Hazing rituals have become almost synonymous with Greek organisations at American college campuses — so much so that one of the largest fraternities in the country recently banned their new member pledging process in order to keep students safe.
However, hazing is not a uniquely Greek problem — and may even be more prevalent outside of America. A recent New York Times article on Portugal’s hazing problems demonstrates how the European country is reacting to the drowning deaths of six students last year.
The six students were reportedly at a rented beach house to prepare for their university’s hazing. It is unclear how or why they drowned, and the one surviving student “has since been receiving psychological treatment and has not given his account of the events,” according to The Times.
It is also unclear how much of a connection these deaths have to any official university actions.
The students’ school, Lusófona University, is relatively new — it was founded in 1989. As The Times reports, many newer Portuguese universities have used hazing to link themselves to the historic University of Coimbra, where “hazing has a strong and storied tradition.”
“Many of our universities, especially private ones, are of bad quality, so people are desperately trying to recreate the feeling that studying there is something special,” one professor told The Times.
Portugal’s hazing practices are also more widespread than those in America. “Unlike at American universities, and others in Europe, hazing is not limited to fraternities or sororities, but is a general rite of initiation for first-year students,” The Times reports.
Since the six students deaths, a debate seems to have erupted in the country, between those who want hazing banned and those who see it as a bonding tool for new students. One student told The Times that hazing is “a great way to break the ice between students and give a sense of family belonging to people who come from everywhere.”
This discussion appears to be happening more frequently around Europe. Last summer, an elite Swedish boarding school was shut down after multiple reports of hazing.
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