Garcia: If You Advocate for Mental Health, Don’t Participate in Hazing

Students rally outside Savitz Hall on November 8th. / Photo via multimedia editor Alex Rossen

This semester at Rowan, the student body has spoken loud and clear demanding more mental health resources, despite the persistent denial of scarcity by the University. 

What has been surprisingly promising is the open-mindedness that I’ve seen from my peers to appreciate how important working on mental health is. The willingness for people to help break the stigma surrounding getting help is something that’s crucial if we want to make any progress. Also, the passion that Rowan students have for improving this aspect of our school is extremely encouraging and will hopefully lead to actual change. Rallies were held last week where students expressed their dissatisfaction with Rowan’s current services.

What has been disheartening is the hypocrisy surrounding many of the students who actively advocate for better mental health resources, while simultaneously participating in the college tradition of hazing, also known as bullying. 

If you don’t know, hazing is part of the initiation process for new members of many college sports, greek life or other organizations. It usually involves members forcing newcomers or “pledges” to do various tasks with the threat of not getting accepted into their club. Hazing can and has been taken to an extremely inappropriate level, involving death in some cases.

For people to advocate for better resources while actively worsening Rowan students’ mental health is pathetically ironic. It’s almost unfathomable to think college students could be this neglectful, which ultimately leads me to question whether their support is genuine or just for show. Or maybe they simply don’t realize the actual impact that hazing has. 

The classic line from organized bullying supporters trying to minimize the damage is usually something like, “everyone goes through it.” This defense is used by people who are not only oblivious to the damage they’re doing, but the damage that was done to them. Even if it doesn’t accurately reflect one’s true character, this “alpha-male” mentality is established from being the recipient of constant intimidation, leading to desires to carry on the cycle. It doesn’t take much of an in-depth analysis to comprehend how somebody needing to put others down in order to be happy themselves is not a very mentally-stable place to be.

Anyone who doesn’t see that hazing causes anxiety, depression and damages students’ overall mental health is likely scared to talk about it or scared of having their sick, twisted fun taken away. What is common among victims of abuse is the fear of speaking out. Yes, “pledges” have the freedom to walk away at any time, but it’s not that easy with peer pressure and fear lingering over their heads. 

In my opinion, the best that Rowan students can do to improve the mental health crisis is to continue to end any stigma surrounding taking care of yourself. Getting help when you, a friend or a loved one is in need is the most important action that can be taken. “Help” might not always mean an appointment with a therapist, and it’s been documented extensively that there aren’t always enough available here. “Help” could mean talking to people you’re close with about your feelings or taking other actions that are recommended for anxiety and depression. Here is a list of local mental health resources available for little or no cost.

The voice coming from the student body saying we care about our wellness is getting louder and it’s safe to say that hazing is firmly in the way of reaching more progress. Ending this heinous tradition would lift a huge load off of so many Rowan students’ shoulders. It’s understandable that there is often grunt work to be done, and experienced members of these organizations are going to hand down the heavy lifting, so to speak. But being mean and forcing new members to do inhumane acts purely for amusement is completely unnecessary and beyond immature. There’s no reason these groups can’t function exactly the same without treating newcomers cruelly for no reason. 

Treating people nicely all the time isn’t necessarily difficult to do, but ending traditions that go back generations is also not always easy for everyone. There are times when society simply has to move on from outdated practices that are dangerous and damaging. With Rowan experiencing a mental health crisis, there has never been a better time for all of us to grow up and treat everyone with respect.  

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