Do societies/sports clubs take initiations too far?

student societies

By Pamela Head,

We’ve all heard the rumours. Sports initiations are known around campus for their various disgusting challenges, embarrassment of participants and amusement of watchers. Calling them initiations suggests that there is some sort of pressure involved and that if you don’t join in, you won’t get in. But is there any truth to this? Or to the rumoured challenges themselves?

In researching this article, I spoke to members of assorted societies, none of which I can name here for fear of being ‘initiated’ myself. Rather like Fight Club, it seems the number one rule of being initiated is that you don’t talk about the initiations. But luckily I managed to wheedle some information out of a select few.

For one of the football initiations, or ‘welcome drinks’, they were set challenges ranging from shaving their legs to being pictured naked on public transport, drinking from 11am onwards. Now, this all seems pretty harmless, but the punishment for not taking part in one of these challenges was to drink a dirty pint. As students, we’re aware of how horrific this could end up being. This suggests a danger of drinking too much and a pressure to ‘man up’.

Campus watch decided to crack down on hazing this year, following the pattern of some other universities calling the police. Eggs are thrown at students, clothes are ruined and students can feel excluded if they’re unwilling to participate.

But are they really that harmful? The overwhelming sense I got when talking to these students is that it’s fun. It brings the team together and acts as a bonding experience much like taking that first trip to Venue with your new housemates or doing that meet-and-greet session in your first seminar. If you really don’t want to take part in a particular activity, they offer alternative ‘punishments’.

One student said: “Initiations happen in so many things, not just university sports and societies... you do what you do, and you do it for the man next to you.”

Initiations are hardly a surprising thing. When you join a sports society, you’re aware that it’ll happen. Then the rumours start flying and you feel the rush and the thrill of knowing that you’re about to willingly subject yourself to some hugely embarrassing activity… but at the same time, it’s an anecdote, isn’t it? In one year, you’ll be the one initiating new students and the circle will continue.

Yes… the rumours are terrifying, and the activities are humiliating. You may not be proud of what you’re asked to do in order to join this society and you may want to refuse and ultimately end up bowing to peer pressure… but rumours are rumours, and it’s all in the spirit of teamwork… promise.