A new study has suggested that the government should create a free, 24-hour national helpline for the victims of violence during initiation rituals – or hazing ceremonies – and that the government should compile an annual report on the matter as well as ensuring targeted freshmen students are exempt from court costs should they wish to take action.
These were among recommendations made by re-searchers for the study, who also suggested complaints should be forwarded on to the competent authorities, and leaflets containing advice and support contacts should be handed out when students enrol on courses.
Hazing, or Praxe, in Portuguese, is a student tradition conducted across the country to initiate freshmen into universities or other higher education institutions.
The study ‘Hazing as a Social Phenomenon’ was backed by the Directorate-General for Higher Education and carried out by a team of researchers from several sociology and social studies centres across Portugal.
It also said that freshmen should be made aware of the ins and outs of hazing before they leave secondary school.
The study aims to draw up possible mechanisms that would safeguard students from situations of abuse, humiliation and violence that could occur during university hazing ceremonies.
The national helpline, researchers say, should also redirect complaints regarding situations of abuse or violence in ceremonies to the competent judicial entities.
They further recommend the creation of a website that groups together information and resources regarding hazings, such as annual reports, links to news items, and relevant information.
It advises there should be no public financing for such initiation ceremonies, but funding should be created for initiatives and projects that university associations can use on innovative ideas for student integration.
Another suggestion was that the government should compile an annual report on the topic, in which it would list serious incidents as well as ways of intervening.
A phone line and an email to report abusive university initiation practices was set up by former Minister Nuno Crato following a tragedy on Meco beach in December 2013, in which a group of students drowned, allegedly during a hazing ritual.
During the 2015-2016 school year the phone line took ten complaints from students, which was substantially fewer than the 80 complaints taken the year before.
However, the majority of student associations (64 institutions and 25 associations) surveyed for the study, said they were in favour of the traditional practice and against an outright ban on it.