Ohio University’s main campus in Athens, Ohio, has a problem with hazing.
The Associated Press reported Friday on the results of a public records request to the school. Among the complaints students had filed: A sorority made female pledges undress and undergo body-shaming by Sharpie-wielding sorority sisters. The men’s rugby club allegedly had new members run naked and rub their genitals on cars.
Several pledges complained of being forced to stay secluded in basements for days at a time. Some were made to rise before dawn and run five miles around campus. Others said they had to exercise or carry weights while intoxicated. And there were several accounts of people being forced to clean houses.
The university announced earlier this month the blanket suspension of 15 fraternities in response to a hazing investigation on campus. The investigation has since spread to some sororities, business fraternities and other organizations, including the school’s marching band, according to the AP.
Two things come to mind here. First, young people today don’t have to put up with this sort of thing. If the recent revelations about Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer and others whose actions have been exposed in the #MeToo years should prove anything, it’s that this kind of behavior is intolerable. It can be in the work place, the fraternity house, the band room or wherever. Young people shouldn’t put up with this sort of activity that crosses the line from harmless prank to body shaming and the possibility of physical and emotional harm. They shouldn’t even be asked to.
While pledges say they were “made” to do some things, the fact is they voluntarily submitted to this abuse so they could fit in with a peer group they wanted to join. To them, being part of the group was more important than the hazards involved in the hazing.
Rule of thumb: If a group insists on treating you like this, it’s best to turn your back and shake its dust from the soles of your shoes.
It’s good that some students are filing formal complaints and Ohio University is looking into them. The proof will be with what happens after the school’s inquiries are completed.
The second is that schools themselves must realize what a marketing disaster incidents such as these can be. These incidents haven’t seemed to have affected enrollment at Ohio or at West Virginia University, which has had its own problems with fraternities in recent years. However, as time passes and as people become less tolerant of this sort of behavior and as parents wise up, schools where hazing is common will find themselves moving down the list of where students want to attend. This is especially true for universities that function as the second choice for students who couldn’t get into the schools of their first choice.
Anyone can file an allegation, and not all complaints against a fraternity, a sorority or a student group can be proven. Yet there is a nationwide pattern of hazing that shows the problem exists. Universities can police this to a degree, but ultimately it comes down to students refusing to submit to such demands.
As an economics professor might say, when the market for organizations that haze goes away, so too will those organizations.
Anyway, after all the changes in society in recent years, shouldn’t the students doing the hazing know better by now?