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Hazing can happen outside Greek life, so training to deal with it should too

(Emily Dembinski/Daily Bruin)

By Navdeep Bal

Oct. 14, 2019 10:38 pm

The IFC may stand for Interfraternity Council, but its letters reflect a more accurate namesake: Inevitably Fueling Controversy.

Between hazing and initiation, the tradition of secrecy is long-standing in the Greek community.

But Greek life isn’t alone.

Recently, at Ohio University, 20 organizations, including all 15 fraternities, three sororities, a business fraternity and the marching band were suspended after numerous allegations of hazing came forward. The case shows that hazing isn’t just prevalent in fraternities – all social organizations can be affected.

Clearly, hazing doesn’t discriminate.

Social organizations aren’t often what people think of when it comes to dangerous environments, probably because IFC fraternities are rightfully taking most of the heat. And while concerns about fraternity hazing are more than warranted, the very nature of social organizations creates the possibility for unsafe situations. These organizations – whether they be cultural organizations or writing clubs – are specifically tailored to create safe spaces for students looking to cultivate their interests outside academic life, but they lack the basic training that organizations like fraternities are afforded.

So instead of doing damage control, UCLA can take a preemptive role by starting a discussion with these organizations before there’s a problem.

Hazing is a difficult subject to talk about, and understandably so – but this same hesitation is what causes it to go under the radar until it’s too late.

Lillian Wang, president of the Asian Greek Council, said the Office of Fraternity & Sorority Life puts in a lot of hard work to educate and protect its members, including holding workshops to discuss the issue of hazing.

“The people in our staff have their own hazing experiences, and so they said if you ever want to talk about it with us, we are 100% down to talk about it,” Wang said.

Adopting more extensive training for all social organizations on campus means that dialogue can finally be welcomed so that victims can discuss these difficult topics without fear of social consequences. One way this could be mandated is through implementing hazing training for every social organization on campus, so these conversations can be started early.

Clearly, this isn’t just a fraternity problem – but the fraternity community at least has the training to deal with it.

These conversations help everyone become more vigilant, regardless of the nature of what the social organization is affiliated with.

And not making headlines doesn’t mean there aren’t problems.

While students often join organizations on campus for advancement in other areas besides the social ladder, the rungs on their way up aren’t necessarily supported.

Having a mandatory hazing discussion for UCLA student organizations will allow people to talk about important issues like how to file a report, what that procedure is like, how to help victims and what the different degrees of hazing are. This way, if a student finds themselves in a dangerous situation, they will know what resources are available to them.

“Anyone who is a victim of hazing or who has observed hazing happening within the UCLA environment are encouraged to report these behaviors to the Office of Student Conduct or UCPD,” said the Office of the Dean of Students in an email statement.

But if there is no oversight and social organizations don’t have the training to identify hazing, it becomes that much more difficult to report hazing effectively.

The very nature of social organizations is often exclusive and independent – some require lengthy applications and interview processes, and they are often student-directed. With that in mind, these organizations can easily facilitate an environment where coming forward about hazing has the potential for dire consequences within the organization.

Priya Hegde, a first-year statistics student, said incidents can go under the radar when there is a lack of awareness.

“Different people have different thresholds for what is OK, and if you’re not vocal about it, it’s really easy for those things to fall through the cracks,” Hegde said.

This model of creating a dialogue won’t just help victims, but also preempt the possibility of students getting hurt in the future. Not to mention, it’ll help student organizations sidestep potential bad press.

Granted, sexual assault training and hazing prevention exist within Greek life because of historical and systemic issues – and UCLA should continue to require these workshops. But UCLA would be doing itself and its students a favor by mandating these trainings across the board for all student organizations. In doing so, UCLA has the opportunity to create a cultural shift, not just within Greek life, but across the campus as a whole.

Student organizations might not get the same heat as fraternities, but UCLA has a responsibility to make sure that victims aren’t getting left behind.

And to do that, it needs to look further than fraternity row.

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Navdeep Bal
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