This past week, the University of Maine took part in observing National Hazing Prevention Week (NHPW). The weeklong event spans the last week of September and is a nationwide effort to raise awareness of how hazing has impacted many lives across the country. The week of Sept. 23- 27 was observed within the UMaine community by many of the constituents of the Interfraternity Council, the Panhellenic Council and the administration and faculty of UMaine.
In past years, the university has had to intervene with student organizations to prevent hazing, so observing NHPW has a large impact on the wellbeing of the community. Last year, the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity did not join in rush week because of hazing allegations.
National Hazing Prevention Week was established in 2007 by HazingPrevention.org, a non-profit dedicated to raising awareness of how to identify hazing as well as the effects that hazing has on communities. HazingPrevention.org recognizes that hazing doesn’t only affect students on academic campuses; their goal is to bring together communities in the discussion of the issue. They sponsor programs throughout elementary, middle and high schools, as well as at university and college campuses and military training facilities.
UMaine celebrated the week by encouraging students to engage in a conversation about hazing. Many of the Interfraternity and Panhellenic Council members were given the opportunity to table at the Memorial Union to hold discussions and participate in NHPW.
The UMaine Student Affairs Department also hosted a table in the Memorial Union and encouraged passing students to sign a banner to pledge their support towards NHPW and to show that the UMaine community is dedicated to hazing recognition and prevention.
Robert Dana, the vice president for student life and dean of students is dedicated to the effort to prevent hazing at the university.
“Hazing obviously has its roots in establishing bonds and connections to a group. Hazing is, however, a dangerous and typically demeaning behavior that actually weakens bonds and loyalty to a group. If a group seeks to establish a common bonding experience the best and most effective efforts assure that the activity is safe and respectful of people,” Dana said. “Embarrassing, shaming, frightening or otherwise subjecting a person to any expectation that they must do something to be accepted is wrong.”
Dana noted that the UMaine community can be stronger if the members focus on ways to form positive, uplifting connections with others in their social group.
“Instead [of hazing], dignifying someone and sharing healthy and positive experiences that all members participate in likely will lead to a strong bond, a stronger group, and a set of experiences that everyone is proud of and which demonstrates a healthy group,” Dana said.
Dana also noted that UMaine is a zero-tolerance community when it comes to hazing.
“Hazing can be found in any sort of group but we have zero tolerance for it – whether subtle or severe – and my hope for this community is for all of us to be part of the no hazing imperative,” Dana said. “Here we do not haze. We’re better than that and all of us pulling together can assure nothing like this is now or ever a part of our community culture.”