UMaine study examines readiness for hazing prevention on college campuses
After nearly two decades of research and several high-profile incidents in recent years, hazing has become a major public health concern in higher education. Yet much work remains for those seeking to prevent hazing from happening in the first place.
A new study from two University of Maine researchers examined readiness to implement a comprehensive hazing prevention plan among a small cohort of U.S. universities. The institutions were already involved in a group working to curb hazing, and the assessment showed that their campuses and key staff were in preplanning stages of readiness, meaning there’s an acknowledgment and concern that something should be done about the issue.
The study, published in Health Education & Behavior, was conducted by Stephanie Swan, a 2018 graduate of UMaine’s doctoral program in higher education, and Elizabeth Allan, professor of higher education. They interviewed participants in the Hazing Prevention Consortium (HPC), a research-to-practice collaborative founded by Allan in 2013 to bring together officials from colleges and universities nationwide that are committed to a comprehensive approach to prevention.
“To date, little is known about campus readiness for hazing prevention with few published empirical studies,” Swan and Allan say. “Given this backdrop, this investigation was designed to explore levels of university readiness and perceptions of readiness among campus professionals engaged in hazing prevention.”
Five institutions with enrollments ranging from 7,000 to 64,000 participated in the study, including public and private research universities in the Northeast, mid-Atlantic, South and Western U.S. All were historically white and three were designated as Hispanic-Serving Institutions. Key staff from each campus, including the primary contact for the HPC, a frontline prevention specialist and a high-ranking administrator took part.
The interview questions were based on the Community Readiness Model (CRM), a tool designed to assess resources and culture to help communities and organizations determine how ready they are to engage in a process of change. The CRM was chosen because it can help identify successful practices for implementing effective prevention programs. Based on the interview data, the model produces scores that measure different dimensions of readiness as well as an overall readiness score.
While the overall score showed the universities that participated in the study were in the preplanning stages of readiness, scores for two dimensions — knowledge of hazing prevention efforts and hazing prevention resources — were higher. Those two dimensions scored in the preparation phase, meaning there was basic knowledge of the causes, consequences, signs, symptoms and action. In addition, the scores for two dimensions — leadership and knowledge of hazing issues — scored at a high level of preplanning. The community climate dimension scored in the vague awareness stage, meaning knowledge of an issue within a community has reached the stage where people have heard about local efforts, but know little about them.
Using the data from the CRM interviews, the researchers identified factors connecting capacity and readiness to a comprehensive hazing prevention approach.
“For example, campus communities ready for prevention had fully functioning coalitions with campus-wide representation that trained key representatives in hazing prevention for 3 or more years,” Swan and Allan write. “In addition, other factors that might strengthen a comprehensive approach to hazing prevention included financial support alongside sharing of hazing information and clear anti-hazing policies.”
Other takeaways included lack of involvement from key constituencies, including faculty, parents and some students in anti-hazing activities.
Swan and Allan also conclude that the CRM can be a helpful tool for campuses looking to take a more comprehensive approach to hazing prevention.
“When there is a visible, high-level commitment from leadership and the community at large, the CRM can help assure that intervention strategies are culturally congruent and sustainable,” they say.
The research article, “Assessing Readiness for Campus Hazing Prevention,” is available online.
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