A debate about hazing took up the majority of the Student Senate meeting on Thursday, Sept. 10. Student representatives from all four classes identified campus activities that may be in violation of Elizabethtown College’s rejection of all forms of hazing.
As defined in the Student Handbook, hazing at Etown is characterized as “any act that endangers the mental or physical health or safety of a student, or which destroys or removes public or private property, for the purpose of initiation, admission into, affiliation with, or as a condition for continued membership in, a group or organization.”
Collin Davidson, president of the Student Senate, brought up the topic in response to comments around campus regarding the rightness of recent happenings involving first-year students.
Once such event discussed as a potential transgressor of the campus anti-hazing policy was the First-Year Walk. A long-standing tradition at the College, the event was noted by Dean Marianne Calenda as having taken on a different form than it had five years ago.
The Walk occurs during the first-year class’ first day on campus, before the majority of the upperclassmen move in. As Etown is known for having a larger female student population than male, two girls are paired with one boy, and the small group must hold hands while walking along College Avenue into town.
The Walk is led by upperclassmen Peer Mentors, who ‘monitor’ the groups and ensure that they remain holding hands for the duration of the walk. Though they are discouraged from pushing the first-years, Peer Mentors have been pointed out by other students for sometimes requiring the new students to step out of line and perform additional activities, such as doing pushups, or risk being subject to name-calling.
Davidson, a senior, considers the Walk an example of hazing on campus, finding that the upperclassmen’s verbal encouragement to participate can easily be misconstrued as aggression.
The Student Handbook lists three types of hazing: subtle, harassment and violent hazing. The First-Year Walk is a potential violator of harassment hazing, as it could fit the description listed in the Handbook: “Behaviors that cause emotional anguish or physical discomfort as in order to feel like part of the group.”
The responses to the First-Year Walk are typically mixed. While some consider it a fun way to meet new people, others are wary of engaging in physical contact with strangers and find the situation stressful. Several representatives noted that the people who have the most fun are the Peer Mentors, who are not participating.
Davidson questioned whether or not something should be changed if the participants are not the ones having fun. “[The reaction] seems split, but those speaking in favor of the walk don’t seem to understand that we’re not doing away with it, we’re just deciding whether or not it’s offensive,” he said when representatives began arguing in favor of keeping the tradition in place as it is.
No plans to abolish the event are in place thus far. If the Senate reviews it, alterations may be made so that all aspects of the Walk conform to the school’s policies regarding hazing.