I doubt there are many people over the age of 50 who grew up in this country and have not experienced some form of hazing, including the governor.
I still remember sprinting home following the last day of class in elementary school to avoid the horrors of having lipstick smeared over my face, which had somehow become a tradition.
Later, when I was in Boy Scouts, the initiation to join a group called Order of the Arrow was to spend the day being bossed around by older boys already in the group as we cleaned and made minor repairs around the camp. Others doing the menial chores with me talked about how eager they were to come back next year when they would be the masters.
Fortunately, I never joined a fraternity. My experiences with hazing have been mild enough that I can understand its value in helping to bring a group closer together. When people go through the same challenges and experiences in order to become a member, it can create a sense of bonding and team unity.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham now wants to outlaw all of that. In response to the alleged criminal misconduct on the NMSU men’s basketball team, the governor has announced she will propose anti-hazing legislation for next year’s session.
“I, along with my administration, have zero tolerance for abuse of any kind,” Lujan Grisham declared in her press release. Really? Even mild teasing?
I’m not defending what allegedly happened in the NMSU locker room, but we already have laws against sexual assault. If the charges made by the two players alleging assault are proven true in court, those responsible will be held to account.
The governor announced plans for a bill without giving any details as to what it would actually do. So, I’ll reserve judgment until it is drafted, but I worry about government overreach.
Unfortunately, what happened in the NMSU locker room is not unique. The National Collaborative for Hazing Research and Prevention reports there have been more than 200 deaths caused by hazing at colleges and universities, with 40 in the 10-year period between 2007 and 2017. Most were caused by alcohol poisoning.
Any rituals involving the forced consumption of alcohol, physical or sexual abuse should be made illegal if there aren’t laws already covering those actions.
The most serious hazing incidents at NMSU did not happen in the locker room. In 2020, a student pledging to become a member of the Kappa Sigma fraternity was shot in the leg by another fraternity member during bizarre initiation rituals involving guns. But, that one didn’t make the national news.
Walter Rubel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.