BRISTOL, Tenn. – In a time where many student organizations across all levels of education are experiencing the reprimand of innocent pranks and initiations gone wrong the issue of hazing is a hot topic that cannot be taken lightly. Money, time, and in some extreme cases lives are lost due to an incredibly preventable issue. Former athletic director of the University of Vermont, Richard Farnham, visited King College and addressed student-athletes and staff in two sessions to report the dangers and misconceptions of hazing and bullying.
Farnham retired from the University of Vermont after spending 30 years in the Department of Athletics, the last 12, as Director of Intercollegiate Athletics from 1991-2003. During his tenure at UVM from 1973-2003, Rick held the positions of assistant coach of Catamount Football, head coach of lacrosse and assistant director of athletics.
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During his administration as athletic director, the University's President cancelled the 1999-2000 men's hockey season with 16 games remaining as a result of the team's hazing incident. Farnham shared his experience handling the issue from its infancy through the justice process and into rebuilding Catamount Hockey to a winning program, as it had been leading up to the incident.
He has utilized this experience and his educational initiatives to make numerous presentations to high schools and universities regarding the understanding and prevention of this cultural phenomenon. Behind his illustrations of the definitions and misconceptions of bullying and hazing is Farnham’s message to find meaningful practices to enhance team bonding, to treat all members of the team as significant parts to a successful operation, and when questionable practices are being considered to display courage and put a stop to it.
When addressing coaches and athletic staff members, Farnham reiterated how it is their responsibility to identify potential dangerous situations and prevent them. He also identified the trickle down of responsibility that begins with them to create the environment they wish to live in, filters to team captains to nurture that environment, and rests with the players and individuals to enjoy it safely and responsibly.
“When you enter athletics and higher education, you have a chance to teach, change lives, and even change values,” said Farnham. “Changing values requires a far more emotional experience, but we as coaches can provide that you our young men and women and hopefully prevent destructive acts like these.”
To both audiences, Farnham gave examples of acceptable and unacceptable examples of traditions that are common among sport teams and student groups and asked for everyone to evaluate those practices in place, because in his words, “it is always ‘just a prank’ until it goes too far, and then it becomes hazing.”
To learn more about hazing and hazing prevention, visit www.stophazing.org.