Monday, November 7, 2011

Barnespeaks and Students Listen - by Emma Shannon, AOII

Barnespeaks and Students Listen
by Emma Shannon, AOII

In today’s college atmosphere, the word hazing gets thrown around all the time and yet few students and faculty members are confident of the definition. Though there are some obviously unethical actions, easily classified as “hazing”, it is often hard to determine where some actions lie on the spectrum. When Rick Barnes from Campuspeak came to Lehigh as part of Hazing Prevention Week to discuss the grey areas surrounding the issues of hazing, he took a unique approach to the discussion. Instead of the typical reprimanding tone that many presentations cling to, Barnes began the discussion away from the concept of hazing altogether.
            Barnes started his discussion by presenting a spectrum of morally questionable behavior, from an innocent yet age-segregated quiz game to an obviously unethical violent action of an upperclassman towards a new member of a hypothetical organization. He asked the audience what they thought of the actions and the response to the violence was predictable – obviously wrong, hazing. However, the nodding of heads and remarks of agreement were not as universal about the other side of the scale. Was the other incident mentioned hazing? Barnes used this inability to come to a consensus as a segway into his next point.
            No one can truly agree on the absolute definition of hazing, largely because there is no absolute definition. Universities nation-wide are called to act in prevention of issues surrounding hazing and yet there are as many definitions for wrong behavior as there are universities. With that said, pleading ignorance is hardly the solution to hazing problems on campuses nation-wide. Barnes’ solution to this elusive concept is simple: the golden rule. If we learn to treat others the way we wish to be treated, the issue of hazing will disappear altogether.
Barnes’ presentation was effective because it was untraditional. Instead of reprimanding students for crossing lines they didn’t know existed, Barnes simply reminded the audience that eradication of hazing is as simple as that, do unto others as you would do unto you.