Where Did It Begin?

The January 2018 blog submission was written by Frankel St. Louis, an alumnus of Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University, and a fellow member of the Marching 100 band program…

Hello everyone, my name is Frankel St. Louis and I am an alumnus of Florida A&M University, and a graduate of the Psychology department at Florida A&M University. I’m originally from Fort Lauderdale, FL, but I’ve considered Tallahassee my home for almost a decade. The experiences and memories that I’ve had during my time as a student at Florida A&M University and resident of Tallahassee are some of the most precious and rewarding that I hold onto until this day. One of the most important decisions I’ve made in my life has been to attend college at FAMU. The experiences I’ve gained during my time at FAMU taught me so much about the importance of service, duty, and education. The quality of instruction and the level of academic scholarship present at Florida A&M University has provided me with the tools and confidence to achieve in almost everything that I wish to accomplish in life, and fortunately, I’ve gained some lifelong friends along the way.

In my past, I have definitely encountered the face of hazing numerous times, and unfortunately, I decided in those days to be a part of such processes as well. While hazing is viewed as an abomination to human social morality, it should be common knowledge that most individuals who desire to join large, well-established coalitions, usually go through some sort of “process” to become a member or contributor. This is especially the case when an individual attempts to become a member of a group or coalition that provides immediate access to benefits and networks that otherwise, are unobtainable as a non-member. To this day, researchers are working diligently to examine what motivates participation in hazing activities. As a community, we must take a stand to acknowledge the massive increase in hazing related deaths, especially hazing that occurs in college and university populations. The culture of hazing has become a quintessential component of college culture in general. Understanding the correlation between college and hazing culture should be necessary steps to take when attempting to understand the phenomenon of hazing motivation as a whole.

For millennia, hazing is said to have been practiced in ancient and medieval schools in Greece, North Africa, and Western Europe (Finkle, 2002). Initiation rituals steeped in violence and degradation, similar to what would today be called hazing, can be traced back to the very foundational beginnings of higher learning (McCreary, 2012). In ancient Greece, the practice of what is called hazing today, was referred to as pennalism. Newer (1999) provided accounts of hazing through the works of ancient Greek philosophers such as Plato and Augustine. Both philosophers shared their own perspectives and experiences of the ancient practice of pennalism from the early third and fourth century B.C. First referencing Plato’s account with pennalism, who founded the Academy in 387 B.C., Newer (1999) stated that Plato “noted the savagery with which young men taunted and bullied their younger counterparts.” Further expounding on the acceptance of the savage behavior of upperclassman towards newcomers the Greek philosopher “Augustine, writing of his experiences with hazing at the learning centers of Carthage in the fourth century, noted that the behavior of the older students was very much like that of devils, and noted the cyclical nature of hazing – those who in their first years at the academy were hazed thereafter became the hazers” (Newer, 1999).

It is very important to understand that hazing, as a form of initiation, has been in existence since the times of Ancient Greece. Hazing activities have evolved over time, though, we must also understand that hazing activities and motivations have generally remained consistent, that is, in terms of who is participating in these activities and why. Looking to the past to understand the present when examining hazing motivation is a crucial component in how we should begin the process of prevention and intervention. Taking a great leap in understanding hazing motivation will require the participation of research professionals as well as those that have participated or have considered participating in hazing. This brutal process of initiation is not the only means we have as a human race to become members of a group or well-established organizations. The risks involved in participating in hazing are not worth the perceived gain that we might attribute to participating in such activities as a hazer or someone that is willing to be hazed. We all desire to be members of social groups and organizations, but I do not believe that the cost of death or permanent injury is worth the reward of membership. Further research on this matter will help with improving efforts for hazing education, prevention, and intervention.

Be well,

Frankel St. Louis

M.S. Community Psychology

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