Why rollouts need to end on campus

Opinion by Joe Troderman
Oct. 10, 2014, 11:21 a.m.

If someone were to suggest breaking into houses early in the morning and waking up all the people who live there in order to welcome one of them to a group, we would call that a crime. But under the auspices of tradition, Stanford students do exactly this. Roll-outs are an unnecessary inconvenience on our campus, and we would build a safer, stronger community without them.

At a very basic level, the concept of forcibly waking up new members in student groups is a form of hazing. Stanford defines hazing as anything “that causes or is reasonably likely to cause another student to suffer bodily danger, physical harm, or significant personal degradation or humiliation.” Sleep deprivation as part of an initiation is certainly a type of physical harm. The argument that people enjoy roll-outs mirrors the argument that new members of fraternities (who also do roll-outs, though theirs may also include alcohol) approve of hazing, but after the fact: Few people enjoy being forcibly woken up at 5 or 6 in the morning, but in retrospect, they may see their roll-out with nostalgia, as their welcoming into a community. But retrospective enjoyment does not justify depriving students of sleep.

Moreover, in order for student groups to do roll-outs, many groups climb through the windows of lounges to access the dorm. If other students can enter the dorm through those windows, anyone can. It’s entirely possible that thefts have occurred as a result of these open windows. R&DE does not give students access to other students’ dorms because it is a safety hazard. Yet residents still justify breaking into dorms through open windows in the name of tradition.

Beyond these two points, roll-outs are an intrusion of student privacy and personal life. Whether a student has an athletic commitment the next day, is sick and would like to get better or has some sort of test or midterm, other students have no right to impede him or from doing so. That is the reason dorms have quiet hours, which extend through the time when most roll-outs occur. Physically fatiguing students has no place in a student group that cares about its members.

But even if one were to argue that by joining a student group, a new student is now a member of their community and thus must participate in roll-outs, that argument does not apply to every other member of the dorm. Roommates, which nearly all freshmen have, will also be woken up. Others in nearby rooms will likely be awoken as well. No group has the right to wake up these students, especially ones who simply live near members of that group. Roll-outs are like smoking a cigarette in someone else’s house without permission: It imposes on him or her in personal space. So even if student groups can fatigue their own group members, they certainly should not wake people unrelated to their groups.

Finally, roll-outs are an issue of insensitivity. As is especially the case with a cappella groups, sororities and fraternities, not everyone is accepted into those groups. In the case where those student groups do not inform applicants that they have been rejected ahead of time, such students might be woken by a roll-out, waiting in anticipation and excitement of their acceptance, only to find out by the absence of knocking on their door that the group they loved and hoped to join had rejected them. This point could at least be relieved by informing people that they have been accepted or rejected from a group prior to roll-outs. It would eliminate much of the surprise, but could only resolve this single issue.

I understand the desire by student groups to welcome members into their community, to show them how excited everyone is to have them and to assemble everyone together at a time when they are guaranteed to be free (i.e. when they normally would be sleeping). These are valid goals. But what is important to realize is that it is not the act of waking people up at 5 in the morning that makes roll-outs effective; rather, it is how senior group members made them feel accepted and welcomed and displayed their excitement and enthusiasm about the new members. People won’t remember what you said or did, but how you made them feel.

We can build community without rolling people out and interrupting their sleep; many on campus already do not get enough. One way to welcome students is simply with a morning breakfast at 8, or asking them to be in their dorms in the afternoon for a procession through the dorms to pick up and welcome students. Or groups could make up other creative ways that are less intrusive on other students in dorms. While everyone does roll-outs in good fun, we can make community without bothering whole dorms. Let’s all be better members of the larger Stanford community and end roll-outs now.

Contact Joe Troderman at jtrod93 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

Joe Troderman is a columnist for The Stanford Daily. He is a member of the class of 2016 from Canton, Mass. (it's near Boston) pursuing a major in chemical engineering. Joe is passionate about the environment and enjoys playing poor-quality improvisational music on any stringed instrument he can find. To contact him, please mail him at jtrod93 'at' stanford.edu or P.O. Box 13387, Stanford, Calif. (even if it is just ad hominem attacks on his character, it will make his day to receive a letter that isn't for car insurance or bank accounts).

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