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Bystander intervention is key to hazing prevention

Hank Nuwer

Prior to the start of each academic year, Lehigh’s Office of Student Affairs identifies an important issue affecting college campuses and then creates a series of educational programs for the entire student population in hopes of preventing that problem on campus.

This year, Lehigh's Greek community is focused on raising awareness and providing educational programs about hazing and the importance of bystander intervention as a preventative measure by participating in National Hazing Prevention Week, from Monday, Sept. 28 to Friday, Oct. 2.

National Hazing Prevention Week is observed on college campuses across the nation to educate and promote awareness, training and intervention on ways to confront and address this barrier to a respectful campus community.

“As a community, no challenge is more imperative than the emotional, mental and physical wellness of our students,” says Tim Wilkinson, director of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs. “Knowing that the wellness of our students is of the utmost importance, one of the most pressing threats to this is the issue of hazing. As various studies have shown, no student organization, athletic team or fraternity and sorority chapter is immune from the truth or perception of ill-conceived acts that students may have to endure for the sake of involvement.

“To rid hazing from our community, we must come together as a Lehigh community.”

One of the highlights of National Hazing Prevention Week at Lehigh is a free lecture by renowned author and scholar Hank Nuwer on Sept. 30 in Packard Auditorium. One of the nation’s foremost experts on the topic of hazing and bystander involvement, Nuwer has written four books on hazing, with two more close to completion. He has been featured on The Today Show, ESPN SportsCenter, CNN and Court TV.

Nuwer is best known for his journalism on hazing, which has drawn attention from Sports Illustrated, The New York Times, NCAA News and Newsweek. He has presented at the NCAA Hazing Summit in 2008 and on hundreds of college campuses across the nation.

Nuwer’s talk, which is free and open to the public, is sponsored by the Interfraternity Council, Panhellenic Council, the Dean of Students Office, Lehigh Athletics, Alpha Omicron Pi, Alpha Phi, Pi Beta Phi, Gamma Phi Beta and Alpha Chi Omega.

"As constituents of the Lehigh community, it is important to be aware of the societal issues that affect us in both direct and indirect ways,” says Veronica Hunter, Greek Life Coordinator at Lehigh. “Nuwer captures the audience by tackling hazing from a prospective of an educator. When one is educated on issues such as hazing and its effects on society and the community of which one resides, it is a step forward towards personal responsibility in addressing bystander behavior. We are excited to have such a renowned speaker come and educate the Lehigh community.”

Like Nuwer, Lehigh is taking an educational approach to hazing prevention. As part of Lehigh’s the Dean of Students’ Bystander Intervention initiative, selected groups from around the university are receiving bystander invention training. For instance, a group of student-athletes received the training last week and will go back and serve as peer educators for the rest of the student-athlete population. The bystander intervention campaign’s ”train-the-trainer” approach will continue during National Hazing Prevention Week and throughout the 2009-10 academic year, so that eventually people from all corners of the university will be equipped with the tools and confidence to intervene—rather than just be a bystander—when they see a situation that they believe could escalate.

While bystander intervention to prevent hazing and other potentially dangerous behavior is the ultimate goal, the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs has also partnered with Library & Technology Services (LTS) to produce a new online form for members of the Lehigh community to anonymously report hazing incidents. This new addition to the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs’ resources will empower individuals to speak up when they witness something they feel is morally unacceptable.

For more information on Nuwer's speech or to sign up your office or student organization for Lehigh's bystander intervention training program, please contact Veronica Hunter in the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs.

Story by Bill Doherty

Posted on Friday, September 25, 2009

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