There's nothing like having a few drinks with good company, enjoying a beer poured straight into your mouth via your mate's butt crack, or just sharing a nice, warm, mouthful of a dear friend's vomit. That's standard for student flat initiations down south—a rite-of-passage into the sought-after share houses in Dunedin's party streets.
Initiations, and the drinking that comes with them, is something the University of Otago has been battling for years. In 2010 the university bought student bar The Gardies and closed it down, in a move that critics said was about clamping down on student drinking. It purchased and closed down historic haunt The Bowler the year before. At this time of year, Campus Watch is out patrolling the university and student-heavy neighbourhoods for any sign of initiations. According to the uni's Code of Conduct, students can be hit with fines, suspension or expulsion if caught.
But what if hazing actually has a purpose in this period of transitioning into adulthood? And if it does, who better to explain it to us than psychology students who have actually experienced it? VICE found three initiation experts keen to discuss the flat-hazing phenomenon and the psychology behind why students do it.
The biggest thing that I've found is Reactance Theory. The proctor of the university will go around to a flat that's said it's going to do x, y and z and he'll say "You're not going to do this" and then they'll go "Well, fuck you. We're going to do it to prove we still can do it".
I remember watching one where they poured alcohol down this guy's back and he pulled down his trousers and the person had to drink it from his backside. That's insane to me. What's that got to do with initiations? Instead of traditions, everything's alcohol related. Everything's become disgusting.
One of the guys couldn't actually make it for a big initiation—and this would have easily had 400 people watching it—so he got a friend to sit in for him. Someone was voluntarily putting themselves through that. It's mind-blowing.
When you've got 400 people standing around you chanting and cheering, you're going to do it. Now and then you'll see a kid the next day in absolute tears because they're so upset with what they've done. But they're also made to feel like a champion. In that environment, I'm sure 90 percent of the population could quite easily do what they did, and enjoy it.
The biggest thing for me, which is quite scary, is the kids who say "Man that was awful, there's no way I'd ever do that to someone else". Yeah, well, we heard the same thing the year before, and they just did it for you.
Initiations are one of those traditional things, but they are definitely insane in Dunedin. People take it to a different level. Like, weird. If someone told me about my initiation a year ago I would have laughed, thought it was a joke. Especially the butt chug, that just came out of nowhere—no one expected that.
Puklife, he's Snapchat famous or whatever and he's got like, 50,000 followers. Yeah so he was there, filming the whole thing on his Snapchat for the whole world to see. It was one of my friends in the flat that had to give him a butt chug. It was fucked. And like, in front of everyone.
Some people I talked to the next day said they couldn't even stand to watch it and had to leave. But no one stepped in or anything. Like, if one girl got up in front of everyone, 100 people, to help I feel like everyone would just start hating on her.
I guess it's like, not really peer pressure. I wanted to do it. My friend was really scared to do it but wouldn't have backed out, because everyone had heard that one of the other girls was going to mess her up. I feel like she had to, like, prove herself.
In psych we've looked a little bit into the theory of groups. Like if a group of people in the street start looking at something, then everyone around will.
Initiations have been happening at the flat that we went into for a couple of years now so it was something special to be a part of. We were pretty excited about doing it.
I fully wanted to do it. No one told me to, I had no pressure at all. I could have been sitting in my own living room and doing it. There were a few pelicans and that. But, you know, it's your mate that's vomiting into your mouth. You're like, "Get it into me".
I'd do it all again. If someone told me I had to do an initiation tomorrow I'd say "Yeah I'm up for it." I don't know, I suppose you're just so pumped for it that you'd just do anything. If that makes sense? I suppose it's about that transition from being a fresher into being a second year. You feel like you're one of those Papua New Guinean boys getting their foreskin cut off before they become a man. You're excited. It's good for us.
At the end of the day it was just like any gas up with the lads, but I guess you don't always funnel your own vomit when you're with the guys.
I guess is sort of ties in with psych but, you know, I'm not the best psych student in the world.
*Names have been changed
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