Haze (v): (1) Drive in a specific direction while on horseback; (2) Force to perform strenuous, humiliating, or dangerous tasks (as in Fraternity rituals).
Several days ago, while sifting through my Google Alert daily digest e-mails, I encountered an article entitled “Hazing to be Regular Event in Gardiner Basin” published April 7 in the Bozeman Daily Chronicle.
Regular event? Seriously?
Mind you, all I saw at the time was the article name, the publication date, and the source. (Looking back, there was more included below, but at the time I think my shock at the article title blocked all else from my view).
I shuddered at what I might find but clicked the URL anyway. When I reached the page, the feature image was that of a man on a horse riding behind several bison.
I was confused.
Did you know “to haze” means “to drive (cattle) in a specified direction while on horseback?” This Pennsylvania city slicker did not.
As it turns out, bison that had wandered north from Yellowstone National Park’s boundaries in search of food are being hazed back into the park.
What I found interesting were quotes captured within the article—quotes sounding oddly familiar to what I hear as excuses for hazing when working with young men (and women) in Greek and athletic organizations.
Here are a few of those quotes. I have purposely left out the names of the individuals quoted since it provides no value to the exercise.
“They haven’t been hard hazes.”
This sounds like the “little h versus big H” excuse. There is a common misconception that “big H” Hazing is the only harmful practice and “little h” hazing is harmless fun. Just because something does not physically, mentally, or psychologically debilitate someone does not mean it isn’t hazing. Also, what is the definition of “hard” hazing? Wouldn’t that definition vary greatly from person to person? Where is that line drawn? (As an aside, those hazing bison have now resorted to helicopters as well. Hazing gone from “little h” horses to “big H” Helicopters).
“We’ve gone slow — it doesn’t take a lot of encouragement to get them to move.”
This sounds like the “they wanted to be hazed” excuse. The individual went along with the activities—never voiced his concern. Silence and compliance do not communicate acceptance or desire, just as, in the case of sexual assault, silence and compliance do not imply consent.
“It’s not a concerted effort to bring them all down.”
This is the “it’s not me, it’s Member XYZ” excuse. Members know other specific members haze, but since they are not the perpetrators, they remain silent. It’s not seen as a concerted effort to haze, and therefore, it doesn’t become an organizational problem—just a few individuals needing to be kept at bay or laughed off. The buck is passed, and the issue remains in the shadows.
“The other day we were bringing some down, and around 100 just went along with us.”
This sounds like the “it’s tradition” excuse. It wasn’t meant to be a big deal a few years ago when the practice began. It was just a few guys having fun with a few new members or rookies. But then it grew far beyond what was originally intended and embedded itself in the organizational culture. These are the situations where, either over a short time or over several years of organizational history, “little h” hazing can progress to “big H” Hazing.
“Our plan is to haze as needed.”
This sounds like the “we need to let the younger ones know their place” excuse. It is the misguided belief that, by showing a young member respect and dignity, we will somehow lose respect in the eyes of that individual. As a result, when a member feels a younger member needs some attitude adjusting, he will haze as needed to put said younger member in his place.
“Our goal was not to push all of them in in one day. Our goal was to do it incrementally, not force them … “
This sounds like the “we always gave them a choice not to participate” excuse. While this sounds reasonable, the reality is, psychologically, an individual placed in a situation where he is trying to fit in and assert his place will not see an actual choice. While the choice is there, it is not enough to say the individual had any choice if the potential consequences could mean being ostracized, harmed later, or removed from the group completely.
In the Bozemon Daily Chronicle article, the bison were nearing an area known as Paradise Valley before being hazed back toward Yellowstone. Isn’t this what those who choose to haze within organizations withhold from their members? A chance at a life-changing experience. A chance at forging their own path. A chance at paradise.
Hazing serves no educational purpose in human organizations. Moreover, hazing is not manly behavior. Let’s leave these excuses behind like the bison chips they are.
Step away from the herd.
Hazing ends here.
Image credit: USFWS Mountain Prairie/flickr
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