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Cornell sticks to its “no hazing” pledge

The Big Red Lacrosse Team punished for drinking initiation.

Excerpt:

ITHACA — Renowned anti-hazing author and journalist Hank Nuwer believes Cornell University and school president David Skorton are doing more than their share in fighting the battle against hazing.

“It’s a tremendous commitment,” Nuwer, a graduate of Buffalo State who teaches journalism at Franklin College in Indiana, said in the wake of the incident involving the Big Red men’s lacrosse team.

Last Thursday, the university announced the suspension of the team for the fall season — which included a game against the Iroquois National team this Saturday, and an appearance in the Capital Lacrosse Invitational on Oct. 13 in Bethesa, Md. The tournament supports the Mario St. George Boiardi Foundation, named in memory of George Boiardi, a former Cornell lacrosse captain who died in 2004 after being struck in the chest by a ball during a game.

On Monday, details of the incident were made public on Cornell’s hazing website (hazing.cornell.edu). According to the report, freshman team members were expected to perform menial tasks and other duties for upperclassmen. The team held a party featuring a “keg race,” the report said, during which underage freshmen were challenged to drink large amounts of beer in a competition against other team members.

College officials say the freshmen were made to stand in a circle, tied together with string run through their belt loops, and drink beer to the point at which “multiple members vomited.”

Nuwer — who has written four books on the subject of hazing — said Monday that Skorton has taken the lead nationally in the anti-hazing movement.

“David Skorton is probably the most vocal college president in terms of speaking out against hazing,” Nuwer said. “My criticism of college presidents in general is that there is a lack of interest. A few years ago, at a major educational conference, the president from the University of Missouri offered to do a seminar with other college presidents on hazing. He got five takers, from all the presidents in the country. So what Skorton is doing is very unusual.”

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…This week is “National Hazing Prevention Week,” an initiative of hazingprevention.org, a group of committees and boards chaired by volunteers from across the country, all committed to empowering people in an effort to end the practice. Nuwer said that universities must take responsibility for having fostered a culture of acceptance over the years and work to change that culture.

“The institution bears a responsibility, not so much recently, but in allowing (hazing) in its yearbooks and having so-called funny pictures in the newspaper for years and years,” he said. “Hazing gets ingrained over time; it usually doesn’t enter in one year.”

Nuwer added the Cornell lacrosse incident, while not causing any serious harm or legal trouble for any of the participants, still should be taken seriously. He alluded to a 2003 incident involving the soccer team at North Carolina, in which players were forced to drink vodka from a pretzel barrel. In previous years, players were made to drink beer from the barrel, but in honor of a player on the team from overseas, the drink was switched.

“Two kids nearly died,” Nuwer said. “So it only takes one year, or one idiot, to change the rules. I would consider it (the Cornell incident) very serious, potentially.”

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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