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jay johnson, PhD, University of Manitoba

The unnormalizing of hazing

November 27, 2018 — 

A University of Manitoba researcher hopes a research-driven anti-hazing toolkit becomes a game changer in a bid to change the harmful elements of sports team hazing.

The PDF guide, developed through research at the U of M and University of Windsor, contains content to assist leaders, coaches and teachers in delivering workshops on creating safe, inclusive, positive team bonding experiences—an alternative to the stark contrasts of hazing.

Hazing is a complex and skewed system, where humiliation, physical and psychological violence, and in recent allegations at St. Michael’s College, gang sexual assault, is normalized in the pursuit of team bonding.

Hazing’s intent, often, is team unity through the engagement of unchallenged rites of passage, says Dr jay johnson, an associate professor in the U of M’s Faculty of Kinesiology and Recreation Management, and co-author of the toolkit.

“There are just safer, more efficient and effective ways to do this,” he adds. “Sometimes, those doing the hazing don’t have a grasp on why it’s wrong, because it’s become so normalized and ingrained in their sport culture tradition.”

Johnson’s been researching hazing culture for close to 25-years, and in addition to several academic articles, is the co-author of Making the Team: Inside the World of Sports Initiations and Hazing.  

This toolkit was developed through support of a SSHRC funded grant, and conducted by johnson, and the University of Windsor’s Dr. Margery Holman and Mike Havey.

It includes PowerPoint slides to guide the educational component and discussion, as well as other supportive strategies to move towards the prevention of hazing and the development of alternative bonding activities. This includes a definition of hazing, examples of hazing along with legal cases, a critical analysis of hazing impacts, policy and organizational role in prevention, and the provision of alternative activities that can produce a similar desired outcome.

Some highlights include creating new traditions and “initiative games” that welcomes new players to create pathways to pride, real team cohesion and identity. There’s also an assessment tool to determine whether established activities fall within the definition of hazing.

The intended audience for the toolkit are school sports teams, but could also be adopted and adapted for classrooms, fraternities/sororities, the workplace, or any group.

“Understanding is critical to changing the hazing culture. Many traditions and misperceptions are best exposed through knowledge,” johnson adds.

Johnson also hosts workshops for teams or organizations who are interested in addressing the issue of hazing in their institutions. He can be reached at jay [dot] johnson [at] umanitoba [dot] ca








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