The unwelcoming welcoming event
In early September I witnessed for the first time an inconvenient student ritual at the NTNU Gløshaugen campus (see pictures). First, I could not believe this was happening at 9 am on the main campus yard and then a few hours later during lunch time in the corridor of the main building. I was shocked and didn’t fully understand what is going on. Then later I felt ashamed that my work place is allowing this happen so freely. The more I heard about it from my colleagues and the more I saw videos from previous years, the more I started to be puzzled about this event. Is hazing really ok and socially accepted at NTNU?
Indeed, this is not the first year people working and studying at NTNU witness it. Every year the spectators feel strangely awkward about it, but keep quiet until it happens again. Many colleagues of mine are every year shocked that it is still happening, but don’t know whether they ought to raise a fuss about it. For me the ritual clearly seems like ‘systematic bullying’: NTNU allows hazing in the main quad and central building during regular working hours. In addition, the ritual has elements of ‘fear and oppression’, by having costumes that cover the whole face, even more having a blackface that is currently considered very questionable in the spotlight of the recent news. Also, the ritual that is taking place at the main quad behind Hovedbygningen, has an impression of a ‘cult gathering’ by arranging the new students in a circular form and making them do physical activities controlled over loud shouting. I found this intimidating and it is clearly to make a provocative impression of the “welcoming” induction ritual that certainly does not look very welcoming to an outsider.
As I learned more about it, I got to know that this is part of a longer tradition continued over decades, and some are proud of having gone through it. I understood that it is a welcoming event, supposedly fun and challenging and where no-one is forced to participate, which makes it a bit easier to accept. However, it is taking place at the main campus at the main yard and corridor during the office hours, where outsiders are being exposed to this event without their consent. I wonder if ‘unitedness’ or ‘togetherness’, ‘fellesskap’ could be achieved in another way that would not have these aspects of hazing, blackface, cult gathering or public humiliation?
NTNU must take a stand
However, if surviving this camp is the only way to achieve it, then I would suggest NTNU take a stand on this and not allowing it to happen at its premises. I think part of the purpose of university also is to educate what is appropriate and accepted at a workplace. Moreover, being more and more international, NTNU should be mindful about the image it wants to present to the outside world and therefore ensure that hazing is not part of the working environment that NTNU promotes. Perhaps, the students or alumni who have gone through this experience could raise their voices and tell what they think about it. Is this something students want to see in 2019 in Norway? However, there is a risk that this event gets worse behind closed doors. Perhaps we could organise something more friendly such as ‘free tea, hugs and information on human rights’ at the same time to break the cycle? If this ritual is still worth continuing, I would like to know how we outsiders could be informed about it, so that we do not have to witness it the coming years or unintentionally bring guests or colleagues to visit NTNU at the same time. With this welcoming event there is a danger to make NTNU look more inhumane and unwelcoming than it actually is.