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Hazing at forefront of discussions after two area sports teams suspended

After the entire men’s lacrosse team at Cornell University and the boy’s cross country team at Baldwinsville High School were suspended, school administrators are reiterating their anti-hazing policies. But, breaking the cycle among students may be a challenge.
Syracuse (WSYR-TV) – After the entire men’s lacrosse team at Cornell University and the boy’s cross country team at Baldwinsville High School were suspended, school administrators are reiterating their anti-hazing policies. But, breaking the cycle among students may be a challenge.

"I don't think that hazing is a completely bad thing. So, I think that the humiliation factor when nobody is getting hurt...that is just a thing that happens and people know that when they are entering into a fraternity or something,” said Steven Breitenstein, a sophomore at Cornell University.

Those feelings often change with age, according Syracuse University Professor Ellen DeLara, who interviewed hundreds of students for a book she co-authored, “And Words Can Hurt Forever: How to Protect Adolescents from Bullying, Harassment, and Emotional Violence.”

She discovered that hazing through physical harm or humiliation can effect people years later.

"They can feel a sense of disempowerment for the rest of their lives. They don't understand why they didn't stand up for themselves better than they did. They can have a sense of rage that comes out of nowhere," explained DeLara.

In a national study by the University of Maine, 61 percent of male college students said they had experienced hazing, along with 52 percent of females.

25 percent of the time coaches or advisors were aware and in 53 percent of cases, pictures were posted online offering a lifetime of public reminders.

But, 95 percent of students never reported their experience.

"It certainly applies the pressure to haze their following freshman. Because they were hazed, they should haze another. I think that is a very bad long-term effect because it keeps the bad cycle going," said David Hong, a freshman at Cornell University.

DeLara says suspending teams isn't always enough to break the cycle. She believes schools need to constantly enforce hazing policies and allow students to get involved with education campaigns. Also, students need clear definitions of hazing from adults who take it seriously.

“I would say to parents that this problem is far more prevalent than they want to believe and they need to be talking with their kids,” DeLara said.

Baldwinsville High School's Superintendent wouldn't say how students on the cross country team were hazed.

NewsChannel 9 was told some members of Cornell's lacrosse team were told to drink large amounts of beer until they became ill.

Both schools say they're taking the matter very seriously.

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