Michigan State University campus offices and students are working together to raise awareness of hazing as part of the National Hazing Prevention Week. Hazing Prevention Week takes place from September 25-29 with four major events being held on MSU campus.
The MSU Office of Student Support and Accountability, or OSSA, defines hazing as, “requiring or encouraging any act, whether or not the act is voluntarily agreed upon, in conjunction with initiation, affiliation with, continued membership, or participation in any group, that causes or creates a substantial risk of causing mental or physical harm or humiliation.”
The OSSA website includes a list of hazing examples ranging from physical acts of violence or intimidation to sleep deprivation to interference with academic pursuits. OSSA Assistant Director Tamera Dunn-Perry said it is important to understand that hazing can occur in a number of organizations.
“Hazing ultimately could happen to anyone and in any organization where there is a hierarchy,” Dunn-Perry said. “Within the student organization conduct policy, we deal with multiple examples of hazing that are not specific to any one type of organization, but are examples that have been observed to happen somewhere within the United States.”
2023 is the first year that MSU’s Hazing Prevention Week has been hosted by a committee, Fraternity & Sorority Life Assistant Director Elana Levy said. The committee includes student voices as well as representatives from a range of campus offices and organizations.
“This is one of the first years that we have done this which is really exciting,” Levy said. “We have representatives from offices all across campus, including students who came together to plan this and to really show how we as a community can come together to help prevent hazing.”
The offices involved in Hazing Prevention Week include OSSA, Fraternity and Sorority Life, the Residence Hall Association, University Health and Well Being, the Office for Civil Rights and Title IX Education and Compliance, MSU Athletics, MSU Police and Public Safety and MSU LiveOn.
Hazing prevention events started Monday with a viewing of the movie "Goat," which follows a college freshman pledging a fraternity and his experience during “hell week”, in Wells Hall. Following the movie, attendees discussed hazing and the implications of the film.
Wednesday’s event consists of a workshop that is co-sponsored by Lambda Alpha Theta Latin Sorority, Inc.. The workshop, titled ‘Looking into the Mirror: Our Values and Hazing Prevention’, will feature guest speaker Tom Fritz, the director of the Office of Support and Equity within the Office for Civil Rights and Title IX Education and Compliance.
Fritz said his speech will focus on how hazing interacts with organizational values.
“If we're hazing to start, what values is that teaching our new members?” Fritz said. “We have the opportunity to really flip the script and lead with the values of all of our organizations.”
Hazing awareness is particularly important on a college campus because young students attending college for the first time tend to be more vulnerable to hazing, Fritz said.
“A lot of people are searching for themselves and searching for a place to belong,” Fritz said. “We have an obligation as current members to welcome them in a way that isn't harmful. College administrators, college community members, we have an obligation to break that cycle.”
The week will continue on Thursday with a luncheon discussion about hazing in the workplace led by MSU Ombudsperson Shannon Burton. The final event will take place Friday outside of the MSU Union.
Friday’s event is titled ‘Dough-not Haze’ at the MSU Union and will be a collaboration between the Interfraternity Council and Strange Matter.Levy said students will have the opportunity to ask questions and debunk misconceptions around hazing.
Dunn-Perry said students should always pay attention to any activities or situations that make them uncomfortable. If they do witness or experience hazing there are several university resources they can access.
“The first thing [students] can do is pay attention when something makes them feel uncomfortable,” Dunn-Perry said. “Ask themselves, why did they feel uncomfortable? Is it a situation where an activity is being done to enforce a power dynamic or is it a situation where there's something happening and this just is not going to promote group bonding and unity in ways that are healthy long term?”
If a student experiences or witnesses hazing, they should reach out to their organization’s advisor if they feel comfortable, Dunn-Perry said. They can also contact the Office of Spartan Experiences, the OSSA or submit an online report through the MSU Incident Reporting Form. The MSU Misconduct Hotline also offers an anonymous reporting option.