MANY students across the country started college these past few weeks, and in no doubt will have taken part in initiation practices known as ‘hazing’.
Hazing involves freshmen students being ‘initiated’ into college life by older students in practices that usually involve humiliation, alcohol occasionally violence.
These traditional college initiations have come under scrutiny in Spain after a video emerged online of one student violently punching a younger boy as part of one of the “games”.
Laura Croas, a psychologist specializing in issues related to bullying, believe these initiations, although rooted in the apparent tradition and well intentioned, can lead to a culture of bullying and intimidation.
She believes many take part in the hazing because they are too scared to say no.
The students involved in the video, which took place at the Complutense University’s Diego de Covarrubias student residence in Madrid, were suspended for two weeks.
According to Loreto González-Dopeso, the president of the support group No más novatadas (No More Hazing), suspensions do not solve anything, the problem goes much deeper than superficial punishments.
Croas says that although some of the rituals seem harmless, hazing plays on the victim’s emotions and can leave its mark. “At that age, belonging to a group is all important, and you accept humiliations because you’re scared of the consequences if you don’t,” she says. “If you have not learned how to say ‘no’ for fear of being ostracized, that will continue to be a problem for you as an adult.”
Students that have taken part in hazing sessions have mixed feelings regarding the activities they are forced to play.
One student from the Marqués de la Ensenada residence says that her participation in the initiation “formed strong bonds with her classmates” and that games “never went too far.”
As part if its fight against the practice, Madrid’s Complutense University has launched its annual anti-hazing campaign this September together with the local police and city authorities.