Hazing Rampant

If the results from a University of Maine study can be construed as representative of university life in the U.S., more than one in five students have witnessed hazing. A quick glance at the news reveals a surprising number of hazing incidents (including the hazing murder of an Iraq veteran), and efforts to protect the victims through enlightened policies and legislation. Here is a good general resouce on hazing.

Apart from protecting the victim, I think the high numbers of witnesses who apparently do little or nothing call for a renewed public discussion about the bystander effect. This is a difficult topic to bring up, especially if you’re trying to point out and prevent the Bystander Effect in progress. In my experience, anyone who is part of the Bystander group will have a knee-jerk defensive reaction to the implied accusation rather than using the information to redirect their attention and help the victim. Perhaps what we also need is a social pact that makes it safe for people to bring up a Bystander issue: i.e., no hostility, retaliation, ostracization, or attempts to turn the group against the person who dares to point out Bystander behavior. The Bystander Effect is real, and a quick glance at all the news stories about hazing shows that people are getting hurt and even killed because of the social obstacles to intervention.

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