Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Hazing: Women’s Soccer Team Caught in Compromising Position

The story goes that on the Northwestern campus, where hazings have been outlawed long ago, the Women’s Soccer Team is still requiring new members to submit to the hazing ritual. The hazing included women running around in underwear, performing bondage, lap dances and even some simulated sex acts, all including the freshmen members of the girl’s soccer team.

One of the members of the team took photos, and decided to share the pictures with the rest of the team on a public student file-sharing network. Probably the girl thought the hazing was no big deal, and maybe she’s right.  She included captions and the names of the girls in what must be considered a somewhat brazen manner.

The pictures were forwarded to a blog called Bad Jocks, which normally republishes stories about athletes living outside of the rules of normal society. The author of the blog, Bob Reno, matched the names with pictures of the girl’s soccer team and compared those with the hazing photos, easily verifying that hazing girls were real members of the team.  At this point he decided to break his normal format and publish an original story.

"To the best of my knowledge, the pictures were posted by a player on the team," Reno said. "All the captions for the photos led me to that conclusion."

On Tuesday, Northwestern athletic director Mark Murphy suspended the team from all athletic activity.  The university cited the need to take swift action in light of the controversy at Duke University, and noted that the team’s season doesn’t begin until August, leaving time to investigate the incident to determine if the suspension is merited.  In a later press conference, Murphy said this:
"Northwestern University today learned of allegations that hazing took place last year involving the women's soccer team. Hazing is forbidden under the university's anti-hazing policy. ... I have asked all athletic department staff, team coaches and members of the team to cooperate fully in the investigation by student affairs.  If the investigation shows that there has been a violation of Northwestern's policies, appropriate sanctions will be imposed and the athletic department may take additional action as well."

There is also considerable condemnation for Bob Reno for publishing the photos. Some say he did not do enough to determine the veracity of the story.  Others indicate that by reporting the story he was blowing a minor issue way out of proportion.  There were even calls that he had violated copy write laws, but those claims have been proven false.

So is it a moral tragedy that hazings still occur on college campuses? I was never a member of a fraternity, so I never had a hazing, but I’ve always thought of hazings as mindless and stupid, but not really immoral. Yes, the students are underage, but aren’t the hazings a right of passage? To me it didn’t seem like the end of the world.

BadJocks indicates that the hazings are wrong because they violate the rules, and with the posting of these photos the rules are being violated blatantly.  But again, we’re talking about kids here, right, just experiencing their first taste of adulthood? Is anyone being hurt here? Are the girls being coerced to participate? Nothing indicates they are participating against their will. So I don’t see the crime.  

But I’m also not one of the people speaking out against BadJocks.  They have the right to their opinion about the soccer team, and the fact that the team actually published the photos first seems to me to indicate that they wanted it to be public, or at least didn’t care.  So by all means, BadJocks has the right to publish all 46 photos and write their opinions.  Even though I don’t share their opinion, hey, it’s a valid opinion, the girls broke the rules.

What do you think?  The University has suspended the woman’s soccer team, do you agree with that, or is the University at fault for blowing this out of proportion? Do you think that this is all the blogger’s fault for having published the photos in a more public manner and addressing the issue? Perhaps the girls were wrong for having performed the hazings in the first place?  Or maybe they just shouldn’t have publicized the rituals?

My belief is that the hazings are no big deal, and the University should lighten up.  I also think Bad Jocks has a right to publish the photos, and did enough investigation to determine that they are valid. But I need more data.  Give me your opinions, and maybe we can arrive at some better answers together.

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Posted by Scottage at 1:55 AM / | |