Ceremonies play a significant role in creating and reinforcing the university’s culture. World-known universities organize multiple formal and informal activities, such as graduation, when students finish their education and mark completion of the degree, inaugural lectures for a new professor, annual dinners at academic meetings and scientific conferences at which participants give speeches, or initiation ceremonies that participants of a particular course do to each other.
- Freshers’ Week at the Students’ Union
Multiple high educational establishments have informal, extraordinary traditions, especially during Freshers’ Week at the Students’ Union. The ceremony of dedication to students is frequently held as an unofficial event organized largely by students. It is often tolerated, sometimes even condemned, and regularly unknown to teaching staff. This rite entails the freshmen to join the student family. The initiation ceremony may sometimes involve fairly extreme activities, including consuming a lot of alcohol or doing something humiliating in front of the senior students. For instance, several members of the university rugby team were forced to go out only in their shorts at night.
Over the last few decades, a number of scandals of informal university ceremonies of dedication to students have hit the headlines. The news has come out of freshmen having to take in 25 units of alcohol within 2 hours as part of a college ice hockey team initiation; those entering the Ferretz, an interuniversity drinking club at Cambridge, being made to drink 80 units, starting with a bottle of gin and ending with a bottle of port, drained through a condom; or those being forced to swallow a 15-course meal with strange delicacies, such as a quart of water with a goldfish swimming inside and a pig’s snout with wasabi sauce; or playing vomiting games when saluting senior students wearing Nazi costumes.
A former college member, David Purton talks about his dedication ceremony: “We were ordered to prepare an intoxicating mix of spirits, beer, wine, and cocktails. We were also given OXO cubes to inhale when we marched, shouting out “who can I pay to type my essay”, in the outlying areas of the campus.” Another university rugby player mentions that they were told to swallow their own vomit.
- Sports clubs
Different sporting clubs and societies repeatedly organize quite challenging student initiation parties with unusual traditions. For example, the Saint Joseph’s University rugby club ceremony of dedication to students was described to include a requirement of consuming drinks mixed with a goldfish and dog food. The University of York hockey union members have declared being regularly humiliated. They report they had to take off their trousers and do push-ups with sandbags on their backs whilst a crowd of people observed the performance. The Ryerson University soccer team members tasted a mixture of cat food, eggs, and breakfast cereals garnished with the thick and salty meat extract paste Bovril in order to make the senior members get impressed. Other soccer team initiates were forced to put on bras stuffed with raw fish and run, chanting and singing, around the neighborhood.
Despite several recurrent hazing and negative cases for the initiates, the tradition of celebrating the event of dedication to students includes mostly pleasant and exciting experiences. Recalling her student life, Katherina discusses her positive experience as a new member of her university cheerleading team. Her dedication experience was thrilling for her and her teammates, as it involved entertaining activities for the whole team.
Initiation traditions should not be negative but they might be fun, engaging, and sometimes even silly, in a way that still makes the freshmen feel like they have experienced a tradition of acceptance by their new friends. Kissing an eel or walking around dressed as zombies can be a real amusement for all participants of the party. The Oxford University students organize the Bodleian initiation performance to motivate the freshmen to read. The new members cannot access the Bodleian and its adjacent reading room upon enrollment until they declare in front of the library’s staff not to remove or deface any document belonging to the library.
The involvement of the senior learners to participate along with freshmen in particular activities can change the activity from being hazing into non-hazing. Moreover, the exclusion of alcohol consumption by the participants may also strengthen a non-hazing experience.