Hank Nuwer

Anti-hazing advocate and researcher Hank Nuwer.

Pennsylvania's anti-hazing law got an update last week, making it a misdemeanor crime for middle and high school students in addition to those at colleges at universities.

To better understand the issue of hazing, LNP talked with national advocate and researcher Hank Nuwer. Nuwer is a journalism professor at Franklin College in Indiana and a founding board member of HazingPrevention.org.

What's the difference between hazing and bullying?

I think the definition is shifting. Hazing, even if silly and bizarre, was supposed to be all about welcoming newcomers. Bullying was to shame and to humiliate newcomers or others perceived to be outside the bully's peer group. Now there is sexual hazing, including rape and sodomy, which in no way can be condoned and does not in the least resemble a practice of welcoming newcomers.

What do schools need to do to prevent hazing in addition to adopting policies?

Educational programs, discussion in open forums with a knowledgeable speaker/group leader. Vigilance in locker rooms, team buses and away games, motels and sports camps. Many initiations take place in those locales.

What are the best ways for schools to stop a hazing tradition without it just going more out of sight?

Suspensions and expulsions to show the administrators are serious about eradicating hazing.

What should parents do if they learn their child has been hazed?

A letter to school principal, superintendent, coach, athletic director and school board. They should serve notice that the parent feels the school is not a welcoming place for their child. If necessary, retain a lawyer and get the letter out. Especially the parent needs to advise the child ways to report hazing. The child should not feel compelled to merely (comply) with these inane rituals.

What should parents do if they learn their child has been part of hazing someone else?

That is a tough one if it is sexual hazing or beat-ins. Then you have criminal behavior.

What can students do to prevent or stop hazing?

Turn to groups such as HazingPrevention.org and StopHazing.org on the Internet. They'll get tips from experts and also their peers.

How can people respond to claims that hazing is an important form of group bonding?

Torture also bonded WWII prisoners with their captors. No amount of greater good can result from such bonding.

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