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Identifying and Reporting Hazing

by Bailey Ly

National Hazing Prevention Week is this week, September 20-25. And as a student of UT, I was curious about what hazing is and how I can help combat hazing on campus. I spoke with Jennifer Pierce-Thomas, the associate director of the Office of Sorority and Fraternity Life at UT about hazing prevention on campus. 

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Hazing is any activity expected [or perceived as expected] of someone joining or participating in a group that humiliates, degrades, abuses, or endangers them regardless of a person’s willingness to participate.

Jennifer Pierce-Thomas, associate director of the Office of Sorority and Fraternity Life

Some students may think hazing only happens with the initiation of organizations, but it could happen to any group member at any point. Jennifer explains that hazing is a serious public health issue that causes physical and mental harm to students at UT and nationwide. She says, “This problem is not specific to UT, rather it is a nationwide epidemic that affects individuals in middle school, high school, college, and beyond.”

UT as a campus is doing many things to combat hazing. In 2018, a campus-wide Hazing Prevention Team was created filled with professionals and student leaders from all across campus including Athletics, Sorority and Fraternity Life, RecSports, Band, ROTC, and many more. They host trainings and presentations in order to spread awareness of hazing and promote hazing prevention.

“The Hazing Prevention Team has provided training to Orientations Leaders, Resident Assistants, fraternities and sororities, and to many other student organizations.  We’ve also created a website just for hazing prevention ” Jennifer adds. UT doesn’t take allegations of hazing lightly, every report is investigated, and if a student organization or individual student is found responsible, disciplinary sanctions are issued. 

As a student, it is important to help spread awareness and prevent any hazing that can happen to my fellow peers. Hazing can affect anyone regardless of group affiliation or class standing. Jennifers informs me that rules are only effective if all community members are committed to helping enforce them and hold others accountable. 

Jennifer ends with telling all students to be empowered: know the rules, hold yourself and your peers accountable, and be an active bystander! National Hazing Prevention Week happens every September but hazing prevention should take place all year long! Utilize available resources and materials to help with hazing prevention.

If you’ve identified something you think might be hazing:

  1. Ask
    Be direct and ask! Don’t automatically assume something is hazing. Clarifying questions can help determine if a behavior is hazing or self-expression.
  2. Trust your gut
    Even if someone says they are not being hazed, if you still have concerns, move forward with responding. Remember that hazing occurs even if a person wants to participate.
  3. Respond
    Vols Speak Up! Staying silent puts your fellow Vols at risk. Silence only encourages the behavior to continue.

Did you know you can report hazing anonymously? 

Are you or someone you know being hazed?

Hazing can affect people in many different ways including anger, confusion, betrayal, fear, resentment, embarrassment, humiliation, hopelessness, helplessness, anxiety, and/or depression. If you or someone you know is experiencing any of these feelings, contact 865-974-HELP or complete the HELP referral form.

Know that you are not alone and there are resources to support you.

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Bailey Ly is a junior majoring in public relations with a minor in business administration. She is the undergraduate public relations intern for Student Life  Communications. She loves cooking and learning about new cultures.