June 26, 2019 | 75° F

Students participate in Rutgers Hazing Prevention Week

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Rutgers students aim to put an end to hazing through Rutgers Hazing Prevention Week (RHPW), a week-long series of events created to help students become more socially responsible and aware.

RHPW takes place to affirm greek life’s dedication to a safe campus, said Erin Kearns, a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences senior and member of Gamma Sigma Alpha sorority.

“If one person’s being hazed, it’s an issue,” she said. “I’m sure that most organizations can understand the importance of treating new members with the respect and dignity that they deserve.”

National Hazing Prevention Week is usually at a different time from Rutgers’ week, she said. This is due to the University recruiting at a different time from other organizations nation-wide.

There are about 86 unique organizations existing or pending at Rutgers, she said.

The University has its own guidelines defining hazing, as do each chapter’s national organization, she said.

“Hazing as the Panhellenic Council defines it is any action that is demeaning, physically or mentally harmful,” Kearns said.

This definition is broad enough that it would be difficult to say at any point that hazing has been removed from Rutgers, she said. This does not stop these organizations from trying to eradicate it within fraternities and sororities.

Bharath Krishnamurthi, a School of Engineering senior and president of the Theta Tau fraternity, said their national organization has a "Zero-Tolerance No Hazing" policy which members are required to be familiar with. 

They otherwise follow the University social and policy guidelines, he said in an email. 

Theta Tau also has its own set of guidelines, which explain what students may and may not do, he said.

Normally hazing prevention week is a joint activity between the three main councils for greek life, said Gailen Davis, a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences senior and member of Sigma Kappa sorority. This year, the Panhellenic Council, Interfraternity Council and Multicultural Greek Council each hosted their own events.

“We thought it would be more beneficial and effective to do our hazing prevention events separately,” she said. “(I’m part of) the Panhellenic Council so I (organized) the social responsibility workshop.”

Topics ranging from big/little relationships to alcohol usage to mental health awareness were covered in this workshop, she said.

This event was held in conjunction with Counseling and Psychiatric Services, Kearns said.

Ensuring the safety of students, including new pledges, was a chief goal, Davis said. One of the ultimate goals is to create a “hazing-free” zone on campus.

There were several events over the last week to educate students about hazing, Davis said.

These included a social media push during which students pledged not to haze others and a photo competition, Kearns said.

The digital push included a petition pushing for that students signed online, she said.

Students can continue to sign this petition at any time, Davis said.

The sorority which won the competition received $350 which benefited the Children’s Miracle Network, she said.

A candlelight vigil and a carnival were planned for last week but were both canceled due to weather concerns, Kearns said.

“The candlelight vigil (was) rained out and that was in honor of all the victims of hazing,” Davis said. “Friday’s event was also rained out, and that was a carnival where you could sign a banner … (and) hazing pledge cards.”

The carnival was supposed to celebrate not having any major infractions in recent times, Kearns said.

The vigil would most likely not be rescheduled, Davis said. The carnival may be combined with the one already planned for Greek Week, which will take place later this semester.

“We can focus on the now and moving forward,” Kearns said. “We want to make sure everybody’s knowledgeable about our policies and that new members know how to reach out if there are any infractions.”

Students who experience hazing at the University have many resources, Kearns said. Each individual organization has an advisor who oversees the students. Students can also reach out to the executive board with the councils, the chapter boards or the Office of Student Conduct.

Other resources include Fraternity and Sorority Affairs or Residence Assistants, Davis said. Students can also visit Counseling and Psychiatric Services (CAPS).

Most of these resources cannot keep concerns confidential, especially if an investigation or disciplinary action is required, she said.

“The most important thing is talking to someone and doing something about (the issue),” she said.

Hazing is no longer a major issue with greek life at Rutgers, Kearns said. There is always room for improvement though.

These incidents are only a remote and minor subgroup of organizations, Kearns said. They do not represent the vast majority of students.

Joining greek life was a good decision for Kearns, she said. She said the sheer number of organizations on campus ensure that everyone can find a space.

Davis said these organizations should be welcoming, rather than hazing. She does not consider any group that hazes to be a proper example of greek life.

“(Greek life) does not make me better than anyone else but it makes me better than I used to be,” she said. “I would not have my job or experience or leadership position without it.”

Nikhilesh De

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