In the Mitchell gymnasium, varsity sports teams, clubs, and Greek life organizations from around campus gathered to hear nationally-recognized anti-hazing spokeswoman Kim Novak speak on Sept. 30 about the prevention of hazing on Denison’s campus.

Novak takes an original approach to discussing this sensitive subject, using her humor, charisma, and liveliness to encourage students to reconsider their understanding of hazing. Her method starts with recognizing the integral part that ritual and tradition play in the bonds formed between members of an on-campus organization, and emphasizes the importance of recognizing and adhering to these fundamental principles.

The students at Denison come from “values-based backgrounds,” Novak noted in her speech, but questioned why it is that our students – and others around the country – so often subject themselves to the dangers of hazing. Denison is “a national leader in education,” she said, “and it needs to be at the forefront” of this pertinent dialogue.

“People feel that everything is hazing,” she joked, but defining the term was not at the vanguard of her presentation.  Novak challenged her audience on multiple instances to take pride in the customs that define each organization on campus, and for each student to be conscious of how those traditions bond the group together.

Posing questions to start the conversation, Novak intrigued her audience while raising poignant ideas concerning ways students can engage our “risk vulnerable community” in dialogues that will help prevent the dangers associated with hazing. “Why would you gamble?” she asked her audience.

Novak also invited her listeners to think about their experiences joining Denison’s different organizations. “What does it look like to be a rookie? How does one get involved in these traditions?”
Her approach to this hypersensitive issue acknowledges the importance of conserving the bonds that bind our social groups together; but whether a sports team or a Greek organization, Novak made clear that the most important thing is to “take care of each other.”

“Your administration is behind you,” she concluded, “but the line is drawn at hazing. Your obligation is to engage in this conversation.”