UVa’s Killjoys at Work

Girls just want to have fun? Credit: UVa Club Gymnastics Instagram site

by James A. Bacon

Yesterday I criticized Virginia’s colleges and universities for nurturing campus cultures that turn students into snowflakes unprepared for the adversity of the modern-day workplace and life as adults. A big contributor to the snowflake phenomenon is what psychologist Jonathan Haidt calls “safetyism” — protecting students from the risks of undergoing a bad experience.

Reporting on the Hazing Misconduct Report, yesterday’s Cavalier Daily described two cases of safetyism in which the university referred the Women’s Club Gymnastics and the University Guide Service student groups to the University Judiciary Committee for adjudication.

The kind of hazing that most people think of as requiring suppression usually results in wandering around stoned and naked, passing out blind drunk, or jumping out of windows. Everyone agrees that such outcomes are to be discouraged. But how bad is the following?

On Sept. 16, according to the bill of particulars, the Women’s Club Gymnastics instructed initiates to arrive at an event location precisely at 9:16 p.m… “without information on the nature or purpose of the gathering.” (Gasp!) They were divided into groups by colors: blue, yellow, pink and orange. (Ew. Bad taste.) Then they were instructed to do “wall sits” until they succeeded in making a current club member laugh. The consequence of failure to induce laughter led to taking “a shot of alcohol or water.”

New members were instructed to do one-handed cartwheels with a jello shot in the hand, and to complete certain tasks such as singing, dancing, and “finding large sticks.”

Are you kidding me? That’s it? What’s the offense here? Wearing tacky colors? Singing? Dancing? Finding large sticks? Trying to make people laugh? Being given a choice of drinking a shot of alcohol or water? The only thing that remotely approaches being dangerous is doing a one-handed cartwheel while holding a shot. But remember, this is a friggin’ gymnastics club!

Not to be outdone, the University Guide Service engaged in the following horrific activities over the fall of 2022

“Probies” were told to remix a popular song and perform on the steps of the Rotunda. During performances they were “yelled at” by older Guides. (Yelled at?That’s abusive!)

Worse, probies were taken by car to undisclosed locations off-grounds and not told where they were being taken, resulting in “fear and anxiety around safety.” (In my day, we called such abductions magical mystery tours.)

Even worse, probies were required to stand for the duration of the Big Guiding, even when they were not actively giving the tour!!!! (Told to stand? What’s next, waterboarding?)

More horrifying yet, probies were subjected to a “probie scare” event in which they were provided a fake syllabus that included the statement, “Probie does not equal Guide” that was bolded and underlined, accompanied by statements that the bottom 15% of the probie class would be required to repeat the probie semester. Then the initiates were quizzed on the fake syllabus with questions crafted to be so difficult that they could not reasonably know the answers!!!! When the probies turned the quiz over, they were informed that the exercise was a joke. (Kept in suspense for how long — an hour? Barbarically cruel!)

Finally, probies were told to “wear an embarrassing costume at a high profile location.” (My god, have they no decency?)

OK, the Student Guides did engage in one activity that might could maybe, if overdone, lead to an undesirable outcome. A current member (Big Guide) attempted to “ice” probies, which entailed chugging a Smirnoff Ice. The Big Guides also provided alcohol to underage probies on multiple occasions.

I don’t condone under-age drinking. But how many drugs are consumed and how much alcohol is swilled without the slightest intervention by the university administration? Why are these groups being singled out for what is undoubtedly common behavior?

I have my issues with the Student Guides, who routinely present negative portrayals of Thomas Jefferson and the University of Virginia during their guided tours, thus turning off tourists, prospective students, and other visitors. They do the university a huge dis-service. But I cannot get exercised about their hijinks.

The safety Nazis have totally lost sight that hazing serves a positive purpose. It is a bonding experience. It reinforces group cohesion. UVa administrators are all atwitter about how to increase students’ sense of “belonging” at the university. One way to do that is to let young people be young people, join student groups, and undergo the bonding experience of mild to moderate hazing. Banning initiation ceremonies undermines the sense of belonging. The new puritans are the enemies of belonging.

