A spike in reported hazing incidents has coincided with a University-wide effort to prevent the dangerous practice.
In the 2011-2012 academic year, 17 reports of hazing have been filed at Duke to date, said Stephen Bryan, associate dean of students and director of the Office of Student Conduct. This is a marked increase compared to last year, when seven reports were filed. In 2009-2010, only three reports were filed. This Spring, Duke administrators are keen on eliminating this behavior.
So far, none of the reports this year have been filed by individuals who claim to have been hazed. Rather, reports are coming from other students, parents and residence life staff, said Clarybel Peguero, director of the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life
“It’s an issue affecting a lot of different organizations,” Peguero said. “We want to make sure students are aware of what their responsibility is to end it.”
Duke’s policy on hazing, as articulated in the Duke Community Standard, was updated this year to include the state of North Carolina’s laws on hazing.
“[It helps so] students can understand the repercussions not just from the Duke perspective, but from a legal perspective—through the state of North Carolina,” she said.
In an email to the student body Jan. 24, Bryan and Peguero reminded students to be on the lookout for any signs of hazing.
“Hazing is described as any activity—regardless of a person’s willingness to participate—that is harmful or potentially harmful to yourself or others,” the email states. “It is sometimes characterized by participants as a ‘rite of passage’ to gain full membership in an organization.”
Dean of Students Sue Wasiolek said it is standard for Duke to cultivate awareness about hazing around this time of year, at the end of greek and selective living group recruitment.
Interfraternity Council President Zach Prager, a senior, noted IFC’s anti-hazing policy and the key difference between pledging and hazing.
“We don’t condone hazing in any way, hazing is not okay and that’s not what pledging is about,” Prager said. “Pledging is fundamentally... about teaching your new members about your fraternity [and] what it stands for.”
The majority of reported incidents involve students involved in greek life, said Valerie Glassman, senior program coordinator for the Office of Student Conduct. Some reports, however, have been filed regarding other selective living groups and athletic teams.
“We get reports from individuals and from groups and [at] our office, we’re ethically obligated to take action on all reports that we get,” Glassman said. “It doesn’t mean we find all groups responsible for all... allegations, but we definitely follow through and investigate them.”
Senior Megan Riordan, executive vice president of the Panhellenic Association and Greek Conduct Board co-chair, said she has not found hazing to be a prevalent issue for Panhellenic organizations.
“Obviously it’s something that we’re concerned about, and it’s something that as a council we really look out for,” Riordan said. “Thankfully, our groups are very proactive in preventing that type of behavior.... But I think that’s mostly due to the fact that we’re hyper aware.”
She added that the process of joining a Panhellenic organization at Duke is different than it is at other universities, and hazing is less common among sororities at Duke than it may be at other schools.
Prager also noted Duke IFC’s upstanding nature as compared to other schools nationwide where hazing is prevalent.
“This is Duke—I think we like to keep ourselves at a higher standard,” Prager said. “Our guys know what they’re doing, they know what’s going on, they know the risks that are involved because we’re always under a microscope, which I don’t think is fair. People are always looking for the next hazing incident.”
This year, a coalition of administrative organizations—including the Office of Student Conduct, Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life, Center for Multicultural Affairs, Duke Wellness, University Center Activities and Events, Duke University Police Department and Duke Athletics—will sponsor a hazing prevention week Feb. 20-24. Peguero said the week was organized with the goal of raising awareness and educating the Duke community about hazing and its dangers.
Peguero said students have many options through which to report hazing.
“You can submit an incident report, you can call our office, you can call the Dean of Students Office, you can call student conduct,” she said. “People want to be anonymous.... We try to provide as many ways as possible for people to feel comfortable to share this information.”