Hazing Episode Transcript
Casey J. Cornelius (00:03):
Hey everyone, and welcome to the latest episode of the ForCollegeForLife podcast. My name is Casey Cornelius. I’m the founder and president of ForCollegeForLife, America’s leading college speaking agency. And I get the pleasure of interviewing the folks who make us who we are, our speakers, consultants, authors, facilitators, the people who make our culture what it is. And today I get the opportunity to chat with one of our folks who is really making a difference. And I know his mantra of one campus at a time, one community at a time, but he’s really making a difference around a topic that unfortunately is one that we still have to work on collectively. So, so much. So without any further ado, this is a quick 15 minute episode. Let me go ahead and bring to the mic none other than Leo Serrato. Leo, how are you doing?
Leo Serrato (00:57):
I’m great my friend. How are you?
Casey J. Cornelius (01:00):
I’m doing well. So I’m going to pull back the curtain a little bit for folks. Leo, you have had a quite busy season for those who are unaware, we’ve just passed National Hazing Prevention Week. Leo, you’ve had a really busy travel schedule and speaking schedule and so forth. How are you feeling? How’s the voice holding up?
Leo Serrato (01:22):
We are good. I’ve been feeling like Mariah Carey drinking my nice swarm tea with honey to make sure that my voice doesn’t go away, but we’re good.
Casey J. Cornelius (01:36):
Well, I’ll tell you what, if this podcast goes well, maybe we’ll have you sing like Mariah Carey at the end.
Leo Serrato (01:40):
I don’t think that will bode well
Casey J. Cornelius (01:43):
At all. Okay. We’ll skip that part, but we’re not going to edit it out. We will skip that part though. So Leo, I got just a couple of questions I want to talk about. Again, I know we only have a couple of minutes, but I certainly appreciate the conversation with you. So I’m thinking about students who are coming to our campuses and communities this year, the new students who a lot of hazing prevention work is geared toward. And I think about the fact that as a generation, they probably have had more anti hazing and anti-bullying conversations go on even before they ever have gotten to a college campus. So I guess I want to ask you, are you seeing anything different in them, different in their attitudes, different in their behaviors, anything different than maybe those students who’ve proceeded them?
Leo Serrato (02:37):
You know what, they’re different breed for sure. I ask for feedback through all my speaking engagements. And something common that I’ve been getting and has kind of been throwing me for a loop is you’re talking about old school hazing. And so recently I’ve had to take a step back and really analyze what they are saying with that. And it’s not to say that the typical hazing that we see isn’t happening anymore because it’s definitely still there, like the violent hazing, the hitting forced or coerced consumption of substances. But I think because it’s become more normalized in our society that these students are hazing publicly, and it’s not the violent hazing, it’s more like a subtle harassment type of hazing. As I scroll through TikTok, I’ve been noticing pledge talk and pledge talk is basically them hazing their members and posting it. It’s when I saw the other day was these new members waking up at like five 30 in the morning putting on their pledge uniforms, which if anybody knows me, knows my stance on pledge uniforms. I think they’re pointless and stupid and it just creates the environment for hazing. But they put on their pledge uniforms and they go to all the sorority houses and it’s like, good morning to the lovely ladies of insert sorority name here. And I’m just like, you’re hazing out loud.
You’re hazing in public.
Casey J. Cornelius (05:01):
Do you think, Leo, I’m not sure if I’ve heard it referenced this old school, I’m using air quotes. I know we’re on a podcast, no one can say this. I’m using air quotes, old school hazing. I’ve also heard the phraseology like Big H hazing versus little H hazing. Is it that again, maybe this generation has heard so much about Big H hazing, old school hazing, that this is now just the newest ripple to it?
Leo Serrato (05:33):
Yes, yes. And that’s also why in my conversations with students while I’m going to these different campuses, I talk to them about the levels of hazing rather than Big H, little H, the violent hazing, harassment, hazing and subtle hazing. It explained like that on hazing prevention.com or.org. And I think that’s a better way of explaining hazing to students and explaining that hazing is a continuum that Big H little H can easily turn into Big H and subtle hazing can easily, easily turn into the harassment and easily can turn into the violent hazing. And I don’t think they’re grasping that concept. This generation of students is like, oh, it’s fun and it’s not hurting anybody. But something that I also talk to them about is like, you don’t know what it could be doing to somebody mentally. It’s mentally humiliating to have them do this. I saw, I don’t mean to call out any university, so I’m going to scratch that part, but it was an institute
Casey J. Cornelius (06:51):
Of higher education. Yes,
Leo Serrato (06:53):
Yes. And they were dressed up like Playboy bunnies dancing on Instagram on pledge talk or not Instagram TikTok, and the comment section was disgusting.