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15 responses to “UVa’s Killjoys at Work”

  1. Such white supremacist, Democratic-inspired, Euro-centric activities have to be stopped.

    So does UVA prevent some Frats from branding their new members? And are those frats punished for such barbaric measures?

    1. Stephen Haner Avatar
      Stephen Haner

      Not sure Jim wants to hear this, but reading that just adds to my long standing impression that it is a school enamored of drinking and drunkenness. My own son’s experience there didn’t change that opinion one bit. I drank too damn much at W&M, too. But it really seems to be something that makes UVA proud. I agree some of the other things cited by the the “protectors” were silly, but going after the culture of alcohol doesn’t bother me.

      1. “I agree some of the other things cited by the the “protectors” were silly, but going after the culture of alcohol doesn’t bother me.”

        I agree about the alcohol, but still concerned about priorities at UVA and
        waiting for the report from the external review of the shooting.

      2. M. Purdy Avatar

        I agree on the drinking part. They need to cool it with that crap. Mind you, I love a good drink, but having it as the center of the social scene is not healthy.

      3. DJRippert Avatar

        A lot of southern schools have an excessive focus on alcohol. I had one son go to The University of Tennessee and two others go to Clemson. Plenty of booze flowing at both of those schools.

        Yes, Virginia should cool it with making booze the center of too many things. No, no sanctioned school team, club, fraternity or sorority should demand that members drink.

  2. LarrytheG Avatar

    Never seen a guy dislike and diss the college he went to so much! geeze

    1. M. Purdy Avatar

      Especially since it’s objectively better than it’s ever been. I actually agree with JAB that the safe space culture has gone too far, but the constant drumbeat of UVa fatalism, in the face of mountains of evidence to the contrary, is laughable.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        With JAB and UVA these days, it seems like “let me count the ways I hate UVA”!

        1. Stephen Haner Avatar
          Stephen Haner

          I can attest about my neighbor and friend of four decades that’s not it, and if he hated it he would probably just ignore all this. The issue of intellectual diversity, diversity of opinion and debate, is vitally important. The obsession with skin color is both unhealthy and an intentional distraction.

          1. M. Purdy Avatar

            “The obsession with skin color is both unhealthy and an intentional distraction.” So this, I think, is quite myopic. Non-whites, and the folks who support DEI did not invent obsession with skin color. They didn’t codify it into law, or institutions, or culture here in U.S. That was done over the course of hundreds of years by a white majority. To say, **poof**, society doesn’t care about skin color anymore and any open discussion of it is “unhealthy” strikes me as anti-intellectual and contrary to evidence. If DEI isn’t the mechanism to do that, it’s worthy of discussion. But to say we can’t talk about skin color or **gasp** white privilege, or that doing so equates to ‘obsession,’ that’s just off base.

      2. Stephen Haner Avatar
        Stephen Haner

        The key metrics — applications, donations, graduate and professional school acceptances — do not point to a failing endeavor. Which is not to say that oversight can be relaxed or criticism is not warranted.

        1. M. Purdy Avatar

          Correct, institutions should always be open to critique, no matter how seemingly healthy, especially when constructive and made in good faith.

  3. No one should be forced to drink alcohol or be pressured to drink alcohol in order to gain membership in a college club. Nor should anyone be forced to engage in truly life-threatening activities*.

    As for the other stuff? If you don’t want to participate then withdraw your application for the club.

    * NOTE: Wearing a Boo-Boo Bear costume on the downtown mall in C’ville is not a life-threatening activity. At least not any more life-threatening than visiting the downtown mall in the first place.

    1. Matt Adams Avatar
      Matt Adams

      Some of this makes me laugh, if they only knew the “horrors” of club rugby hazing.

  4. Donald Smith14 hours ago @ Larry

    If that college has turned into a haven for snowflakes and
    easily-triggered people, then it is no longer the UVA that Jim and I attended. UVA used to bill itself as the place that could train people to lead. People who are easily triggered and harmed are per se unfit to lead serious people. Americans are serious people. The world expects us to be serious. There’s a certain level of responsibility associated with that responsibility which you appear unable or unwilling to accept.

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