The Hazing Prevention and Education Committee recently launched a website entitled “Stop Hazing” to provide educational resources on hazing incidents to the community and a reporting system for students to share information on hazing-related incidents on campus.
In a campus-wide email sent last week, Vice President for Student Affairs Todd Olson said that student groups that conduct hazing practices may be subject to disciplinary action.
“I want to remind you that all Georgetown students are responsible for knowing and complying with our Code of Student Conduct, and for treating others with respect and care. Hazing is a violation of our policies and a betrayal of our values. Please know that any student engaging in hazing behaviors is subject to serious sanctions,” Olson wrote.
According to Office of Student Conduct Associate Director Adam Fountaine, the committee launched the website in response to recent events regarding hazing on other university campuses in the country, as opposed to any specific hazing incidents at Georgetown. Fraternity chapters at universities such as the University of Houston, University of Michigan and Pennsylvania State University have been subject to police investigation after hazing allegations came to light.
“We recognized that concerns about hazing have increasingly become part of a national conversation around student health and safety on college campuses. By establishing a clear policy and targeted education, we believe that we will be able to proactively contribute to this conversation on our own campus by discussing ways to welcome new members into student organizations and teams with approaches that are safe and in alignment with our Jesuit values,” Fountaine wrote in an email.
Fountaine also said that hazing activities can be defined as those that are unproductive, unsafe, excessive and demeaning to the participant, and that pose a risk to the student’s physical, psychological or emotional well-being.
Additionally, Chief of the Georgetown Police Department Jay Gruber said that he has not received any complaints related to hazing during his three years on campus.
“I’ve been here close to three years and in the time that I’ve been here, we have not had an incident report regarding hazing that I’m aware of so it just hasn’t come to the attention of the Department of Public Safety,” Gruber said.
However, despite claims from the administration that there have not been reported hazing incidents at Georgetown, various students have been aware of incidents that might be defined as hazing in both recognized student groups as well as those without access to benefits.
One member of a fraternity at Georgetown, who wishes to remain anonymous, said that the hazing process in his fraternity ensures that a sense of hierarchy is maintained.
“We have to make sure that the freshmen respect the upperclassmen, and some of them come into school with a cocky attitude, and one was literally yelling at senior. … So we make sure that they show respect and learn the tradition,” he said.
While he could not go into detail about events that occurred in the pledging process, he stated that hazing at Georgetown is tamer than at other schools.
“We aren’t going to make anyone do anything that they don’t want to do, like if someone refused to do something they could just tell their big [brother] that they don’t want to do it or are uncomfortable and we’d be alright with it,” he said. “They wouldn’t be kicked out or anything …. but there still is pressure. It’s not as bad at Georgetown because kids are really afraid of the administration.”
Other student groups denied incidents of hazing its new members.
President of the men’s rugby team Ken O’Brien (COL ’16) said that new members earn their respect through their performance in the sport rather than in the hazing process.
“No, hazing does not occur on the club rugby team,” O’Brien said. “Rugby is a tough sport to learn and succeed in. Hard work on the field earns teammates’ respect and is more than enough to earn a spot on the team.”
Georgetown University Alumni and Student Federal Credit Union Chief Communications Officer Sarah Petuck (COL ’16) also denied that hazing occurs in their organization.
“GUASFCU is fully supportive of the university’s strengthened stance prohibiting hazing and related offenses on campus. Georgetown’s spirit of men and women for others unites Hoyas — past, present and future — and no individual should ever be made to feel unsafe or unwelcome on the Hilltop,” Petuck wrote in an email.
Members of Sigma Alpha Epsilon, Alpha Epsilon Pi, as well as representatives from Club Lacrosse and Club Ultimate Frisbee did not respond to requests for comment.
After students report a hazing incident on the website, members of the committee will follow up with the student who filed the report.
While students can make reports anonymously, Olson said that anonymity is less helpful in efforts to prevent hazing on campus.
“We know we may also get some anonymous reports and in those cases, that’s good information to have and we may be able to still follow up in some way,” Olson said. “But depending on how much [information] we have … it may limit the steps we can take as well.”
Olson also stressed that the university will respond to complaints regarding both recognized student groups and groups without access to benefits equally.
“We know that this can happen in student groups that have access to benefits and it can happen in student groups that don’t have access to benefits. What is very clear to us is that our students are subject to the Code of Student Conduct in their behavior on campus and off campus in the local area and so we would follow up to the best of our ability with the students who were involved if this happened,” Olson said.
In terms of future efforts for hazing prevention at Georgetown, Olson said that the committee is considering possible education initiatives to raise awareness about hazing incidents.
“I think that a logical next step would be to have speakers, programs and workshops on campus that address these issues,” Olson said.
Olson said that he hopes these educational efforts would help to spark a conversation on campus about the issue.
“It’s just something we want to make sure our students were aware of this and we wanted this to be an effort to be ahead of the issue … and just to remind students about these issues, to put them in the front of mind for people,” Olson said.