Written by Cassandra Klein
When University Police Chief Lynne Soderberg played outfield for the women’s softball team at Humboldt State in 1979, the pre-season activities consisted of field hockey and shoe-shining parties. The women liked to look sharp for their games.
“There was absolutely no hazing when I played softball for HSU,” Soderberg said of her own experience.
Soderberg said hazing does most likely happen at the university, and the definitions can vary. According to Soderberg, the educational code of student conduct outlines hazing as demoralizing, demeaning and consisting of emotional detriments. Soderberg said some people consider hazing forced submission of another person, while others may consider it a rite of passage or tradition.
Where the law is concerned, penal code 245.6 defines hazing as unlawful when it involves the likelihood of bodily injury or death. Hazing means any method of initiation or pre-initiation into a student organization or student body, whether or not the organization or body is officially recognized by an educational institution, which is likely to cause serious bodily injury to any former, current, or prospective student of any school, community college, college, university, or other educational institution in this state.
“Voluntary participation does not matter,” Soderberg said. “Some people may wholeheartedly be having fun while others are intimidated into these acts,” she said.
If the hazing does not result in bodily injury or death, then it is not considered a criminal case for UPD — but they still may become involved. It is a felony if it causes injury or death, and a misdemeanor if it is likely to cause injury or death.
In wake of the HSU soccer team investigations for hazing, some groups on campus now try to create preventative measures to ensure hazing does not occur. Erica Cuellar is a junior psychology major and the risk management coordinator for sorority Delta Phi Epsilon at HSU. She said because the sororities and fraternities rush at the beginning of each semester, members attend hazing workshops to prevent hazing incidents among pledges, who are members of a Greek organization who have not yet been initiated. At these workshops, members are asked to define what they consider hazing.
“Hazing means to subject a person to potentially dangerous activities or acts of humiliation, embarrassment or physical discomfort,” Cuellar said.
Excessive drinking, errand running, line-ups, pulling rank, and required physical activities such as push-ups are some acts that they decided to consider hazing, according to Cuellar.
“If anything, Greeks know more about what hazing is because we are constantly fighting hazing stereotypes,” Cuellar said. When students rush HSU sororities, she said they are asked to attend events such as tea parties, barbeques and community service events.
Justine Marroquin is a sorority member of Gamma Alpha Omega at HSU. She said Hollywood portrays Greek life in a bad light.
“Our sorority really tries to keep events PG-13,” Marroquin said. “If we are not willing to do it ourselves, then why make others do it?”
Marroquin is a senior double major in art and child development, and said students need to better understand hazing so that incidents like the one with the soccer teams do not happen. “With workshops, this could have been avoided,” Marroquin said. “People didn’t have to get hurt.”
Chief of university police Soderberg says that in her opinion, hazing probably still happens on campus. She said fellow officers and co-workers have shared stories with her — dating back 50 years — about hazing that their parents or they experienced at HSU. “It has likely been going on for years and years and this is the first time they were caught,” she said. “I believe hazing on campus happens more than we know.”