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College reflects on initiation practices during Hazing Week

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Before the Vietnam War, Wartburg freshmen went through a different kind of “orientation” that could be considered hazing, according to Iowa’s current Hazing Law.

Students were thrown in the fountain, forced to wear beanies and left outside of campus in their underwear, said Wartburg alumni Linda Moeller and Rev. Larry Trachte.

“I am always amazed that students in my era did all this,” Moeller said. “That they went along with some of these practices

because now as I think back I think ‘you wouldn’t really have to do that,’ but we did.”

Last week was National Hazing Prevention Week.

Moeller said when freshmen arrived on campus they had to buy a beanie and put their name and where they were from on the front of it. Freshmen had to “button,” or bow down, to upperclassmen in their beanies on command.

“I think it was called buttoning because on the top of the beanie there was a button,” Moeller said. “The phrase you were supposed to use was ‘oh most honorable Wartburg sophomore I am but a poor and lowly freshmen,’ and they would make you button to different things like the fountain.”

[pb_vidembed title=”” caption=”A look back at past traditions” url=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MoEJPbF65dU” type=”yt” w=”480″ h=”385″]

Moeller said she thought this was a good way to get to know the other students.

The other orientation methods took place in the dorms because of an 8:30 p.m. curfew for the women.

“Sometimes we were all getting ready for bed when we were called out into the hall to do exercises or march up to the second floor and do something and it was always unexpected,” Moeller said.

The orientation methods were different for the men on campus because they did not have as early of a curfew as the women.

Trachte said the freshmen were at the mercy of the sophomores because they were in charge of the initiation. Part of this initiation included being baptized in the fountain and going from a squire to a knight, Trachte said.

“The downside is that some of the things that went on in the residence halls were not nearly as nice or controlled,” Trachte said.  “When I arrived there was a huge problem with forced alcohol drinking.”

Trachte said, on some occasions men were driven around with blindfolds and dumped outside of town in their underwear.

Ashley Lang, director of campus programming, said she serves on the national hazing week prevention committee and has other experience with researching the effects of hazing.

She said a lot of the things the students went through would be considered hazing in today’s society.

“In the ’60s and ’70s things like that were probably accepted. Maybe they weren’t acceptable but they were accepted and so in today’s society we have gotten very strict on what we specifically call out as hazing or inappropriate behavior,” Lang said.

Moeller and Trachte said the goal of the orientation or initiation was to bring the freshmen together and bond.

“That’s one point that is brought up very frequently when it comes to discussions on hazing,” Lang said. “But my question in return is, ‘is it really necessary to potentially harm someone or put that opportunity out there to be harmed if you really care about that person and want to get to know them?’”

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