Hazing is never okay

I am currently living and working in a smallish college town (as someone who has never lived somewhere with <1 million people before, this is so weird). Most of the people I work with grew up here or in the even smaller towns around it. The BIG THING everyone is talking about is an incident of “aggravated hazing” that has resulted in charges for 6 varsity football players and a coach from one of the local high schools. The news was descriptive enough that I think it’s an oversight that no one is getting charged as an adult and getting put on a sex offender list (4 of the students are 17). But, as horrifying as that situation is, the way the conversation gets framed is even worse, to me.

I eventually had to just put in earbuds and work in a different part of the lab, because I was going to go off on somebody. The conversations kept veering off into what types of hazing is okay. I am of the firm opinion that hazing is never okay. You can have team building activities (even strenuous ones). You can have discipline (the pushups we used to get in marching band fall under this). But if there’s a question of whether something’s hazing? You should probably just skip it.

But when your football coach is CUFFING PLAYERS’ HANDS AND LEGS TOGETHER (this was not what happened at the local school, this is an anecdote one of the guys mentioned as an example of hazing that was totally fine), that has CLEARLY gone over into COMPLETELY UNACCEPTABLE. Your defense of “well, if the player had ever said no, he would have stopped” is not only irrelevant but ignores the complexities of the concept of consent. First, an authority figure is not only condoning this behavior, but is the one carrying it out. If it was inappropriate (or harmful), surely this trusted adult wouldn’t approve. Second, what would be the social repercussions of speaking up? No one will ever convince me that student wouldn’t have been mocked and harassed about it for years to come (assuming they stayed on the team/at the school, assuming no mental health crisis).


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