Casey J. Cornelius (07:18):
I wonder, and I know that we’re talking out loud here, we’re thinking out loud. I wonder if it’s this almost recipe of new school hazing, little age hazing. We’re just having fun. Nobody’s getting hurt. Also, with the popularity of apps like TikTok, it seems like it’s creating a distinct atmosphere that maybe has not been present in years past.
Leo Serrato (07:49):
Yes, it’s creating a new platform to do it. And I hate to say it, even my favorite football family, the Kelsey’s, they talked about it on their podcast, the New Heights podcast, and it really hurt. Travis asked Jason, do they have any rookie traditions? And Jason’s like, no, we don’t really haze that much. And I was just like, wow.
Casey J. Cornelius (08:14):
Haze that much. Yeah,
Leo Serrato (08:16):
These people that we look up to, I’m 39 years old and I look up to these guys, they’re amazing in their sports and they’re at the top of their performance and it’s just become so normalized and it’s getting new platforms being slept under the rug.
Casey J. Cornelius (08:39):
Leo, just on a personal level, I think many of the folks who are listening to this probably will echo this, certainly those who are familiar with you and the work that you’re doing. One, I admire how much vulnerability you put into your work and your story and your journey. For those of you who don’t know, please make sure you check out Leo’s in-depth podcast interview. Please also make sure that you check out forcollegeforlife.com/leo to learn more about his signature programs at work. But I also know that there’s this conversation that you and I have had offline about National Hazing Prevention Week, and while I’m speaking for myself, I’ll let you decide if you agree with it. I think that the intentions and efforts of National Hazing Prevention Week have always been phenomenal, but one of the things that has emerged is emerging, certainly in conversations around people who are trying to do good prevention work, is the limitations of a single week in September to talk about hazing prevention. So I’m going to give you kind of free clearance here to take this where you want. Is that week enough? What does it miss? What could potentially be improved?
Leo Serrato (10:11):
I will start off by saying I love National Hazing Prevention Week. That being said, I think it falls short a little bit. There is a lot of missed opportunities with it, and I don’t think hazing is something that we should just be talking about. The last week in September, yes, the new member period is the most dangerous period, and for typical starting institutions, that last week of September is perfect. But if you look at, there are many schools that are not your traditional semester school. They are your term schools. So take for instance, the University of Oregon, my ducks, my community, we don’t start until that last week of September. And so my new members won’t be through recruitment or into their new member period until the last week of October.
And I think we’re really missing the mark there. And yes, fall is when we do get our biggest groups of new members, but there’s also schools that do deferred recruitment. So they have a spring recruitment in January and they are getting their new members, and there’s also schools that are in the term system that do a spring recruitment that happens in April. So just about hazing that one week in September. It’s not enough. Hazing is something that needs to always be at the forefront because it is the most dangerous part of our organizations. Since 1970, at least one student has passed away from a hazing related incident, and in the last 14 years, or I’m sorry, the last six years there has been 14. So numbers are on the rise
Casey J. Cornelius (12:27):
For our higher ed college friends, even those who maybe don’t work with student organizations. An analogy, and I like to think an analogy is an analogy that would probably be appropriate is while overall new student orientation is really important to do in the summer, and some students arrive in the spring, some students are learning how to be students on the fly by themselves. And if we only take the time to do orientation in summer months, we’re missing a large portion of those students. Is that comparable to hazing prevention as well?
Leo Serrato (13:10):
Oh, absolutely. Because yes, you will have students that do start in the spring or winter for our term friends that miss the orientations and miss the anti-hazing education. That’s typically given in the fall. But you also have members that may have even started in the fall and decided that they don’t want to go through recruitment until they’ve become acclimated to campus and they’re not going to go through until spring, and you’re missing that group of students as well. There’s a lot of missed opportunities happening, and I think that’s a bigger conversation we need to start having.
Casey J. Cornelius (13:57):
And folks, our commitment is to having the conversations starting, the conversations contributing to the conversations that truly do need to be had. And while hazing prevention is something that nationally we focus on, like Leo said in that week, in September, each and every year, it can’t end there because while I’m not really good at math, Leo, one week out of 52 seems like a really low number to me, and I feel like maybe we can do more. We can do better. Would you agree?
Leo Serrato (14:31):
Casey J. Cornelius (14:33):
Let’s do it together, folks. First of all, we want to thank you for taking a few moments with us to listen to this podcast. If we could be so bold, if you would please share this podcast with those in your community, those in your network who need to hear it, we would greatly appreciate it. And again, if you want to learn more about Leo and his efforts, please make sure that you visit forcollegeforlife.com/leo l e o. That’s Leo. Also, make sure that you listen to Leo’s full podcast interview, which will be linked in the description of this episode to learn more about his mission, and it’s an impactful one. So Leo, I appreciate you. I know that you have been coast to coast and everywhere in between doing this work, and on behalf of the entire team and everyone listening, thank you for what you’re doing. I admire it greatly.
Leo Serrato (15:33):
Thank you for having me, friend. It’s always a pleasure.