Hazing News

Northwestern University orientation program under criticism for hazing

Here is the link to P-Wild (project Wild):


P-Wild [Project Wild] has existed on campus since 1995. Beginning as a one-time wilderness trip in October for both freshmen and upperclassmen, it became a pre-orientation program the next year.

It has grown in popularity since then, soliciting more than 100 applicants, most of whom have gone on the trip, each year for about 17 counselor positions. The interview process, which takes place in the fall, consists of an application and a 15-minute interview, Williams said.

Williams said group is looking for new counselors who respect nature and the mission of the program, but added personality is also considered.

“You got to have some kind of charisma and be fun and be someone the campers will like and look up to,” Williams said.

Weinberg junior Sam Gutelle went on a P-Wild trip and applied to be a counselor but was not selected.

“I don’t think it’s objective because they are looking for like-minded people,” he said. “They want to find people who are going to have the audacity to streak across the sorority quad.”

The annual group of about 50 counselors leads 170 to 180 campers on the trips. The group receives approximately $2,000 each year from NU’s Associated Student Government and is publicized through NU’s website. Tuition for the program is $295 per student, with financial aid available.

Before leaving for the trip, counselors take campers’ cell phones to keep the devices safe and to avoid “distraction,” Roskey and Williams said. The groups are instructed in safety protocol and how to use equipment like camping stoves and given a portion of food they will use for the week. After this session, students drive in buses to sites in Pennsylvania, Minnesota and Michigan.

Upon arrival, counselors separate from their campers, remaining within earshot and eyeshot of them. The students are given maps, compasses and instructions to meet the counselors at a second location.

Roskey said this “solo hiking” happens for several reasons.

“I think the first thing would be if we were leading them one way, they would become dependent on us,” she said. “If we were up front and saying ‘do this, do that,’ with any other problem they may encounter, they’re going to come to us. We want them to work that out themselves. That’s what being a freshman is about: being able to decide things without your parents.”

Once students arrive at the second location, the counselors rejoin them and hike with them to “base camp,” where they reunite with the other groups in the same location. At this point, the groups play games and get to know one another.

On the University-hosted P-Wild website, the group states it is “right for anyone.” But several students said what they saw in person surprised them. Communication sophomore Rachel Geistfeld said the realities of P-Wild did not match her assumptions based on information available before the trip.

“My experience was just not at all what I expected because on the website it’s ‘go hiking in the woods,’ and it makes it seem like it’s for nature people who are really quiet,” she said.

Instead, she said, while counselors introduced themselves to the campers, one counselor pretended to give birth while other team members crawled from between her legs covered in ketchup. Several skits involved nudity.

“Saw a d*** my first day of college,” she said. “Right away you’re like, ‘What did I get myself into?'”

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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