Post hazing, Bowdoin hockey team stripped of NESCAC title
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A May 11 initiation ceremony held by the men’s hockey team for first-year players at Bowdoin College among the men’s ice hockey team has resulted in the revoking of their 2011 New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) championship by Bowdoin, after a member of the team divulged to administration that hazing occurred at the party. According to Bowdoin Athletic Director Jim Ward, quoted in a Sept. 9 article in the Bowdoin Orient, “Our punishment was so severe less because of their actions and more because the issue is so important.”
Although the article in the Bowdoin Orient did not describe the event in detail, it allegedly involved upperclassmen players pressuring first-years to drink alcohol.
The incident at Bowdoin was not the first major episode of hazing in the recent history of the NESCAC. The majority of Middlebury College’s women’s swim team was suspended for the 2010-2011 season following reported hazing at a team party on Feb. 2 of this year.
On the Hill, “there have been past incidents [of hazing] where disciplinary action is required,” Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students Jim Terhune said, though “there have not been any major incidents reported.”
The College’s policy on hazing, consistent with Maine State Law, defines hazing as “any action or situation created, whether on or off campus, to produce mental or physical discomfort, embarrassment, harassment or ridicule.”
According to Director of Athletics Marcella Zalot, a document defining hazing is distributed to all varsity athletes at the beginning of each season and is thoroughly reviewed with the team.
The document states that “since 1984, when Trustees voted to abolish fraternities and sororities, isolated incidents of hazing have surrounded a number of athletic teams.” To avoid anything that might be construed as hazing, “any and all events planned for the purpose of greeting or inaugurating first-year students should be approved by the coach in advance.”
The athletic department has also had experts come to the Hill to talk with teams about the important issue in the past.
Though the athletic department is highly involved in informing student athletes about the hazing policy, the rules and guidelines apply to all groups and clubs, not just athletic teams. “I want to be very clear in saying that not all hazing that occurs is associated with athletics. I think that’s a bad rap that athletics unfairly gets sometimes,” Terhune said.
Despite the policy and the offensive information presented to students about hazing, there is often confusion surrounding the topic. “I’m not sure how much students are aware of what constitutes hazing,” Terhune said.
Guidelines taken from an anti-hazing website, www.stophazing.org, which are also included in the athletic department literature on hazing, state that if there is “any reservation describing the activity to your parents, to a professor or University official [it is] probably hazing.”
“There is a certain kind of hazing that everybody understands,” Terhune said. If existing members of a club force new members to do things they otherwise wouldn’t, it is a type of hazing that “nobody disputes,” according to Terhune.
The situation becomes more complex in a group environment where the entire team gathers and all members are expected to participate. Terhune gives the hypothetical situation: “If I am a first-year student and everybody is doing this, am I really going to feel comfortable saying I don’t want to drink? There are people for whom that would feel like coercive pressure and so that is a form of hazing.”
Off-campus living further complicates the issue of hazing. According to the Bowdoin Orient, the incident at Bowdoin occurred at an off-campus house so the students involved were less inclined to divulge information about it to the authorities.
“Rules reflect our values and our expectations of students,” Terhune said. The rules that apply to students living on-campus also apply to those living off-campus. “When you’re here as a student, you’re a student, whether you live in Drummond or on Silver Street,” Terhune said.
Another overlooked aspect of hazing is the snowball effect. According to Terhune, “these things build and then you end up with a really stupid idea where people end up getting hurt in lots of ways.”
Despite these factors, there have not been any major incidents of hazing on the Hill, and minor incidents have been at a minimum. “I suspect that there is probably considerably more of it that happens in a variety of shades than we are aware of….In the time I’ve been here there have not been a lot of [reported] cases, period,” Terhune said. In his experience, the incidents that have been reported are “careless and thoughtless” as opposed to “malicious.” Although in many cases of hazing, harm is not the intent, “that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not hazing,” he said.
According to Terhune, “The short answer is don’t put people in that situation. If you’re in a place and you’ve got to make the decision, ‘Should we or shouldn’t we?’ at that moment, in my standpoint, the default should be ‘I shouldn’t.’”