Drury University hopes its new comprehensive approach to prevent hazing will serve as a model for other colleges and universities.
After a hazing incident came to light last year involving the men’s swim team, the school formed the Blue Ribbon Committee on the Prevention of Hazing, comprised of students, faculty and community members. A plan the committee created was put into practice this year.
At a press conference Wednesday, university officials described their efforts to tackle the problem of hazing. One component involves gathering team captains for a retreat before the start of the school year with the goal of “creating a team of leaders who are empowered to build a unified culture of accountability and respect” within the Drury Athletic Department.
"The biggest resources you have are your team captains," said Bryan Reynolds, head coach of the men’s and women’s swim teams at Drury. "You have to be able to have a relationship with your kids and your captains that allow them to step in and intervene, so empowering the kids, as far as knowledge to kind of intervene, step in and stop some of the things, is going to be the biggest stop gap you have."
The program is campus wide and is intended to educate everyone, not just athletes or those involved in Greek life.
It outlines three levels of hazing. Dr. Tijuana Julian, vice president of student affairs at Drury, said level one, subtle hazing, involves things like giving demerits or making an individual sing a silly song. Examples of level two, harassment, are not letting a student sleep or making them do someone’s laundry. Level three, she said, is violent hazing.
"Those are the big cases that we see a lot on the news that has to do--sometimes they result in students' deaths," said Julian. "It really puts a student's life in danger somehow."
She said the plan includes clauses to cover retaliation, amnesty and bad faith complaints. It states that all faculty and staff have an obligation to report hazing to the university if they become aware of it, and it allows students to report hazing anonymously or to one of three designated confidential reporters on campus.
Drury plans to share the recommendations with other universities around the nation and with K-12 schools in the region so they can also work to prevent hazing.
"Almost 50 percent of the students who arrive on this campus have been hazed in one form or another," said Drury's athletic director, Mark Fisher, "and only eight percent of those students knew that it was hazing, so I think that if we can reach out and start educating these young people at an earlier age, then it will be a positive thing."