Packer: Is It Really Hazing?
By Karina Packer, Guest Columnist
Published on Monday, February 4, 2013
My name is Karina Packer ’15, and last year I was “hazed.”
I can already see people reading this and rolling their eyes: Another person coming forward with an exposé of a Greek house/team/club and how it has harmed them. But the tale I have to tell is different, so bear with me.
Before I entered Dartmouth as a freshman on the Nordic ski team, I had heard of the team’s many traditions and quirks. The most longstanding one occurs during Winter Carnival — the freshmen dye their hair bright pink and green for the week. This tradition was started in the 1990s by a class of especially spirited freshmen who wanted to celebrate their team in a vibrant way.
Contrary to what you may be thinking, no one ever told me this was something I had to do. Last year, the freshman members of the team ordered dye and spent five hours getting to know one another better late one Sunday night. Don’t get me wrong, the upperclassmen definitely stopped by — to bring us cupcakes and reminisce about when they dyed their hair. There have been people in the past few years, including one last year, who decided not to dye all of their hair and were not punished, harassed or kicked off of the team because of their decision.
I loved having pink hair and cherish the memories of bonding with my teammates. Before that night, the four ’15s on the women’s team barely knew one another, but now we will be friends forever (as cheesy as that sounds).
This year, we have a delightful group of five freshman ladies. With all of the hazing reforms on campus, the team has wondered if our tradition would be allowed to continue. Several alternatives have been thrown around, including having upperclassmen revisit their pink ’dos, but the freshmen have indicated that they want to be the only ones with pink hair — they want to distinguish themselves from rival ski teams and the entire campus as the proud ’16 Nordies that they are. Our freshmen, without upperclassmen’s input, contacted the administration to ask for approval for this upcoming event. They received a firm no.
My question to the administration is how they think that they can combat real hazing when students who try to be honest about a situation are simply turned down. Hazing events are now conducted secretly and students are much less likely to ask for help when needed because the consequences are so high. This is much more dangerous than if the same events were out in the open.
It is ridiculous that the administration would consider preventing one of the campus’ most successful teams from competing because our freshmen decide to temporarily dye their hair a silly color. Our tradition is public because it is meant to be a celebration of the team and what we do, not because it is harmful. If the administration is so worried about outside appearances or perceptions, then they should defend activities like the pink hair, which promotes Dartmouth athletics, which, in turn, places Dartmouth as a whole in a good light. The Dartmouth ski team is known in the skiing community for being a program of excellence and our traditions have given us the reputation of being a fun and positive team, which is attractive to prospective skiers.
Because of the new policies, our freshmen are unable to experience the same bonding and recognition that so many past Dartmouth skiers have enjoyed. The extreme blanket ban on hazing has eliminated many positive traditions because the administration is too lazy to target the real, underground hazing that is actually detrimental. I understand that this is a slippery slope and that there is a fine line between bonding activities and hazing, but is waking up freshmen 30 minutes early and taking them out to breakfast to meet the team really a bad thing? Will we have to get rid of rookie awards because they single out first-years too? What about having a freshman team for sports like crew? Doesn’t that segregate freshmen? The administration should be more open to working with teams, Greek houses and other organizations on campus instead of shutting down attempts at honest conversation.