Skidmore's necessary response to hazing

Posted by The Editorial Board

President Glotzbach has shed little light on the details of the Nov. 30 incident, referring to it only as a "Rookie Night." But we know enough. 24 members of the Skidmore men's varsity soccer team engaged in an initiation event involving both underage drinking and, more seriously, hazing. While there were no injuries, the incident was serious enough that there existed an endangerment to the safety of students involved.

Hazing isn't a rare occurrence in collegiate setting, according to a national study conducted by the University of Maine. More than half of all students nationwide who are involved in clubs, sports and organizations are exposed to hazing incidents, most commonly involving alcohol consumption. Other commonplace hazing events typically involve requiring individuals to wear ridiculous outfits, referring to individuals with derogatory names, and threats of verbal or physical abuse. 

Though there is a national perception that hazing is mostly harmless hazing deaths are tragically frequent. In 2011 at Cornell, George Desdunes died after being forced to drink substantial amounts of alcohol by his peers. David Bogenberger died under similar circumstances the same year at Northern Illinois University. At Florida A&M, a band member was beaten to death in a hazing ritual. At all three schools, perpetrators were expelled or suspended, the schools were sued and arrest warrants were issued.       

At Skidmore, Campus Safety conducted a thorough report, which was submitted to the Saratoga Springs Police Department (SSPD). According to Lieutenant John Catone of the SSPD, investigators will look into the case on Tuesday.

President Glotzbach's email to the campus community and parents was picked up by the AP news wire, and subsequently, national publications including USA Today and The Wall Street Journal.         

Many question why Skidmore chooses to publically reprimand these students, why the College was so quick to turn the athletes over to the police, and so severe in their punishment of what many see as a part of the college experience. Similarly, others have asked why the college does not take all instances of underage drinking this seriously  as well as other crimes such as the possession of false identification.

We feel we have an obligation to defend Skidmore's actions. While we realize that events that could qualify as hazing are common amongst sports teams and other groups, Skidmore has made great efforts in the past to publically decry acts by its students that could potentially put members of the community at physical or emotional risk, or threaten their feeling of safety at Skidmore. Bias incidents are made public [by an email that Dean of Students Rochelle Calhoun sends to the entire College when an incident occurs] and acts of sexual misconduct are promptly reported to the campus [via an email from Campus Safety]. By reacting swiftly and harshly, and by denouncing such acts and punishing those involved - all in the public eye - Skidmore sends a message that such behavior will not be tolerated and acknowledges that problems exist that must be addressed.

We hope the College's reaction to the Nov. 30 hazing incident will set a strong precedent that will deter members of the Skidmore community from engaging in such dangerous behavior. Further, we hope the College's reaction will serve as a wakeup call to other schools that simply because they lack Greek life or a large sports culture does not mean that these types of incidents do not occur.

Lastly, we hope that this incident will result in both a commitment by Skidmore to discuss with and educate the student body on the subject of hazing, and that Skidmore will continue to publicy acknowledge and admonish all those who fail to adhere to that principle, which is at the heart of the Skidmore Honor code, that "student safety, and high standards of ethical integrity" are of the highest order of importance.

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