Creating Change

How do you move from a hazing culture to one that sets a positive tone? How can a group express its desirability without abusing its members? Cultural expectations reinforce action, and when we begin to do things in a positive way, negative elements no longer are the norm. Breaking social norms and cycles of hazing is not impossible. Everyone needs to have a voice, be proactive, and get involved in creating a positive change.

Appreciative Inquiry

Most of us are accustomed to a problem-solving approach in which we identify the problem, brainstorm solutions, and come to some sort of consensus about how to change things. Appreciative Inquiry takes a different approach and is especially effective in hazing interventions because it builds on the positive, rather than trying to punish or change the negative. The desired outcome is to preserve what is best about a group, team or organization by identifying it and finding ways to highlight it.

1. Appreciating or Valuing

Recognize that you as a group have many good qualities. Ask yourselves if those qualities shine through your actions, or whether what the world sees is different from what you know to be good about the group. Remember those things that are best about your group as you move onto the next phase.

As a team or group, ask yourselves:

  • What is great about our team/organization?
  • What do we do best?
  • What are our greatest qualities?
  • What are our proudest moments or accomplishments?
  • Recall the high points of our organization: What happened? How did we feel at the time? What were the challenges? How did we overcome them? What made it a high point?
  • What do you contribute to the University? Society? Each other?
2. Imagining and Dialoguing ("What Might Be")

Talk with each other about the following questions:

  • What are the things we value the most? Are those things apparent to the outside observer?
  • How are we viewed by those outside of our organization? Do they see what we see?
  • What do we want to be known for?
  • How do our leaders and our members contribute to the organization we want to be? To the image we want to project?
  • What kinds of things can we do to showcase the best of our organization?
  • Make a list of goals for your organization. What is it you want to do?

Examples might include:

  • Creating a tightly knit community where academic excellence is supported
  • Choosing a nonprofit organization to raise funds or volunteer for
  • Engaging in political activism on a number of issues
  • Launching an educational campaign on campus about an important issue
3. Designing or Envisioning ("What Should Be")

Work with your group to plan what activities, events, promotions or actions you could undertake to achieve your goals.

  • Think about how you communicate to new members (both in word and deed).
  • How can you draw a direct connection between what you say you want to do and what you actually accomplish? For example, if you say you want to build a close-knit community, what can you do that actually accomplishes that? Hint: Research shows us that humiliating, harming or embarrassing your peers does NOT build community. But it also shows that inclusive activities are an important way to transmit your culture from year to year. Think about what those activities would look like and how they would accomplish what you want to be and do.
  • How can you build capacity in your new members to carry on the traditions you are most proud of?
  • How can you create a culture where humiliation, harm or embarrassment are not acceptable? How can you make this exercise sustainable so that future members become part of the "new" you?

For each event you plan, keep asking yourselves, "How does this activity help us accomplish our goals?" Be honest with yourselves and specific enough so that you can draw a direct line between the goal (e.g. building a community that works towards ending poverty) and the activity (e.g. a Habitat for Humanity house-building weekend).

4. Innovating and Creating ('What Will Be')

Choose several of the activities and events you designed and put them into action by assigning members to organize them and creating a timeline. Be sure to promote your activities widely on your social media and websites. It will help others to understand what you are all about and it will also keep your future members on track!

One group that went through an Appreciative Inquiry process was especially proud of the fact that they were an inclusive group that had incredibly close friendships. They realized, however, that they were not very effective at communicating this to the outside world and that they had a pretty bad reputation in the neighbourhood. They decided they needed to change the way they conducted themselves, including being more sensitive to their community. They planned some activities that would include the community so that they could live and showcase their values.

Alternatives to Hazing

Simply banning hazing has the potential to drive the activities underground. Orientations and initiation activities are important so that new members can get to know each other and learn about the group. What we need are activities that actually do build cohesion and community. The possibilities are endless, but here are some ideas to start.

It is important to remember that some group activities can be hazing or non-hazing. Performing a skit can become hazing if the performers are humiliated or degraded. A scavenger hunt can turn into hazing if the list includes stealing items, or doing embarrassing or humiliating things.

Following are some examples of alternatives to hazing that could accomplish your group's goals:

Community Service and Philanthropy
  • Collect money for a local charity
  • Hold an event (car wash, bake or craft sale) with proceeds going to a favourite cause
  • Neighborhood cleanup day and community bbq
  • Volunteer for a local literacy program
  • Serve weekly meals at a local shelter
  • Teach local kids how to play chess
  • Community, campus or facility beautification project
Physical Activity
  • Hold a game (hockey, football, dodgeball) or plan a tournament
  • Round-robin recreational games
  • Bowling with non-dominant hand
  • Climbing wall challenge
  • Scavenger hunt
  • Amazing race
  • Cardio or weight sessions at the gym
  • Ropes/Challenge course
  • Go skating at City Hall
Shared Activities
  • Group meals
  • Hold group study sessions
  • Attend campus events (lectures, concerts, plays) as a group
  • Hold group discussions on various topics:
  • "If I had a billion dollars, I would…"
  • "If I could meet anyone in the world for coffee, it would be...
  • "The most Important thing I want to accomplish is…"
  • "My ideal year would include…"
  • Hold a formal dinner or ceremony to welcome new members.
  • Add the members' names to a wall, plaque or other method of recognition.
  • Invite alumni to welcome the newcomers.
  • Set up a big brother/big sister mentoring program for new members. The mentor's responsibilities could include teaching the new members about the history and values of the organization, monitoring their academic progress, taking them out for lunch or dinner to see how they're doing.
Service Learning Trips
  • Arrange for members to spend time working in the inner city or building a home with Habitat for Humanity.
  • Arrange for a visit to Cortona or one of the University's partner institutions in another country to learn about their programs.
Info Sessions
  • Hold discussions on the history and values of the organization
  • Invite members to discuss how the organization upholds and demonstrates these values
  • Bring in a speaker on a topic you are passionate or curious about
More Alternatives