Hazing Prevention Week hosts Tim Marchell, an expert in the psychology of hazing

According to recent survey data, some 16 percent of WUSTL undergraduates have witnessed hazing

Here’s one reason not to haze — it’s against university policy and Missouri law.

But there’s another reason — it messes with people’s heads.


That’s the message junior Paul Drabinski, new member educator for Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity, took away from a lecture by Tim Marchell, PhD, associate director for health promotion at Cornell University and a leading expert on the psychology of hazing.

“Instead of just talking about the risks, he explains the psychology behind hazing and what people’s minds go through,” said Drabinski, who heard Marchell speak last summer. “He absolutely made me look at hazing in a new way.”

As part of Washington University in St. Louis’ Hazing Prevention Week, Marchell will visit campus Monday, Feb. 24, for two lectures: a brown-bag program for faculty and staff at noon in the Mallinckrodt Center Multipurpose Room and a presentation for students at 6 p.m. in Seigle Hall. Drabinski said Marchell’s research serves as powerful rebuttal to those who rationalize hazing.

“When it comes to hazing, students say, ‘It’s tradition,’ or ‘The pledges will get through it,’ or ‘It’s not that bad,’” Drabinski said. “But you don’t know that. Everyone’s brain is wired differently. This is all about mental health.”

To further raise awareness, the Anti-Hazing Working Group has posted digital ads that playfully mock hazing. Mike Hayes, executive director of campus life, also is encouraging to students to sign the “Hazing Hurts – Take the Pledge to STOP Hazing” banner, which will be displayed at various venues across campus.

According to 2013 American College Health Survey of some 1,000 WUSTL students, 2.4 percent of undergraduate respondents report they have experienced hazing, 1.4 percent acknowledge they have hazed another student and 16 percent say they have witnessed hazing. Those numbers tell Hayes that hazing, while not common, still is a problem. To raise awareness, Student Involvement and Leadership has created a hazing prevention website where students can learn more about hazing myths and anonymously report a hazing incident.

“I understand the need to belong and why you would tolerate certain stuff, but new members need to understand how much power they have,” Hayes said. “We hear, ‘I can’t say no because I’m a new member.’ To which we say, ‘That’s exactly why you can say no.’ These groups cannot survive without their new members.”

The survey also tells Hayes that students need to step up when they see hazing.

“To me, bystander intervention is the linchpin for this and so many issues,” Hayes said. “How do you compel people to not stand for something that we, as a community, have rejected? We want our students to pause for a moment and ask themselves, ‘What does this activity mean to the group and the campus community?’ We need people to thrive here, and hazing just has no part of that.”

“Hazing: Understanding why it happens and how to make it stop”
When: Noon-1:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 24, Mallinckrodt Center Multipurpose Room; 6-7 p.m. Monday at Seigle Hall, L006
More info: Hazing Prevention webpage