spite of state laws and campus policies that prohibit hazing…it still takes place.
- Make sure they understands that humiliation and physical pain should not be part of the “rite of passage” to join any campus team or organization.
- Consider researching the organizations history related to as serious offenses in the news and social media and look for on-line pictures and discussions of past membership rituals. If you see a young man duct taped to a football goal post for 12 hours you might want to show that to your college student before they make their final decision. Some schools will even provide a list of sanctions against organizations and teams related to hazing.
- Check with the organization and see if they are up front with what new members of the group will be subject to during pledge week and final membership ceremonies.
This is a tough time for parents. The reality is no matter how good of a relationship your child has with you they aren’t going to tell you everything… it is actually pretty natural. Finally, if you aren’t getting answers, and you observe changes during the initiation process... fewer or more calls home, fewer home visits, students home and not wanting to return to school, a sudden drop in grades, or just a “gut feeling”, contact the school administration. While your child may not be willing to talk with you maybe they will talk with someone else; particularly if they feel a sense of shame related to their initiation experience. What is most important is that you help guide them into making good choices for themselves as they transition from home life to college life. This is Wayne Silcox for Safetysolutions4schools.com.
Image courtesy of www.crimemuseum.org