Hazing News

University of New Hampshire editorial

Link to commentary by Tyler Dennison

“Hazing is an extraordinary activity that, when it occurs often enough, becomes perversely ordinary as those who engage in it grow desensitized to its inhumanity.” – Hank Nuwer

The University of New Hampshire currently has many fraternal and athletic organizations. All athletes and recognized Greek students attend mandatory meetings on hazing. Stories of people dying because they drank lethal amounts of water are a common example used in these meetings. What isn’t discussed is the true form of hazing. It is not just the events themselves that are bad. Rather, as Hank Nuwer said: “these events of hazing become the ordinary because of their increased frequencies.”

What normally would be unacceptable becomes tradition. The mentality of: “I did this, so now you have to do this” is a dangerous slope that often has little friction in the form of opposition. What starts out as small events, such as eating foul food, soon descends into even less desirable events. Standards are soon established as to what needs to be accomplished before the new inductee’s can attain membership. Many of these practices are what would be considered hazing. Any organization – teams, fraternities, sororities, even clubs – are susceptible to these “traditions” carrying on.

Aspects of hazing are many. Requiring initiates to run errands, make food, drive, do laundry, shake hands, clean, drink, do drugs and do scavenger hunts are only a few on the very long list of what is considered hazing. Some would argue that this is what garners respect and even friendship by proving one’s worth. In reality, this is not how it ever is. Initiates are vulnerable to harsh treatment that they would not normally tolerate. This is often further influenced by the other initiates among each other. A mob mentality mixed with a group bias might explain why this vulnerability exists.

People are susceptible to the opinions of the many, and the many may be so desensitized that they all agree with each other that hazing is the necessary path. UNH has clubs, intramural sports, teams, and Greek organizations. In my opinion, every one of them has the possibility of perpetuating hazing. The danger lies not in the first step but the staircase one eventually descends down into. There are many ways this can happen. Events that in your mind are not sound, were not necessary, or seemed odd are probably hazing; and the first step. If you have to question whether or not it is hazing, it probably is. At the very least it is extremely dangerous as it puts whatever organization at extreme risk. It could result in hundreds, thousands, even millions of dollars in damages.

The 1999 UVM hockey team was ensnared in one of the largest recent hazing scandals. A lawsuit was pressed because of actions reported by Jayson Moy, senior writer for USCHO, such as: “freshmen were forced to drink warm beer while lying on the floor in thong underwear while players poured and spat beer at them, and that they were also made to drink shots of liquor by passing them to each other mouth-to-mouth. Both would be violations of UVM’s alcohol policy.” The University of Vermont lost millions of dollars in games they couldn’t host that season, as they would not be able to take in the expected game revenues.

Hazing is dangerous not only because of the moral depravity, but also because of the risk. Any organization that condones and permits hazing can only be described as irresponsible.

Tyler Dennison

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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