Matthew Park

With New Member Education (NME) underway for societies, Whittier College administration is committed to taking a stand against hazing.

In his first year as Whittier College Associate Dean of Students, Joshua Hartman worked diligently with Assistant Dean of Students Joel Perez to eliminate hazing from the Whittier community. “Wehave taken time to work with society leaders, alumni, and other college staff to enhance education on hazing and suggest alternatives that would be more supportive of the health and safety of our students,” said Hartman. “I’m hopeful that our students are taking this seriously and understand that hazing is completely antithetical to our values as a College and to the best interests of individual students.”

Hartman and Perez started by raising awareness about the issue and educating society members about what constitutes as hazing. “To this point, our staff has had wonderful and open conversations with leaders of each society and we have worked for several months to help ensure that all NME activities are in line with College values, expectations, and policies,” said Hartman.

Formerly known as pledging, NME is a phrase that administration assigned societies to incorporate, due to the belief that ‘pledging’ is too closely associated with hazing. “Our Pledge Masters and Mistresses are now referred to as ‘New Member Educators,’” said an anonymous society member. 

In addition to raising awareness about hazing, administration took a hands-on approach to address it during NME. Hartman explained that NME this year was some of a collaborative process between administration and students. This means that societies shared their exact NME schedules and plans with administrators. “We assisted them in developing programs that are supportive of the health, safety, and dignity of all students involved,” said Hartman. According to Hartman, it is the expectation of the school that Societies and their members follow all policies and procedures as defined by the Student Code of Conduct.

 Serving his first year as President of the William Penn Society Aidan Tol has noticed a difference in administration’s attitude on the issue. “I feel there’s a lot of stress this year because a lot of people in administration are new,” said Tol. “We feel that there’s added pressure on their end. This year might be a bit of a transition period, but I think they’re doing a really good job.”

Tol says his society is not breaking down their new members, but are mentally building them up to make them better individuals. “We know all about the hazards of hazing,” he said. However, Tol is clear: “Our pledge process and new member education process has not changed. Everything so far this year is going pretty smoothly.” 

Perez, now in his second year as Dean of Students, notes that the difference this year is not within the policies themselves, but how they are being approached by administration. “The policies that we’ve had before still exist, but we’ve tightened up some things and tried to work on building a culture of belonging,” said Perez.  “Josh and I have both worked to create an environment that is student-centered. Ultimately, I want to see students be successful. Through whatever process, this is something I strive for.”

Each society on the Whittier College campus is identified by a set of core values, and that is ultimately their appeal. Whether it is the Palmer Society who promotes spirit and friendship, or the Athenian Society who promotes sisterhood and service to the community, NME will be a time for each society to reinforce the values to which they hold high. “[The societies] response, from what I’ve seen, has been fairly positive. . .  I think they see the value in highlighting the values of their organizations,” said Perez. 

Hartman believes that the elimination of hazing will benefit societies in the long run. However, he understands that the process may take awhile. “Changing culture is difficult,” Hartman explained. “But we can hopefully all agree that when it comes to personal, emotional, and physical health and safety; the care and concern of others must be paramount. I am hopeful we can all unite on that front. I recognize that there is a deep-rooted culture around many of these highly concerning behaviors, and change will not happen overnight.”

Hartman is aware that this will be an ongoing issue, but he wants students to know that hazing has no place on campus. “The benefits [of eliminating hazing] are increased sustainability and longevity of our organizations,” said Hartman. “After reviewing past occurrences of hazing behaviorand hearing from a variety of individuals, including students, faculty, staff, and alumni, we determined that we need to do a better job at educating society leadership and membership on what hazing is, and also on holding groups and individuals accountable for any violations. The goal is to eradicate any and all hazing behavior, and we have been working hard with all stakeholders to ensure that the proper resources are in place.”