Dear Members of the Lehigh Community,
As recent events in the news indicate, hazing is not only an unfortunate and unsavory aspect of the university experience for some students, it can also be deadly. Each year, students at colleges and universities die senseless, tragic deaths or suffer serious injuries as a result of hazing.
The harm is not only to the victims of hazing. When we choose to degrade others, we degrade ourselves by allowing the worst within us to fester and grow. Those who learn to treat others without dignity and respect often carry those habits beyond their college experience.
We have been proactively addressing hazing at Lehigh University for several years. We are not waiting for a student tragedy to become the impetus for tackling this problem head on and for confronting the kind of behavior that leads to it.
Part of that process means acknowledging that hazing does happen here at Lehigh, as it does on college campuses across the country. It happens in our Greek community, on our sports teams, and in clubs, organizations, performing arts groups and even in our residence halls.
In the Lehigh University Hazing Perceptions Assessment survey conducted in the spring 2012 semester by the Lehigh Hazing Prevention Coalition, nearly 62 percent of the respondents agreed that they have witnessed hazing. A quarter of them said they were victims of hazing, and nearly half of the Lehigh students who took the survey reported that they have participated in hazing. Eighty percent of respondents reported hearing of other Lehigh organizations also being involved in hazing.
It is reprehensible when those with the social power use hazing to limit the ascent of those participants. Some see it as a rite of passage, an unpleasant but familiar and unavoidable component of life on a college campus. Some may tolerate it, secure in the knowledge that they, too, can eventually wield that power over others.
Whatever the motivation or the justification, this much is clear: Hazing is antithetical to the values of our University, an insult to the dignity of individuals. It is also a path to extinction for groups that cannot or will not cease this behavior. Hazing is unacceptable and we must alter the culture which allows it to persist.
To that end, we’ve launched a new site with more information and guidelines at https://studentaffairs.lehigh.edu/hazing-prevention, and have developed a new reporting form for incidents of hazing, which can be found at http://lehigh.edu/go/hazingreport. We encourage you to familiarize yourself with these resources.
More than 60 people have died in fraternity related events since 2005, according to data compiled by Bloomberg news sources. Barely a month goes by without an account of yet another tragic incident where a student dies as a result of an extreme hazing circumstance, or suffers severe physical or psychological injury.
These numbers do not even begin to take into account the thousands of college students who are affected physically, psychologically, cognitively and academically each year as survivors of hazing. Nor do they take into account the impact on bystanders who do not feel safe coming forward to stop hazing.
Incidents of hazing can happen before students even arrive at Lehigh. According to a 2008 national study (Allan & Madden), nearly half of all college students say they were a victim of hazing while in high school. That learned behavior can become a precursor to their actions once they arrive at college. Recent examples of high school hazing in Sayreville, New Jersey and Doylestown, Pennsylvania attest to this reality.
Lehigh University is among those institutions that intend to lead the way through comprehensive efforts that include being a member of the National Hazing Consortium, hosting of the 2011 Novak Institute on Hazing Prevention, and creating the University Hazing Prevention Coalition.
During the 2012-13 academic year, Lehigh joined with a group of leading universities in a three-year research initiative to develop evidence-based and effective hazing prevention strategies. This ground-breaking effort is drawing on extensive national research to better understand this behavior and to devise effective ways to prevent it.
Our work is ongoing. We are making progress, but hazing is a pervasive issue that requires constant vigilance, ongoing education and substantial consequences for those who transgress. It requires the support of students, faculty, staff and parents to help Lehigh community members feel empowered to speak out. It requires severe consequences for those who persist in this behavior. It requires the education of all members of the campus community to help recognize the destructive impact hazing can have on our community. And it requires a unified response among all constituencies to make Lehigh a place that nurtures a respectful and trusting community.
We ask you to join us in helping to make the Lehigh experience a positive, productive and healthy one for all our students.
We encourage you to take advantage of the wide variety of resources available to support and educate stakeholders across our campus. Our Student Affairs staff, faculty, Gryphons and student organization leaders are here to discuss any concerns you may have about behaviors occurring within our community.
For your part, as a member of this community, we ask that you practice bystander intervention and speak up and/or intervene if you become aware of a hazing situation or environment. Each of us has a responsibility to confront the issues at Lehigh. One individual can influence others. We must support those who speak out and stand up against hazing, particularly if they have been hazed themselves.
Those who have witnessed hazing or have been hazed can report anonymously by calling the Hazing Hotline at 1-888-NOT HAZE, or can complete the online form on the Hazing Prevention website. They may also choose to contact the LUPD directly at 610-758-4200.
We need to work together, take care of each other, and eradicate hazing at Lehigh University.
The individuals and groups below support the work of the Lehigh Hazing Prevention Coalition and ask that our entire community actively commit to eliminating hazing practices once and for all.
John Simon, President
Pat Farrell, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs
Frank Roth, General Counsel
Joe Sterrett, Murray H. Goodman Dean of Athletics
Council of Student Presidents
Council for Equity and Community
Dean of Students Office
Faculty Committee on Student Life
IFC, Panhellenic Council, Multicultural Greek Council
Student Athlete Council
Undergraduate Student Senate
Graduate Student Senate