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Blog recollection by Ms. Claudette L. Kiely

I commend you on your work opposing “Hazings”.  Upon reading of your recent award and recognition for your work, I flashed back to 1954, fifty-five years ago, when I had to undergo initiation for my freshman year in college.

One piece stands out decidedly. Girls had to wear their skirts upside down, with waistbands about the knees, the fullness of the pleated skirt pinned at the waist. While it was difficult to walk with this encumbrance, it was nigh on impossible to board a bus or climb stairs. Several reported falling, I among them.  My twenty-four inch waist around my knees allowed very little movement.

Add to this, all the girls being initiated had to wear their hair in rollers (bedtime attire or at least, at home prepping for a date).

I lived a few miles from campus and had to bus to the college. After making an initial  effort to comply with the lunacy, demeaning as it was, I decided the time had come to take a stand against actions that
attacked self-esteem and personal pride.

I committed the cardinal sin! This freshman appeared without hair rollers and her skirt in place, wearing the waistband where it was intended to be, not enduring the full week intended!  My statement both implied and explicit, while it may not have won friends, it did influence people. Others followed in rebellion.

Strange that I recall no other details of the nonsense of initiation but these two pieces stand out.

However, I recall the following year when I lived in a dorm closer to campus, we were visited by several Worcester Polytech men who were undergoing their hazing.  Part of this was to visit womens’ dorms and the men shine the residents’ shoes, as many pair as each woman presented their “slave”.  The men were not allowed to speak.

In spite of the demeaning element, once it was finished, everyone had fun interracting, socializing. Our housemother served trays of homemade cookies and drinks for all when we met in the living rooms.

Your work as well as the news of hazing deaths in more recent times have piqued my curiosity as to the progressive differences of today’s hazings over yesteryears.

By Hank Nuwer

Hank Nuwer is the Indiana-based author of Broken Pledges: The Deadly Rite of Hazing, High School Hazing, Wrongs of Passage and The Hazing Reader. He has written articles or columns on hazing for the Sunday Times of India, Toronto Globe & Mail, Harper's Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, The Chronicle of Higher Education and the New York Times Sunday Magazine. His new book is Hazing: Destroying Young Lives from Indiana University Press.

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