by Ellen Efstathiou
Roughly a month ago, Oberlin students opened their emails to find an unexpected message from Vector LMS: all students must participate in a mandatory training course about hazing. Since it wasn’t from an Oberlin email address, and since there had been no warning that this was going to happen, I did what anyone would do and forgot about the message as soon as I read it. I didn’t delete the email, though, just in case I became involved in one of The Grape’s notorious hazing situations.
For the sake of writing this article, though, I sacrificed my time and patience and completed the aforementioned training. There were five parts and a ten-question quiz at the end to ensure that I had been paying attention.
The introduction explained hazing and its prevalence across college campuses. Hazing, in the real world, is not synonymous with how it is portrayed in the media. Oftentimes, it is much subtler. I had to answer some questions about whether I’d ever been involved in hazing or thought other people here would participate in it. Unless judging someone for not being from New York counts as hazing, I don’t think there’s much of it happening here.
The next sections were Understanding Hazing, Identifying and Reporting Hazing, and the Conclusion. They explained that they get their data from the Alfred University National Survey on Hazing. They also gave more examples of hazing and said that no organization is immune to it. They said that it’s normal to want to be part of a group, but hazing shouldn’t be involved. Then they ask you for feedback on the course and if your attitudes towards hazing have changed at all. (They hadn’t. I wasn’t planning on hazing anyone before and I’m not planning on doing it now. Although, I suppose that now, people joining clubs might be more aware that hazing can happen).
Yay, we made it through the whole thing.
First thing’s first: why has there been so little information about this? Students did not know ahead of time that the training was going to be something they were expected to take. The email tosses around the word “mandatory,” but is it actually? What is going to happen if someone doesn’t take it? For consent trainings, which are also mandatory, it is very clear that if you do not go to the training, there are consequences. Your ID card will stop working. Meanwhile, I know many people who have not yet participated in the hazing training. Many people claim simply to have not received the email. Everyone has participated in consent training, Oberlin made sure of that. If hazing is such a big concern, Oberlin should make sure students know we need to take the hazing training.
Furthermore, why was the email with the information about the training sent from outside Oberlin? With the number of phishing scams that students get, why would they think that this one is legit? So that brings up the question, does Oberlin actually care about this? And if they (evidently) don’t, why are they doing this? What is the point of having an outside company send everyone a suspicious-looking email and not following up on it? And sure, you can reach out to Associate Dean of Students, Thom Julian, to ask any questions you might have, but in order to find out who to contact you have to click on the link in the suspicious email first.
Continuing with the comparison to consent training, I think that in order to make the hazing training actually effective, it needs to be done in a way that allows for conversation. That is what makes consent training useful. You have to engage in it—there is no way around it. For the hazing training, one can easily zone out for 25 minutes and answer the questions on the quiz at the end with common sense. If the professional company that Oberlin hired to do the hazing training is no different than what my high school did about hazing (having us sign a contract that said we wouldn’t haze), then what is the point of hiring the professional company?
Finally, is there even a need for hazing training at Oberlin? I have not experienced hazing here. According to an article in the Review, most people at Oberlin don’t think hazing is an issue. Now, the hazing training is due to legal reasons; however, this is bare minimum stuff. Like a lot of trainings that educational places are required to do, there is much emphasis on recognizing what something is. There is much less about what to do to prevent it. This is something that having Oberlin-specific training would help with. For example, in the consent training, they can give you Oberlin-specific advice about what to do if sexual assault does happen. The general advice from the professional company hazing training of “go to the Dean of Students or someone else with that type of power” isn’t going to actually help anybody.