The senior members of the Meddiebempsters had been preparing an initiation night for a week before the evening of September 16. When the day finally came, the upperclass Meddies gave the first years a list of clues and told them to complete a scavenger hunt. Afterwards, they went to a senior's off-campus house, where the Meddies were having a party. The upperclassmen congratulated their newly-inducted first years, who were then able to meet everyone for the first time. The upperclassmen offered the first years beer; two decided to drink, and the third did not. "It was a lot of fun," said one first year. "There was a really happy mood."
But just over a month later, the Student Organizations Oversight Committee (SOOC) ruled that the Meddies were responsible for, among other charges, deliberately instilling fear in first year members, organizing a compulsory event that involved the structured consumption of alcohol, and distinguishing between their members by class year. The Meddies are not permitted to perform at certain school-sponsored events until March 10 and must submit to oversight by the SOOC in a variety of upcoming functions. The ruling came as a shock to the Meddies, who were surprised to learn that there initiation constitued hazing.
According to even a loose interpretation of the hazing policy, the Meddies are indeed guilty of hazing. Were activities planned our in advance? Was alcohol involved? Were the first years singled out because of their status? Yes, yes and yes.
Yet under the current policy, virtually every other student group on campus is also guilty of hazing. Take the Orient, for example. Every Thursday night, our operation involves depriving editors of sleep, occasionally compromising their ability to do schoolwork, and ascribing tasks to people according to class year and rank. Given the broad phrasing of the hazing rules, the Orient could be charged under the policy.
The administration has stated that whether or not the students believe they were hazed is irrelevant. In fact, if any member of the Bowdoin community perceives an event to be a potential act of hazing, a student organization or team can be charged, even if none of its members concur. The policy rightly states that "hazing is victimization," yet this discounts the most important standard: whether the victims actually feel victimized.
We do not condone initiation activities that may be physically or psychologically damaging, and students critical of the SOOC's ruling should remember that the College has an obligation to ensure the safety of its students. The actions taken by the College following revelations of hazing on the men's ice hockey team illustrate that the school is committed to protecting students. However, we believe that the College's hazing policy is overbroad in its current form, and that it too easily allows for cohesion-building initiations to be misconstrued as hazing.
In order to make the policy more flexible without reducing the College's ability to hold students accountable for truly problematic initiations, the policy should be amended so that the initiates' testimony is considered when evaluating a case. If the College is serious about protecting the welfare of its students, then it should make their perspective a high priority. Although it is legitimately concerning that initiates may feel pressured to protect a group and therefore testify dishonestly, the failure to not even consider their input is unfair.
The editorial represents the majority view of the Bowdoin Orient's editorial board, which is comprised of Nick Daniels, Sam Frizell, Linda Kinstler, Zoë Lescaze and Elizabeth Maybank.