After a string of hazing incidents were brought to light in the past academic year, the College spent the summer revamping its hazing policy. Bowdoin expanded its definition to include case studies, questions for students to consider when planning events, and a list of suggested team events. Tim Foster, dean of student affairs, was clear that the changed language of College policy was only one strategy for eliminating hazing on campus. 

“If the whole focus is simply on revising the policy, I don’t think the magic answer [to eliminating hazing] is in a revised hazing policy,” said Foster. “I think that’s part of a broader effort to increase awareness.”  

First, the Athletics Department completely retooled how it addressed hazing. Ashmeade White Director of Athletics Tim Ryan explained that not only did team captains get a full coach-led training session on what constitutes hazing, but teams will also be required to gather to discuss the issue.

“We are working off a model developed by Middlebury where we have a PowerPoint presentation that our coaches will provide to all of our teams,” said Ryan.  “It opens up a dialogue between students and coaches that will hopefully enable us to have conversations in advance of activities taking place.”

“For a long time, the only people we were having conversations with were captains and that’s not enough,” said Foster.

Campus administrators will now make themselves available for teams and student organizations to discuss any planned team gatherings to ensure they do not constitute hazing in any way. They hope this process will help eliminate any confusion and bring added clarity to the College’s policy. 

The new policy also contains a series of case studies, created to help clarify what does constitute hazing by looking at specific examples. 

“People want to understand details and where the line is,” said Foster. “We do that by creating case studies.”

“I would’ve liked an example that was defined as not hazing and not a violation of any student code,” said Ryan Peabody ’14, captain of the men’s swimming and diving team. “I wish there was a solely positive [case study]. I think it would have done a lot in terms of communicating what is appropriate.” 

In addition to the scenarios provided, the new policy provides a list of team activities that would not be in violation of the hazing provisions. These include video game tournaments, movie nights and scavenger hunts “involving all members of an organization or team in which all participants are treated equally and the activities are not embarrassing, demeaning or dangerous.”

Captains expressed heightened awareness of team practices in light of the hazing incidents that took place last year. In the fall, the men’s rugby team was forced to forfeit two games in conjunction with hazing allegations. In the spring, men’s tennis forfeited four games in its season, in addition to being barred from post-season competition. 

Chris Lord ’14, men’s tennis captain, said that he was very aware of the effect of his team’s punishment on the community, and is now focused on closely adhering to the new policy. 

“I think to a certain extent, what happened with our team set a precedent that it’s not being tolerated whatsoever any more,” said Lord. “I think now everyone knows how seriously the College takes this.” 

Peabody noted that in the aftermath of the tennis team’s incident, the swimming and diving team worked with the help of their coach to revamp a team tradition.

David Dietz ’14, a captain of the men’s rugby team, stated that his team was most focused on succeeding on the pitch and that he wasn’t fearful of holding team gatherings in the future. 
“The administration is very clear that they’re not trying to discourage teams from being teams and being friends,” he said. “They’re just trying to discourage certain actions which are now very clearly outlined in the policy.”

Both Ryan and Foster were clear that the College has a zero-tolerance policy and future incidents of hazing will be treated very seriously. After the extensive work that the administration has done to bring attention to the policy, Foster said that if future serious cases of hazing are brought to light, “without question, there will be the forfeiture of a season or the loss of funding and recognition for a student organization.”

One female captain, who requested anonymity due to the nature of her comments, felt that the administration was unfairly painting all tradition in a negative light. 

“I don’t think the College wants to see or accept that there are certain aspects of what they would consider hazing that are positive,” she said.

She said that among her teammates young and old, there’s a strong feeling that their traditions are an important part of building a team and making new members feel like a part of the team. 

“All the things we do we try to do with the intention of building our team and having fun and doing things you probably otherwise wouldn’t do,” she said. “The last thing we’d ever want to do is harm anyone on our team in the process.”

Though athletics is often the focus of discussions around hazing, Foster reiterated that these policies would also apply to student organizations and that their leaders would be speaking with Foster and Alan DeLong, director of student life and Smith Union, to help clarify the changes. They will also be exposed to the same PowerPoint presentation that coaches showed their teams.

The Office of Student Affairs will be holding a forum next Wednesday to address any questions and concerns community members have on the changes to the policy.

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