This past week, you might have seen your fellow Spartans’ social media become a bit more active with the changing of their Facebook cover photo and their utilization of the hashtag #TampaGreeksDontHaze. This is all because of UT Fraternity and Sorority Life’s (FSL’s) decision to take a stand against hazing by participating in National Hazing Prevention Week (NHPW).
The week of advocacy lasted from Sept. 21 – Sept. 25 as the Greek community came together to take a stand against hazing and to decrease the stigma between hazing and Greek Life. Throughout the week, members of the different councils tabled in order to get students, Greek or not, to sign the pledge against hazing.
Coordinator of Fraternity and Sorority Life, Brian Hoffman, discussed the importance of education in order to prevent hazing incidents.
“As soon as you stop educating people, they stop remembering, and by consistently reminding people of the importance of doing things the right way, you’re reinforcing that expectation and that experience,” Hoffman said. “Hazing can be physical, but also psychological. Would you want your mom, your dad or your significant other to see you doing this? Either being the recipient of the behavior or in doing the behavior to someone, and what would they say?”
Student Coordinator of Fraternity and Sorority Life Programming, Rachel Friedman, was one of the leads when it came to planning the events and speakers for this week.
“The unfortunate reality in today’s media is that Fraternity and Sorority Life is constantly connected with hazing,” Friedman said. “It is why so many choose not to go Greek, when the reality is it is our 15th semester above the university’s all women’s and all men’s GPA and we were able to raise over $7000 as a community in five days. We are dealing [with] the media every day, we want to be proactive in educating our members on the dangers of hazing.”
With an event as prominent as NHPW, Friedman couldn’t do it on her own; she had the help of Spencer Castro the Student Coordinator of FSL Marketing and the Greek Programming Board in order to have a larger outreach.
“I have an entire Greek Programming Board who assisted in the planning of each of these events to ensure we were able to reach as many students as possible,” Friedman said. “Overall, we reached over 1,000 students and were able to spread the message that Tampa Greeks Don’t Haze.”
Reeves Theater was packed wall-to-wall on Wednesday night when the community gathered to hear the National Hazing Prevention Week panel and keynote speaker Lianne Kowiak tell her son Harrison Kowiak’s story.
Harrison Kowiak lost his life when he was a sophomore at Lenoir-Rhyne University after he suffered trauma to his head during a pledge activity.
The panel consisted of Tim Nelson the coordinator of student conduct and orientation, FSL presidents, Hoffman, and Kowiak as they discussed the importance of brother and sisterhood, as well as the implications of hazing allegations.
“For me, having events and speakers come and share stories about hazing is really impactful on our community,” said Jordan Fink, President of Order of Omega and NHPW panelist. “It opens your eyes and makes you realize hazing is a very real thing and in an instant everything can change for the worse because of it. Nothing is worth the safety and security of your brothers and sisters.”
Thursday night, Spartans congregated at the 11th floor of Jenkins Hall to hear Mindy Sopher of Campus Speak discuss the harms of hazing, how students don’t tend to recognize all of the individual struggles each member in their organization faces and how to build lifelong bonds in their brotherhood or sisterhood.
This year, NHPW was geared towards sororities and fraternities because this is where it started, but Hoffman has big hopes for the future and making it inclusive for several other organizations on campus.
“I am more than happy to do this sort of programming with other entities on campus and something we will look at is doing something outside of Hazing Prevention Week like an educational workshop for club teams or any of our D2 teams,” Hoffman said, “and even possibly incorporating it into a leadership retreat in the future to talk about ways that organizations bring in their new members within or outside of fraternity and sorority life.”
If students feel as though they are being hazed or know of a hazing incident that occurred, there are many ways to report the situation. Students can fill out a Student of Concern form, which goes through the Victim Advocate and Student Concern Office. As a resident, they also have their resident assistant, area coordinator, Brian Hoffman or any member of staff that they can reach out to.
“The important thing is if something is happening they need to say something,” Hoffman said. “I want to make sure students feel comfortable coming in saying ‘this isn’t something I stand for.’ It takes courage to stand up to something like that, but at the end of the day it makes for a safer and more meaningful experience.”