By Brianna Bennett
Mindy Sopher came to KU on Sept. 28 to “get to the heart of hazing” as a part of National Hazing Prevention Week, where interested students, faculty and staff gathered in Schaeffer Auditorium.
Sopher is a communications professor and academic advisor at North Carolina State University in Raleigh. She travels
across the country for CAMPUSPEAK. When asked what she does for her career, she said, “I work hard every day to change the world.”
Many of the attendees represented Greek organizations and sports teams. In fact, fraternities and sororities that fall under the United Greek Council sphere of influence were required to be there.
According to Sopher, the best way to put a stop to hazing is to not give in to the bystander effect, or be a “tongue-wagger.” She pointed to examples where people gave in to the bystander effect, such as the case of Kitty Genovese, a 28-year-old graduate student who was murdered in Queens, New York in 1977. She was stabbed multiple times, but no one intervened on her behalf.
The bystander intervention model, as noted by the American Psychological Association, has five steps: 1) notice the event, 2) recognize problem behavior, 3) feel responsibility, 4) know what to do and 5) gain the capacity to act.
According to stophazing.org, the definition of hazing is “any activity expected of someone joining or participating in a group that humiliates, degrades, abuses or endangers them regardless of a person’s willingness to participate.”
When discussing an unfortunate consequence of this recurring problem, Sopher said, “I have buried three people because of hazing; the definition doesn’t matter as much as the damage.”
According to Sopher, some other names for hazing include “team tradition,” “inspiration week,” “mandatory meeting,” “boot camp” and “Russian roulette.” These euphemisms are used to avoid scrutiny.
Sopher said that the litmus test, which is used to identify whether or not an event could be considered hazing, asks one question: “Are you willing to share that event with the world?”
At the end of her presentation Sopher took a quick poll of the audience, asking them to raise their hands if they now believed they had the power to stop hazing. A vast majority responded to the call.
At the conclusion of her presentation, Sopher had everyone in attendance make the anti-hazing pledge, a promise to avoid the bystander effect and take action should the need arise.