By Anders Mattson
Hazing is complicated. No longer is it a term to describe some bizarre and often humili- ating initiation into a group; it is something bigger. While I see hazing as a headache all schools and programs must deal with, it seems the St. Olaf administra- tion is beginning to blur the lines between hazing and basic social opportunities.
You might be asking yourself: why would a freshman, who wasn’t even here last year for the complex baseball incident, be writing an opinion on the new hazing policy?
With the recent rumblings about the first-year dance being cancelled for future Oles and with a very tangible memory of the “hazing that occurred” during those Week One activities, I offer my humble opinion.
What I found at the first-year dance was something reminiscent of the fabled end of middle school dance that so many of us wish we did not remember. Awkward standing around, a room full of sweaty people and a lot of jumping to EDM music.
This was not hazing. This was an optional event for students to do something different, students who may have otherwise just been sitting in their dorm room making small talk with others. It was a way to let out some energy, not some forced traumatic horror.
What truly worries me is where the administration could go next. The new policy states, “Any activity or practice that new members are required or encouraged to participate in by virtue of their status as a new member presumptively constitutes hazing.”
This line could imply that a number of Week One events constitute hazing. I can picture next year’s Week One now: no awkward dance, no playfair and no form of social interaction for the introverted who struggle with making friends when not encouraged to participate.
Isn’t pushing ourselves outside our comfort zone what college is all about? The answer is, of course, yes.
Certainly, a student who would prefer to stay sitting in their room deserves that option, but that does not justify taking the “awkward dance” away from those who need he social push.
The final concern I have is the lack of faith between the administration and Ole community shown by this new policy. There are certainly exceptions – and past mistakes have been properly punished – but if this policy is to improve life at St. Olaf, the administration needs to communicate with a variety of students to decide what truly defines hazing as opposed to normal social events.
I believe that most students would agree that the vast majority of events here on campus are not malicious in any way, shape or form, but simple fun, creating positive memories. Hazing happens at every college. Forced humiliation and harassment should be complete- ly stopped and the perpetrators punished; but, there is a fine line between that and activities where the intent is simply to make first year students feel welcomed.
Certainly, conversation about intent and discussion about the “worst case scenarios” would eliminate any abuse. Meeting new people is never without risk, but the reward of friendship gained from new experiences is worth it.
Anders Mattson ’19 (mattso1@sto- laf.edu) is from Dana Point Calif. He majors in English.