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Who determines where the fine line begins and where it ends? What I find acceptable, others might find embarrassing and inappropriate. Every individual is different, and two people rarely see things exactly the same.

When I was a freshman in college, I don’t remember dreading anything. I wasn’t nervous or scared about anything, except maybe people thinking I wasn’t good enough to stick around. I don’t know if my classmates ever dreaded something that was coming their way. It would be an interesting question to ask.

Looking back on my college experience, a lot of stupid things happened but all of them make me laugh. During my first semester, two upperclassmen called my room and told us coach wanted us to put the tarp on the field. At 3 a.m., with a clear sky overhead, all 15 freshmen trudged down to the field. Twenty minutes later, with nobody but freshmen around, we went back to our rooms.

When my older teammates were freshmen, they had pranks played on them. When they were the veterans, it was their turn. I don’t see any harm in that.

We weren’t forced to drink and nobody was ever embarrassed or humiliated. We had fun with one another and things like the tarp incident made us closer as a team.

There isn’t a steadfast rule about what is right and what is wrong. We can only hope that student-athletes use their best judgment and never seek to embarrass and degrade their teammates.

By Hank Nuwer

Journalist Hank Nuwer is the Alaska author of Hazing: Destroying Young Lives; Broken Pledges: The Deadly Rite of Hazing, High School Hazing, Wrongs of Passage and The Hazing Reader. In April of 2024, the Alaska Press Club awarded him first place in the Best Columnist division and Best Humorist, second place.

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 current book is Hazing: Destroying Young Lives from Indiana University Press. He is married to Malgorzata Wroblewska Nuwer of Warsaw, Poland and Fairbanks, Alaska. Nuwer is a former columnist for the Greenville (Ohio)Early Bird and former managing editor of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner in Alaska.
Nuwer was named the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists columnist of the year in 2021 for his “After Darke” column in the Early Bird. He also won third place for the column in 2022 from the Indiana chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. He and his wife Gosia, recently of Union City, Ind., have owned 20 acres in Alaska for many years. “The move is a sort-of coming home for us,” said Nuwer. As a journalist, he’s written about the Alaskan Iditarod sled-dog race and other Alaska topics. Read his musings in his blog at Real Alaska Daily-- and in his weekly column "Far from Randolph" in the Winchester Star-Gazette of Randolph County, Indiana.

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