Learning From Hazing

By Alex Edel

It has been over three and a half years since the day when the women’s swimming and diving team was told that due to hazing allegations, the 2010-2011 season would be cancelled for all upper-classmen girls. We were two weeks from championships.

I was sitting in the stands as Coach Solomon delivered the information. I was a first-year. I had been hazed. I had been interrogated by public safety. And now I had to decide with the 12 other first-year girls whether we were going to continue on with our season despite the upperclassmen ban.

I’ll never forget the frustration, the tears and the overall strength it took our class to come to a decision. If we didn’t go, the rumors would spread like wildfire, Middlebury’s absence at the NESCAC championship would leave a huge gap, a hole that we would have to work to fill for the rest of our time at Middlebury. If we decided to go, all of the upperclassmen would have to look on from the sidelines, even those that were not actively engaged in the hazing events.

Needless to say the events of my first winter here defined my time at Middlebury. While I was not personally offended by the hazing, members of the team were. And no matter what anyone says, it was hazing. Period.

We ended up going to the meet, and the thirteen first-year grew extremely close. While some of the other grades were strained by the stress of it all, our class grew closer and we remain close today.

My best friends are swimmers and leading the team this year along with all of my fellow seniors has been an honor. I love the sport of swimming, despite the hazing, despite losing the coach that recruited me and despite the drama of the situation. Part of the reason I kept going was because I was always with my best friends and felt pride and responsibility for the underclassmen. I would never wish on them the type of experience we went through in the weeks after the hazing incident, and have worked to ensure that the women on the team are aware of the consequences of our actions, and to be aware not only of your friends’ feelings, but every single person on the team.

This year we placed third in the NESCAC championships for the first time since I’ve been here. It was one of the proudest moments of my time at Middlebury. It signaled the strength of our athleticism and the hard training we put in. More than that though, NESCACs was really fun. I personally swam badly. Normally this would mean that the meet would drag on and I couldn’t wait to get on the bus to go home. However, with each good swim of a teammate, I had fun and experienced joy and pride that made the meet so enjoyable — I didn’t want it to end.

I realized at the end of the meet that this is what it meant to be a team. A team is not brought together by hazing or traditions. A team is brought together through hard work, through friendships and through a general pride in oneself and ones teammates.

When the class of 2014 graduates, the memory of the hazing graduates with us. The emotions and events that took place now leave the college. However, in our wake, I only hope that the spirit of what it means to be a team is what is left behind. The lessons of our experience should not be forgotten, but even more than that the lessons from this season, the lessons of what it really means to be competitive athletes and amazing friends should be remembered.

In my final column for the Campus, I leave everyone here at the College with the following advice. It’s quite simple. Don’t haze; build trust through friendship and understanding. It is more rewarding and meaningful. The bonds I have built through friendship and understanding made my time at Middlebury amazing and will continue to grow even after I leave this place.

To my team; thank you for the most incredible years. To everyone else; remember what is most important in life – trust, understanding and respect – and I’m sure you can also build friendships that will last a lifetime.