This year, Whittier College administration has taken a strong stance on eliminating hazing and so far, society reactions have been mixed.
In the Whittier College Student Code of Conduct, hazing is described as “an act that endangers (puts at risk), the mental or physical health or safety of a student, or causes physical or psychological harm or social ostracism to any person within the College community, or 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.”
As mentioned in last week’s issue of The Quaker Campus, Associate Dean of Students Josh Hartman is leading administration in the strict enforcement of Whittier’s policies against hazing. From renaming the pledging process, to New Member Education (NME), to having access to all society’s NME schedules, there have been a lot of changes for those involved in society life. These changes have definitely not gone unnoticed for society members, both actives and pledges.
New Member Educator of the Metaphonian Society senior Natalie Munguia has taken notice of administration’s new approach to the issue and credits their efforts. “I know it’s been kind of different for a lot of us, but I know that administration is just looking out for the safety of our students,” said Munguia. “So they make sure that all the schedules that we’ve provided them are correct, or make sure that we’re not doing anything that violates the NME guidelines. Basically, they’re just ensuring that we’re all maintaining safety during the pledging process.”
While some society members have said they understand and appreciate that administration is prioritizing safety during NME, others have taken issue with the way that administration is carrying this out. Most members who shared their thoughts on the matter have requested anonymity.
Communication between administration and societies have been cited as one primary area of concern. “One of the big issues we’ve had this month is that there’s been a lot of miscommunication and lack of communication between administration and society members, which has caused a lot of confusion among actives,” said an unnamed society member. “This process would have been easier for everyone involved if communication had been clearer from the beginning.”
Other society members feel that there are bigger problems. Some members expressed concern about the traditions of their societies being at risk. “There are traditions and values that have been passed over many years,” said an unnamed society member. “It’s important that these traditions, values, and experiences stay intact, otherwise the values of the society change, and while change isn’t a bad thing, we lose that historical narrative of the society in the process. I fear for all societies, because they might lose their uniqueness, since they’re being told to stop certain traditions.”
Despite concerns of traditions being in jeopardy, many members feel that administration has the right intentions by working to eliminate hazing. “I think shifting away from psychological torture is a good thing,” said an unnamed society member. “I’m worried that [administration will] strip all the challenge from it. It definitely shouldn’t be traumatic, but at the same time, it should still be challenging.”
Some societies on this campus have existed for close to 100 years, and administration potentially restructuring some of their values is a controversial move. But, because administration is prioritizing student safety, discussion about this issue will be important throughout the semester.