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New Cougar Hazing Prevention Week focuses on early education and avoidance

Fraternity members participate in bid day.
Fraternity members participate in Bid Day 2020. Photo by Ryan Butschli.

The new Cougar Hazing Prevention Week is seeking to reduce hazing on the Washington State University Pullman campus with programs designed to help recognize and stop these harmful practices.

The week-long event, running Sept. 7-10, will feature a new member workshop, presentations on topics such as alcohol and mental health, and a barbecue. The events are completely planned, organized, and funded by students, said Dan Welter, director of the Center for Fraternity and Sorority Life (CFSL).

“Our students have chosen to prioritize this programming,” he said. “They identified hazing as something they’re concerned about, and they created this week because they want to do better.”

Preventing behaviors early

This is the first time the Pullman campus has held a Cougar-specific hazing prevention week.

WSU’s Greek chapters traditionally participate in National Hazing Prevention Week, which takes place at the end of September – after WSU’s recruitment ends. Moving these educational events up helps ensure that Greek students receive education about hazing before they finish the recruitment process.

“Having this hazing prevention week earlier in the semester lets us have important conversations with members of our community before too much time has passed,” said Natalie Guinasso, the Panhellenic vice president of new member services and one of the event organizers.

Guinasso said it’s important to educate both new and existing members about what hazing is and the many forms it can take.

“We hope this week’s events can show our members what problematic behaviors look like and squash those early, before anyone’s health or safety is at risk,” she said.

All Greek students are encouraged to participate in the programs, several of which feature guest speakers from NovakTalks, an organization that promotes student health and safety through prevention, intervention, and accountability. NovakTalks will speak with Greek students about the intersection of hazing and mental health, ending hazing, and alcohol use.

The programming also includes a workshop where new members receive their “bill of rights,” which outlines expectations and positive behaviors.

Perhaps the most impactful event is on Sept. 9, when two speakers from Parents United 2 Stop Hazing will share what it’s like to lose a child to hazing.

“That’s going to be very emotional,” Welter said. “There’s a lot of power in hearing about the real-life ramifications of hazing.”

Stopping the cycle

Both Guinasso and Welter said one of the key takeaways of the week is that all members are responsible for both preventing and reporting hazing.

“Preventing hazing aligns our community’s values with how we actually treat our members,” Welter said. “We talk a lot about belonging and camaraderie, but if hazing is happening those things aren’t happening. Events like this push us to align our actions with our words.”

All members of the Cougar community can report hazing. There are four ways to report hazing: submitting a report to the Center for Community Standards or via the CFSL website, contacting the police (WSU or Pullman), reporting behavior to the Greek community’s governing councils, and calling a chapter’s headquarters.

Guinasso said she hopes the new Cougar Hazing Prevention Week will help end the cycle of hazing – and the harm it causes on campus.

“People often turn a blind eye, refuse to report incidents, or ignore warning signs, all of which causes hazing to continue,” she said. “Coming off of a virtual year where a lot of traditions may have been forgotten, there’s a lot of opportunity to decide what our values are as a community and how are we going to behave to align with those. We’re hoping to use this momentum in a positive way.”

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