Event works to prevent hazing

Vadim Lavrusik

To force a student to drink a gallon of beer, carry the bags of a teammate because she’s a rookie or polish the drums of a veteran band member because he’s a newcomer – all are considered hazing by the Minnesota Hazing Law.

As part of National Hazing Prevention week, University student organizations took time to educate their members and define hazing. Organizations also discussed prevention strategies and problems of hazing on campus.

The second annual event kicked off Saturday with the Cystic Fibrosis Gopher Sports Challenge and continues with events through Friday.

The week’s events included speaker and hazing expert Rick Barns, who spoke on Monday, and a documentary shown Tuesday by the athletics department, “Unless a Death Occurs,” which looks at hazing issues.

FarmHouse fraternity, sanctioned for hazing acts last year, was involved in organizing some of the events.

Jeff Schmitz, FarmHouse president, said it recruited Rick Barns, himself a FarmHouse member in Texas, to speak to the student organizations about hazing.

“We realize hazing is a bigger issue; last year with everything that went on it’s good to step up and show that this is something we truly do care about,” he said.

He said that because of his fraternity’s experience with hazing, he thinks it is obligated to step up and educate people on the issue.

Greek organizations and athletics teams were required to have a certain number of their members attend the events during the week.

Chad Ellsworth, student activities adviser for the greek community, said the purpose of the week is to draw attention to the issue of hazing on campus and to educate students of the strong policy the University has against such acts.

Ellsworth said he is passionate about the issue because of a personal experience he had with hazing as an undergraduate.

Ellsworth was involved in a situation in which one of his friends was emotionally broken because of the anticipation of “hell week” and the things they were going to have to endure.

“I remember him sitting down and just bawling, and at that point we took a stand to say that wasn’t going to happen anymore,” he said.

After joining the organization and becoming an officer, Ellsworth said he did all he could to get rid of the hazing acts. Because of his efforts, many of the members forcefully removed him from the organization, he said.

“They locked me in a room and yelled at me, some guys threatened to kill me and beat me up, so it was a really traumatic experience,” Ellsworth said.

He said that the next day he notified University authorities, and the organization was heavily sanctioned.

“I don’t want what happened to me and my friend to happen to anyone else,” he said. “No one should be subjected to such acts.”

Maj. Rick Johnson, Army ROTC executive officer, said that although cadets were not able to attend some of the events, they have participated in the discussions leading up to the week, which educated new members on hazing.

“There are no rites of passage; everyone who is here the first day, today, has the same rights and privileges as everybody who has been here for three years,” Johnson said.