The recent hazing incident on the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps men’s soccer team has brought the issue of hazing to the forefront of CMS Athletics and the Claremont McKenna College and Harvey Mudd College administrations. Despite actions and statements from the CMS team, commitment from CMC is falling short in terms of anti-hazing measures.
In order to tackle the issue head on, it’s important to understand the widespread culture of hazing and how it persists. In the PBS Documentary “Hazing,” directed by Byron Hurt, hazing is defined as any activity that requires someone to perform degrading acts or humiliating activities to become a member of a group. Hazing is a universal issue that can thrive in group environments, including athletic teams, clubs and organizations.
There is a common belief that the physical and emotional trauma gained from hazing acts as a form of bonding. This connects to the belief that the abuse from hazing acts as preparation for challenges later on in life. These beliefs are passed on from older members to younger members in groups, which helps to falsely reinforce hazing as a character-building tradition. Silence hides the pervasiveness of hazing’s chokehold.
A national study conducted in 2008 by Dr. Elizabeth J. Allan, professor and program coordinator of the Higher Education graduate program at the University of Maine and principal investigator for the National Study of Student Hazing found that more than 11,000 college students at 53 different campuses across the country reported being impacted by hazing. 55 percent of participating students who belonged to clubs, teams or organizations on their campuses had experienced hazing.
“People see the incident that makes the headlines as an exceptional case. But really, if you look nationally at all the cases, you could say it’s a systemic issue,” Allan said.
Many are quick to dismiss hazing as harmless pranks. But the effects of hazing are long lasting and far-reaching. Allan defines these impacts as the “hidden” harms of hazing, or the scars — physical and emotional — that stay with the student.
In terms of preventing these effects of hazing, CMS Athletics needs to take another step up.
“CMC and CMS will continue to reinforce and amplify our hazing prevention and education efforts across many groups,” said Gilien Silsby, director of news and media relations at CMC in a statement on behalf of the CMC dean of students. “We apply a multi-pronged approach that includes (a) continued prevention efforts, and (b) development of effective team building and bonding events that do not include hazing.”
The gist? CMC is reverting back to its old ways — instead of instituting new anti-hazing measures, they are reinforcing current efforts that were already in place when hazing incidents occurred. According to the old adage, doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity.
In addition, Silsby indicated that CMS will expand education efforts by inviting guest speakers to lead bystander training. Putting the burden of preventing hazing on students ignores the reality that students do not want to police other students because it potentially leads to social ostracism, exclusion and retribution. It’s on the CMS administration to create new policies, not just extend their old ones to a larger audience.
Furthermore, Silsby discussed the formation of a student-represented anti-hazing working group. The fault in this proposal lies in the name — neither students in working groups nor administrators are hazing experts. When I reached out to multiple CMS athletes to gain their perspectives on the matter, all of them declined to comment on solutions for general hazing culture. Their unwillingness to engage does not bode well for student-led open dialogue on hazing culture.
At this point in my investigation, the possibility of eradicating hazing culture from the CMS athletic community was looking grim. But then, I found the Hazing Prevention Consortium (HPC), a three year research-to-practice initiative to support colleges and universities in comprehensive campus-wide hazing prevention.
Allan outlined the three year process: Year one focuses on commitment, capacity-building and cultural competence. Year two concentrates on the priority areas, the risk factors and the designing of strategies that will target those areas. Year three builds on this to ensure that these approaches don’t evaporate in the future.
Many prominent colleges and universities have participated in the HPC, such as Dartmouth, UVA, Duke, MIT, UNC Chapel Hill, Tufts, UT Austin and more. The data collected from these schools shows a positive correlation between the implementation of the HPC’s structured program and a shift in the schools’ cultures.
The HPC’s guided activities have proven to be effective because they create more transparency surrounding hazing and use credible, data-driven strategies that were formulated by experts in the areas of psychology, hazing and human development.
It is commendable that CMC is considering proactive rather than reactive approaches. However, while we can assume that CMS and CMC would like to eradicate hazing, their belated and anemic proposed future actions will not do the trick; their theoretical responses are not a systematic program that will protect students in the short or long term.
The HPC can only serve to benefit the Claremont community; they perform the work of building the preventative structure, and we could adopt, adapt and embrace it to stop future hazing. For the sake of the physical and mental well-being of the Claremont community, the HPC is a worthwhile investment.
Tess McHugh PO ’25 is from Denver, Colorado. She loves spending time in New York City, listening to Ariana Grande and riding the Peloton.