October 31, 2007
To Members of the Bowdoin Community,
Last Friday, the Portland Press Herald published a story about suspected hazing at Bowdoin involving members of our women's squash team. The story was prompted by the newspaper's discovery of a photo album titled "Squash Team Initiation" that had been posted to the Internet. The Press Herald shared the photographs with Dr. Susan Lipkins, an author and "national expert on hazing," who described them as evidence of "mild hazing." The College subsequently discovered a second online photo album posted in February 2005 titled "Bowdoin Sailing Team Initiation," which is now described on the Internet as further proof that hazing is taking place at Bowdoin.
The Office of the Dean of Student Affairs will be conducting an investigation in conjunction with Athletics to determine the extent, if any, to which hazing has occurred or is occurring at the College. Senior Associate Dean of Student Affairs Margaret Hazlett and Director of Athletics Jeff Ward will lead this effort.
At the very least, we must use these incidents to underscore and reiterate to the entire community that there is no place for hazing at Bowdoin, and that it will not be tolerated.
Hazing is demeaning and abusive. It infringes upon the rights, dignity, and integrity of others. Hazing is also a violation Bowdoin's Social Code and is prohibited by both NESCAC and the NCAA. In addition, Maine law prohibits "injurious hazing," which is defined as "any action or situation which recklessly or intentionally endangers the mental or physical health of a student."
At Bowdoin, we value traditions because we know they can build important bonds between groups and individuals. But athletic team or student organization initiations or traditions that attempt to build these bonds between members must do so in an affirming way without coercion of any kind. In a learning community such as ours, we value lasting relationships grounded in mutual respect, not artificial connections created through shared humiliation.
Bowdoin is proactive in efforts to educate members of our community on what constitutes hazing. These efforts, which include special training for coaches and an annual program with team captains conducted by Portland attorney Janet Judge, will continue and will be reinforced in the coming months.
Bowdoin succeeds only through the active participation of us all in setting and adhering to the highest standards of behavior. In doing so, we ensure that the College remains a vigorous center for intellectual engagement and growth. I urge every member of our community to think carefully about how our actions affect others and how they either protect or diminish our values as a community.