Welcome back to Cornell, Spring semester edition.
A legion of eager freshman are undertaking recruitment for Greek organizations.
Students have begun to edit their resumes in hopes of joining their dream business group on campus.
Early last week, I was sitting in Libe replying to emails when I overheard a freshman sharing how eager he was to join a selective organization on campus. He shared how “incredible” the people in this organization were, how “pumped” he was to go through recruitment, and how “excited” he was to be hazed.
“Dude, I can’t wait to go through pledging. It’s totally gonna be worth it. I heard they go hard.”
Endless studies have been conducted about hazing on college campuses. Fifty-five percent of college students involved in clubs, teams and organizations experience hazing. Eighty-seven percent of Cornell students believe “it’s never okay to humiliate or intimidate new members.” If we know it’s happening, and we know it’s wrong, why are we still hazing?
When confronted with the question, it seems to come down to unity and a sense of pride. In some cases, organizations may assert that they are preparing the new members for the real world. It comes down to our definition of what constitutes as hazing. Making someone run to CTB to get you a Roundhouse at 7 a.m. just because they are your pledge is hazing.
Plot twist: professional development can be hazing. A terrible recruitment process can be hazing. Humiliating someone because it’s funny is hazing. Causing mental distress is hazing. Putting someone at physical risk is hazing. If a new member of your organization is crying, the fault is probably the process and not them.
Hazing culture is not exclusive to Cornell. It has become customary to hear horror stories of summer internships, and to use this as an excuse to continue “preparing Cornellians for the ‘real world.’” Cornell is a place where top talent from around the world come together to develop as leaders. As future leaders, this should not be the culture that we continue to perpetuate.
We often only hear about hazing when it goes horribly wrong. Nationally, 1968 was the last year where we did not see a death associated with hazing. Last year alone saw the unfortunate death of several students at colleges across the country as a result of hazing. I can only hope that tragedies as a result of hazing will not continue to occur at Cornell, and that we all take a larger responsibly in changing the culture that has been maintained for far too long on our campus.
It would be hypocritical of me to not acknowledge that I bought into the system as well. I have been hazed during my time at Cornell in an effort to gain acceptance and respect from my peers, but upon reflection I have realized how the justification for hazing — an act that is supposed to promote unity and respect — is built upon false principles.
Ending hazing rests not only on the shoulders of administrators cracking down on organizations, but also on individuals speaking out against barriers of entry to their organizations and exploring alternatives to hazing practices.
It hurts when friends share the mental health struggles they’ve experienced in order to gain acceptance to an organization, It’s disturbing to have peers miss classes in an effort to be a “better pledge,” it’s scarier to see sleep deprived, pin wearing, teary new members become the hazers just a few months later.
I call upon upperclassman reading this article to think critically about their experiences. If your organization has activities which make jokes at the expense of the new members, it’s time for a shift. Communities are built around shared experiences, but shared experiences should not negatively impact a young student’s time at Cornell.
I was misguided in believing that overcoming obstacles was the key to finding respect. My fondest relationships at Cornell have been organic, and not the result humiliation or stress. My greatest moments of growth have been self-motivated. Hazing is not, and should not, be central to what students hope to learn from their time at Cornell. It is not the only way to find your place at Cornell.
My hope is that anyone trying to find a sense of community at Cornell can do so without the threat of getting hazed.
Dustin Liu is a junior in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations. He currently serves as the undergraduate student-elected trustee on the Cornell Board of Trustees. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Trustee Viewpoint appears alternate Tuesdays this semester.