Kentucky Cheerleading Hazing Incident Should Spark Enhanced Prevention Efforts

ALBANY, NY (05/28/2020) (readMedia)-- FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

27 MAY 2020


Kevin Robinson,

As an organization dedicated to creating environments in which hazing has no place, HazingPrevention.Org commends the University of Kentucky for taking strong action upon learning of hazing within its cheerleading program. The investigation and subsequent action tangibly demonstrate that the university takes hazing seriously and sends a strong message to organizations across campus.

Hazing is dangerous and detrimental to everyone involved. Every year since 1969, at least one college student has died in a hazing-related incident. In many cases, alcohol is involved. The university's sanctions, while difficult for some, may well save a life.

National hazing research, as reported by Allan and Madden (2008) (from Hazing in View: College Students at Risk), shows staggering statistics. Nearly three-quarters of college varsity athletes and fraternal members experienced hazing while in college, and most reported college hazing involves alcohol. Alcohol-fueled hazing can lead to injuries needing medical treatment, as reported in Kentucky, or death, as happened in 2004 with Gordie Bailey at the University of Colorado, in 2014 with Nolan Burch at West Virginia University, and in 2017 with Timothy Piazza at Pennsylvania State University. Even when alcohol is not involved, hazing can lead to loss of life as it did in 2008 when Harrison Kowiak, a student at Lenoir-Rhyne University, died from a hazing-induced head injury.

The most disturbing aspects of the incident at the University of Kentucky are the allegations that the head coach, three assistant coaches, and the advisor who also was principal deputy general counsel at the university knew of the hazing and "failed to stop a culture of hazing, alcohol use, and public nudity." Students and student-athletes who are hazed are most likely to turn to those whom they trust: teammates, coaches, and family. Poor oversight or tacit acceptance on the part of coaches or other leaders limits a student's ability to get help and, in effect, promotes this dangerous practice.

Incidents such as these point to the ongoing need for robust approaches to hazing prevention. HazingPrevention.Org is committed to helping organizations large or small address hazing systematically. Such an approach includes raising awareness, systemic prevention, changing cultures, as well as strong anti-hazing policies and sanctions for violations. Unfortunately, many organizations never move beyond policy and sanctions.

We encourage universities, schools, teams, and organizations everywhere to focus on creating a culture in which hazing is not acceptable. After policies and sanctions, such an effort should include at least three additional broad strategies: frequent and repeated communications to students about the harm of hazing and the organization's policies; student and staff training, including opportunities for healthy team building, the dangers of alcohol misuse, and ways to respond to hazing; and a program to promote reporting that safeguards the reporter and provides students with information on which organizations have been sanctioned for hazing.

HazingPrevention.Org stands ready to help any university, school, team, club, or organization put a strong hazing prevention plan in place because we know that one more injury or death is one too many.

About HazingPrevention.Org

HazingPrevention.Org is a national 501(c)3 non-profit dedicated to empowering people to prevent hazing by providing education and resources, advocating on hazing prevention, and building partnerships with like-minded organizations. Major initiatives of the organization include National Hazing Prevention Week™, HazingPrevention.Org Institute and Academy™ and Prevent.Zone™ educational online courses that touch the lives of thousands of individuals, organizations, campuses, and communities.