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NASPA reviews new book on hazing

NASPA Journal, 2007, Vol. 44, no. 1, 233
Book Review by Bridget Guernsey Riordan, Emory University
Lipkins, S. (2006). Preventing hazing: How parents, teachers,
and coaches can stop the violence, harassment, and
humiliation. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. 192 pages. ISBN:
978-0-7879-8178-5 ($14.95)

The term “hazing” connotes a variety of meanings to different people.
To most higher education administrators it is unconscionable and a
practice that should be eradicated. To most parents or community
members it is difficult to comprehend something practiced by unruly
college students. To the perpetrators and victims it is often a “rite of
passage” that accompanies becoming a new member of a team or orga-
nization. Regardless of the meaning, hazing is well documented in
today’s high schools and colleges and every student is at risk.

In Preventing Hazing: How Parents, Teachers, and Coaches Can Stop the
Violence, Harassment, and Humiliation, Dr. Susan Lipkins seeks to
demystify hazing and provide guidance to the people who advise and
influence the possible victims and perpetrators. She provides insights
into the dynamics involved in hazing, including the history, the pres-
sures for students to be accepted, as well as the psychology behind the
different roles played by participants in the hazing. What makes
Lipkins different from other authors of books regarding hazing is that
she looks at the topic through the scope of an anthropologist and a
child psychologist. As someone who has counseled adolescents, she
understands the sensitive psyche of the young people most typically
involved with hazing practices.

Through his books, Broken Pledges: The Deadly Rite of Hazing and
Wrongs of Passage: Fraternities, Sororities, Hazing, and Binge Drinking,
Hank Nuwer reports his extensive research into college hazing prac-
tices and highlights particular cases. Nuwer provides factual informa-
tion in a strong journalistic style. His extensive research and
documentation serve as major resources for higher education admin-
istrators. More recent books including Goat and Pledged document the
experiences of college students hazed during the pledge process.
These are told as first-person narratives. Although different than
Nuwer’s books, these books are valuable as college and university pro-
fessionals seek to understand the facts behind the practices and hear
about hazing from the student viewpoints.

Lipkins’s approach is scientific and was compiled through surveys,
interviews, and the study of a variety of cases. She claims her book is
“the first book to offer methods and techniques to help parents, teach-
ers, and coaches prevent hazing” (p. 7).

Nuwer and others have
offered strategies in their books, too. However, Lipkins appears to be
the first whose techniques are “rooted in child development theory,
educational best practices, and years of psychological and educational
research” (p. 7). In addition, Lipkins includes cases of high school
hazing and discusses how hazing mentalities often begin in early
adolescence. The discussion of this can assist college and university pro-
fessionals in understanding the mentality of the students who may even-
tually become involved in hazing and are coming to their institutions.
The first chapter of the book, “Understanding Hazing,” offers a
research-based definition of hazing and explains how hazing is usual-
ly tradition-based and intended to build loyalty and trust. Lipkins also
identifies the groups of people who are not only involved in the haz-
ing, but also are affected by it. Those include perpetrators, victims,
bystanders, supervisors, administrators, and community members.
She also discusses why hazing occurs, which includes the strong need
for belonging and connection.

In Chapter 2, “Preventing Hazing,” Lipkins offers advice on how to
keep hazing from becoming a reality. That advice includes creating a
trusting relationship with children, student leaders, and potential
victims. Lipkins also recommends communicating and educating chil-
dren, and one another, about hazing, as well as encouraging adoles-
cents to question authority figures when they propose activities that go
against their morals or values.

Determining if hazing may occur is discussed in Chapter 3, “Detecting
the Warning Signs.” Lipkins identifies behaviors and actions that may
lead to hazing practices. She also reports on how to approach a haz-
ing participant and how critical it is to work with the participant with-
in the first 36 hours after the report. Her specific questions can serve
as guidelines for student affairs professionals who investigate these
often complicated cases.

In “Helping a Victim of Hazing” (Chapter 4), Lipkins offers questions
for families, educators, and fraternity and sorority leaders to consider
regarding “breaking the code of silence.” She also outlines steps to take
in reporting the hazing and keeping records and documentation about
the activities. She offers advice on whether a lawyer should be con-
sulted and how to deal with the media.
From a psychologist’s perspective, Lipkins writes Chapter 5,
“Understanding Perpetrators.” She answers perplexing questions such
as “How can someone be so cruel?” (p. 110) and helps advisors deal
with the complex issues faced by those responsible for the hazing.
Chapter 6, “Empowering Bystanders,” explains how a “bystander”
(p. 120) can evolve from an innocent onlooker to a victim and then to
a perpetrator. Lipkins explains how using early intervention can pre-
vent this evolution and the continuation of further hazing.
In the last chapter, “Healing the Community,” Lipkins describes the
“second hazing” (p. 137), which is what occurs in the aftermath of the
original hazing report. Oftentimes the victim is wrongfully treated as
someone who contributed to the problem and may be shunned by the
community. She suggests interventions for working through these
subsequent issues. Lipkins offers hope in this chapter, citing examples
of students and parents who have made a difference by coming for-
ward to expose hazing. She also offers goals for the future in helping
community members prevent hazing. In addition, Lipkins explains that
as a social scientist studying with Margaret Mead, she believes Mead’s
words apply to our attempts to stop hazing, “Never doubt that a small
group of committed citizens can change the world. Indeed it’s the only
thing that ever has” (p. 146).
235
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NASPA Journal, 2007, Vol. 44, no. 1
Preventing Hazing is a resource and a reference book that college and
university professionals should include in their libraries. Lipkins pro-
vides numerous strategies, action steps, and advice on how to prevent
hazing through communication, education, and intervention. Also, in
dealing with the aftermath of hazing, Lipkins’s book can serve as a cru-
cial tool in the investigative process. Preventing Hazing is a book that
will help us understand and handle the complexities of hazing and
how it affects the entire community. It is a must-read for all of us as
teachers within higher education and within our communities.
References
Land, B. (2004). Goat. New York: Random House.
Nuwer, H. (1990). Broken pledges: The deadly rite of hazing. Atlanta,
GA: Longstreet Press.
Nuwer, H. (1999). Wrongs of passage: Fraternities, sororities, hazing, and
binge drinking. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.
Robbins, A. (2004). Pledged: The secret life of sororities. New York:
Hyperion.

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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