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Editorial makes a sweeping statement on athetic hazing

An editorial in The Southern Illinoisan makes an impassioned plea in defense of athletics.  One paragraph buried near the bottom gives me concern:

“And hazing — or bullying — was likely just as prevalent in the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s. Instances have not decreased — or increased — in the past 50 years. What has changed is society’s tolerance of it. It is encouraging that incidents of hazing are now in the spotlight and are discussed openly. It is possible that it would be easier to turn a blind eye if competitive athletics moved outside of public schools. Look at the NFL.”

First of all, the first best survey on athletics supported by the NCAA wasn’t completed until the late 1990s. There is no way to “likely” say that hazing was as prevalent in the 1940s. Did it exist then? Of course, but no one knows with any certainty it was “just as prevalent” in those days.

Yes, it is true that society’s tolerance has changed. But in addition to the education efforts by authors, advocates, educators and enlightened professionals in athletics, the severity of hazing certainly has gotten the public’s attention. Certainly, very few teams in the 1940s through 1960s could have capped a lid on the staggering number of sexual hazing cases that have been reported since the mid 1990s (and in increasing number the past ten years). Nor were there any athletic hazing deaths until the mid-1970s (although one football player named Nolte McElroy was electrocuted in 1928 while being hazed by Delta Kappa Epsilon).

Finally, I just don’t get the meaning or logic behind these two sentences: “t is possible that it would be easier to turn a blind eye if competitive athletics moved outside of public schools. Look at the NFL.”

–Moderator Hank Nuwer

 

 

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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