October 23, 2023

Guest writer: Ella Allan-Rahill, Student Research-to-Practice Intern*

As a student intern with StopHazing, it is always exciting to see the hazing prevention work of others my age. Earlier this year, Jillian Taylor, a recent graduate and student journalist at Southern Methodist University (SMU), created a video discussing her perspective on the hazing culture at SMU. The short video featured an SMU student, the Dean of Students, and Dr. Allan, Principal of StopHazing. After watching the video, I wanted to connect with Jillian to ask her more questions about the process of making the video. In our conversation, she offered a great student perspective on hazing prevention and the misconduct and reporting processes at SMU – also common at many other universities. 

This story began when a prominent sorority was removed from the campus for hazing. Taylor found little media coverage of this incident, a trend she noticed was typical. The video she developed was an attempt to raise awareness to the issue and help walk people through how hazing reports actually work. In her video, Taylor highlights the SMU conduct violation reports, analyzing the frequency of reported hazing, the organizations that are most often reported for hazing, and the current status of reported organizations. 

At SMU, the reported hazing violations all come from fraternities and sororities. However, this is not always the case. Hazing can occur across a variety of groups and organizations including performing arts groups, athletics, and honor societies (Allan & Madden, 2008; Allan et al., 2019). 

Taylor emphasizes how, while there have been ten reported hazing violations in the past three years, this may not accurately capture the severity of the problem or the reality of hazing on campus. StopHazing’s research has found that many people don’t realize they have been hazed, or are reluctant to report hazing due to fear of repercussions including social ostracism, supporting Taylor’s suspicion. 

One way to lower this reporting barrier is an anonymous system. However, like many others, Taylor found that anonymous reporting can bring challenges as well. Hazing reports can often lack enough detail to help university staff follow up on the claims, and anonymous reports keep administrators from contacting the reporter for more information.

Taylor was thankful to the Dean of Students for being willing to speak with her about hazing on campus. While she found it challenging to get the level of detail she wanted about hazing incidents on campus, this is a sign of the University’s commitment to keeping reporters safe. 

In our conversation, Taylor shared some information on a promising reporting system that SMU is developing to continue ensuring anonymity while also being able to follow up on hazing reports to get more detail. This new reporting system allows university staff to chat anonymously with students online after a student submits a misconduct report. This could help get more detailed information after an initial report is filed while ensuring the safety and privacy of the reporter are respected. 

Taylor’s video does a fantastic job of highlighting the difficulties of hazing reports and how, even if, at the surface, a hazing incident appears minimal, the taboo nature of hazing can create a campus culture that allows the perpetuation of it. Additionally, hazing that appears minimal, or is often excused as harmless pranks, jokes, or traditions, can still cause harm – mentally, emotionally, and physically. This is consistent with the Spectrum of Hazing™  – a visual tool StopHazing researchers have developed to help people better understand hazing across a continuum and the need to increase education for recognizing hazing and reducing all types of harm it can cause. Taylor hopes that her project will lead to more work on the prevalent cultural issue of hazing in the near future, inspiring students to get involved and look more closely at their institution’s history.

Since the posting of this video, Southern Methodist University has demonstrated its continued commitment to hazing prevention by joining the sixth cohort of StopHazing’s Hazing Prevention Consortium. The consortium is a three-year research-to-practice initiative designed to build an evidence base for hazing prevention on college campuses.

For more information or to connect further about this blog post and Jillian’s video, reach out to StopHazing at info@stophazing.org

Jillian Taylor, Student Journalist video about campus hazing.

Jillian Taylor is a former Journalism student at Southern Methodist University. She is now working at WBIR Channel 10 in Knoxville, Tennessee. You can contact her through her Instagram username below.

IG: @jillsian.journalism

Ella Allan-Rahill, Research-to-Practice Hazing Prevention Intern and Undergraduate Student

*Ella is a StopHazing intern and also a family member of StopHazing’s Principal, Dr. Allan.