The Navy Office of Hazing Prevention is tasked in part with providing a clear idea of what constitutes hazing. Based on feedback from 100 sailors, and the first leader of the five-month- old office, there is much work to be done.
The Navy is putting out anti-hazing messages that are clear as mud.
Some sailors wrongly told Navy Times if it’s considered a “tradition” it can’t be considered hazing. Others think it’s OK to exercise a little humiliation, so long as the individual being hazed gives consent.
We asked Rear Adm. Ted Carter, the flag who stood up the office and only recently left for his new assignment as president of the Naval War College, what constitutes hazing. He described any activity that is “cruel, abusive, humiliating, oppressive demanding or harmful.”
Sounds simple, but what such terms mean is too open to interpretation. Can you spray a sailor with a hose when he crosses the equator? Depends on the water pressure, Carter said. “Shaving” is banned in the Navy’s official hazing instruction, but Carter contends it’s OK for SEAL candidates to have their eyebrows clipped off.
The hazing office stood up in February with the noble and necessary goal of eliminating some of the dangerous behavior in the fleet. But the office needs to do more than put out the typical anti-hazing promotion campaign and a call for more “bystander intervention.”
Write clear guidance that spells out what sailors can and can’t do, using real Navytraditions as examples. No exceptions, no room for interpretation. Right now there is way too much guesswork by sailors and leaders.