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Husted '13: A modest proposal

It is a melancholy object to those who walk through this great school or travel through Providence, when they see the streets, the roads and cabin doors, crowded with freshmen, followed by three, four or six additional freshmen, all in new clothes and importuning every passenger for directions to Wriston. Their furtive gazes of insecurity haunt all those who pass them by. These freshmen, instead of being warmly embraced into our noble association, are forced to employ all their time figuring out how to hold their liquor, shop classes, cut their own food and do laundry.

I think it is agreed by all parties that this prodigious number of freshmen walking around like packs of rabid dogs is a great additional grievance to the aristocracy of the University; and, therefore, whoever could find out a fair, cheap and easy method of welcoming them into our sophisticated and venerable institution of higher learning, would deserve so well of the public as to have his statue set up for a preserver of all Brunonia.

Given my limited space in this article, I shall now humbly propose my thoughts, which I hope will not be found at all objectable.

I have been assured by a very knowing friend from Dartmouth that a young, well-nursed freshman is able to "swim in a kiddie pool of vomit, urine, fecal matter, semen and rotten food products; eat omelets made of vomit; chug cups of vinegar ... [and] drink beer poured down fellow pledges' ass cracks."

I do therefore humbly offer it to public consideration that instead of a simple ice cream social, we fill a giant inflatable pool in Keeney quad and do something along the lines of the aforementioned. I promise it would not be inhumane in the slightest, as we would make sure to give them a few granola bars and organic kale first. This is Brown, after all, and we would hardly want a young freshman to swim in puddles of his own feces without a healthy green snack first.

Enough Jonathan Swift. Hopefully, the satire has done its job in helping to introduce a grave topic. While Swift may have been joking as he proposed eating most of the children of destitute mothers in Ireland, I confess that the disturbing suggestion regarding the "kiddie pool" above is a direct quote from an article that appeared in Rolling Stone this March about hazing at Dartmouth, our esteemed rival Ivy. Sadly, the idea that freshmen should be welcomed through demeaning ritual initiations is pervasive.

Andrew Lohse, who detailed his experience with Dartmouth fraternities, claims to have lived that experience, a tale that you might expect to see written about Guantanamo Bay or a North Korean prison camp. While I would like to condemn Dartmouth and rationalize this horror as an isolated incident, a quick Google search of "college hazing" makes this impossible. In fact, even the typical suspects - fraternities - are not the only ones making headlines for hazing these days. Just last week, a Florida A&M University marching band member, Dante Martin, faced felony charges for the death of a bandmate who was ritually beaten as part of band initiation.

Though we may not worry that the innocuous Brown Band is going to make national news for anything other than wearing cheeky buttons, we have good reason to worry each and every new school year, as a group of young and impressionable 18-year-olds walk into a new school eager to "fit in." To think that people have a choice in the matter of whether or not they "want" to be hazed is to ignore basic human nature. When a healthy dose of willing young men and women enter an environment of peer pressure and drunken groupthink, bad things happen.

When you see posters or letters that warn of the dangers of hazing, the advice is about as useful as hearing your mom say "be safe" as you leave the house. This is because most people think that avoiding hazing is common sense, as if remembering not to drink vomit is logically equivalent to remembering to walk on the sidewalk. In reality, however, hazing is hard to avoid simply because those getting hazed trust those who haze them. People are willing to suffer temporary shame and discomfort for a worthy reward, and in many cases, student groups seem capable of offering them that coveted prize: friendship or social status.

So upperclassmen: Please realize that these new freshmen trust you to have their best interests in mind, and therefore, you hold a lot of power over them. If you want to initiate them into a group, do it as frighteningly as you like, but please keep it safe. Freshmen: If wasted Adam tells you to drink his urine, find some new friends.

 

Lucas Husted '13 is happy that Jo's doesn't serve vomit-withs, unlike Dartmouth. 

He can be reached at 

lucas_husted@brown.edu.


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