Pinging: Rite of passage or ResLife hazing technique?

Tristan Gavin

In the midst of an investigation of TKE’s initiation scandal, the morality of rituals of non-Greek factions on campus has been put under a lens of scrutiny. The sanctity of the residential community has been put into question after an anonymous freshman, hands blistered and eyes still bleary from the previous night’s chaos, came forward to Associate Dean of Students Marah Baxwell with a disturbing testimony of a ritual referred to as “pinging.” The student’s confessions were shortly followed by many similar allegations throughout the day, some claiming that entire sections were subjected to the process. In an exclusive interview with The Pioneer, Baxwell mentioned that she had to resort to pen and paper communication with some students, their ears still ringing painfully. For the first time, administration members must ask themselves a hard question: Is the pinging tradition a blatant violation of their own hazing policy?

The allegations raised place pinging in flagrant violation of the college policy, defining hazing as “degrading or humiliating” activity. Students of the ritual are allegedly subjected to covering their eyes with a blindfold, or hoodwink, so that they have no idea where they are.

“They took us to Waitsburg!” testified one freshman, still painfully unaware of local geography.

Illustration: Julie Peterson

The process was downright mortifying for certain victims, too. A female student was indignant after being brought out in “sweats and a Seattle Storm t-shirt,” concerned about her eligibility for a KKG bid. Participation was never advertised as optional, and peer pressure overwhelmed most students.

“I just wanted to play Smash Bros in my section lounge. I only made it through 16 minutes of pinging before the sensory deprivation set in,” a Jewett resident recalled, still too shaky to defeat a Level 5 Yoshi days later.

“At least [Dan] Hart only had to make breakfast,” one student chimed in, citing the popular belief that it is the most important meal of the day. Overall, the experience was disturbing for many first-years, even scaring some into going Greek.

ResLife refused an interview, but stressed via e-mail that pinging is not meant to be demeaning, but to instill a sense of community and build character. Pinging has seemingly had an adverse effect, however, causing several Anderson rooms to request having their beds unbunked. While pinging gives students a shared experience, the perpetuation of the cruel practice has little significance other than its history, which is only now under investigation by the school. Dean of Students Charlie Cincinatti told The Pioneer that putting ResLife on two-year probation “may be a necessary gesture.”

“We’ll have to go over historical protocol before I can, in good faith, sign off on continued pinging,” said Cincinatti.

ResLife is likely to remain on campus for the time being, but these confessions open a coffin of worms on dormitory happenings. Administration has since enlisted the help of several investigators to look into further allegation that there is actually a functioning fraternity on the second floor of Jewett.