Has hazing culture in Ireland reached new heights?

Clara Kelly

Society hazing has hit the headlines in Ireland in recent months.

In the past six months alone, societies from both Dublin City University and Trinity College, two of Ireland’s largest Universities, have encountered hazing scandals.

In October, DCU sparked a nationwide conversation about hazing culture in Irish universities when its Accounting and Finance Society was suspended from social activity for a semester due to misconduct.

At their Annual General Meeting, students running for positions were told to pop balloons between their hips and the meeting led to public stripping. While this event drew attention to the problem, it was by no means the first time hazing had occurred in an Irish college.

Most students have heard whisperings of certain societies in various colleges getting up to no good. There are plenty of these societies throughout Ireland with reputations, renowned for partying or questionable behaviour, but far too often these things go overlooked.

Most recently the issue was yet again forced into the public sphere when it was alleged that Trinity’s all-male, invite only, The Knights of the Campanile society came under fire.

In March, one of Trinity’s student newspapers The University Times reported on an initiation ceremony for this society in which hazing was once again a major component.

Before this incident, the Trinity Dublin University Boat Club was also exposed by The University Times for practises of hazing late last year. The usual Trinity tradition of going for Christmas Commons (usually involving a three-course meal in the Dining Hall) held a very different meaning for new members or ‘novices’ of the boat club.

It was reported by The University Times that in the last decade, new members of the club have often drank excessively, stripped to their underwear and been whipped with bamboo sticks to be initiated. But is any of this really surprising?

In America, where fraternities are common in colleges, so too is a massive culture of hazing in sports and other areas. It is estimated that more than half of US college students are involved in some sort of campus hazing during their time in college.

Since 1970, there has been at least one hazing related death on a college campus every year, with some years having more, according to the National Study of Student Hazing. 95 per cent of students who were aware they were being hazed didn’t report it.

82 per cent of these hazing deaths involved alcohol which hardly seems surprising as alcohol consumption is also a pattern we have seen combined with hazing incidents in Ireland. In the US, the first hazing cases involving sexual abuse allegedly occurred in 1983 and incidents involving sexual intimidation, nudity or stimulation have allegedly been on the rise since 1995.

But is this culture rising in Ireland too? In 2017, there were articles detailing worries of possible hazing such as The Irish Times reporting on the Trinity fraternity Zeta Psi.

In the article, Lauck Walton the Executive Director of the Zeta Psi International Headquarters in the US said that hazing is banned in Zeta Psi and when chapters fall into hazing, they are closed. But he also noted that over the years they had several incidences of hazing. “Hazing is insidious; it seems to creep back,” he said in The Irish Times article.

So given the recent alleged cases in Irish colleges, it is strident to remember that hazing is not a new concept nor has it gone away over time. If hazing really is as insidious as it can be, will it keep creeping back in to our universities?

Clara Kelly

Image credit: Howstuffworks.com