National Hazing Prevention Week movie garners mixed reviews

On Tuesday Sept. 24, a screening of the movie Goat was shown in Newton 204 at 6 p.m. as part of National Hazing Prevention Week. The Inter Greek Council required that 15 percent of each social Greek organization on campus attend this viewing.

The IGC, Student Association, Geneseo Campus Activities Board and the Club Sports Association came together to collaborate on a variety of initiatives to raise awareness about hazing prevention during National Hazing Prevention Week. These organizations host an array of events to honor the nationally recognized promotion of prevention planning efforts. 

Goat is a 2016 drama adapted from the 2004 memoir by Brad Land. The R-rated movie follows Land as a freshman during his fraternity pledging ritual “hell week” where viewers are exposed to the violence and humiliation of Land’s hazing experience that left him feeling “physically injured and psychologically shattered,” according to the book description. 

SA assistant director of student affairs Emily Matura had a large part in choosing and putting on the presentation of this film.

“I’m working on finding ways to partner with the community,” Matura said of her pilot position. “So, this year I’m making roles for this position to have on campus and one of them is to connect with Greek life. At the beginning of the year, the first week, I met with Bethany, who oversees Greek life. She was telling me about National Hazing Prevention week so I reached out to the Inter Greek Council and Club Sports Association as well to see if we could put something together, some kind of event. We came up with doing some tabling and a movie.”

According to an email statement from Bethany Hettinger, coordinator of fraternal life and off campus services and IGC advisor, “this requirement was not set forth/required/mandated by the Office of Fraternal Life, or by the college, but rather by the IGC as a governing organization.”

“I watched multiple movies and this one [Goat] was most appropriate to show and had the most impact,” Matura said. “A lot of the movies revolving around hazing are very intensely graphic and while this did have graphic elements in it, it was the least graphic of the ones I was able to watch.”

Matura said that her and Hettinger also discussed a majority of movies that are used for similar anti-hazing efforts, and among the most popular were Haze and Goat. Matura describes Haze as “leaps and bounds” more graphic than Goat. 

“[Goat] was recommended by … National Hazing Prevention Week,” IGC president senior Jenna Casalino said. “[Dean Leonard Sancilio] and Bethany both knew about the film prior and said that it was a good idea. Then, the Student Association representative Emily and I felt that it was a good educational film to show the school.” 

According to an email sent to the Greek community on Sept. 23 from Casalino, the viewing of Goat was followed by a debrief with Dean of Students and Director of Center for Community Leonard Sancilio. 

“I think there are a number of reasons why I was probably asked to debrief students,” Sancilio said in an email statement. “I’m thinking that it was because I am a staunch advocate for students as the Dean of Students, but also because I’ve dedicated much of my career to trying to prevent hazing here at Geneseo, as well as nationally. So, asking me to support a student-sponsored event that coincides with my own beliefs and work seemed to make sense.”

Sancilio is the president of the board of directors at the National Hazing Prevention Organization and also recommended the showing of Goat. 

According to Sancilio, he had access to a discussion facilitator’s guide for Goat, used by campuses across the United States in discussion of the movie. 

“This movie was based off a true story,” Casalino said. “Just last year in Buffalo a student died due to hazing. While an individual might not see or hear about [hazing], we wanted to raise awareness and remind students about the harsh realities of hazing. The movie Goat has been shown across the country at other campuses for this reason.”

Hettinger explained in an email statement that the IGC president sent out an email on Sept. 19 warning IGC representatives that the movie could be considered graphic.

“In my initial email to IGC representatives, I did mention a trigger warning to advise that the movie might be graphic, and we hoped that with that message that people would look at trailers and read about it so they knew what the movie was going into watching it,” Casalino said. “Obviously, we didn’t want anybody to be uncomfortable or to feel so disturbed that they had to leave.” 

While the required number of attendees from each organization was in the email, there were no clear consequences provided for what would happen to an organization that did not send the required number of members.

“I found it hard to relate or even connect to the movie because while the events that happened in the movie occurred in real life, I think they’re extremes and not an accurate depiction of the majority of hazing that occurs,” business major junior Elise Prefore said. “That being said though, if there’s organizations out there who do things that are similar to what the movie showed, I don’t expect it to have any effect on them or encourage them to stop.”

Prefore said she did not think the film communicated an effective attempt to discourage hazing.

“Before going to the event, I knew we were going to be watching a movie on hazing, but I had no idea it was going to be as graphic and intense as it was,” Prefore said. “I feel like they definitely should have explained more about what the movie was like before having people come to watch it. I think it was irresponsible of IGC and the school to show the movie without some sort of trigger warning and being more specific about the graphic content in the movie.”

Adolescent education mathematics major junior Jenny Paredes corroborated that she did not receive any trigger warning despite Casalino’s attempt to communicate to viewers the graphic nature of the film.

“I just got really uncomfortable by the film,” Paredes said. “I thought it was too extreme. I really hated the movie and I tried to block it out of my memory. There was an excessive amount of the world [faggot] which also made me uncomfortable. I did not anticipate that the movie would be as graphic as it was, and it was incredibly visual.” 

Paredes said that she left the viewing before the movie was over.

“We were told that we could leave which was good because I had no interest in seeing what was going to happen. They peed on [the new members] and made them drink amounts that made them throw up,” Paredes said. “They also made them strip from their clothes and left them in the basement to sleep and then they yelled at them to leave. After that I did not see the rest of the movie because I was uncomfortable.”

Likewise, biology major junior Edward Ramirez said he did not gain any perspective from the viewing. 

“I thought it was a gross over exaggeration of pledging and I felt very awkward,” Ramirez said. “I am sure that the IGC felt this movie would be effective at hazing prevention because it would scare people and there were a couple of pledges there. I don’t think that instilling fear is an effective tool to educate people. I hope nobody goes through what was depicted the film.”

Similarly, Prefore assumed that the IGC was taking a “scared straight” approach to discourage hazing.

“I definitely don’t think that it was effective,” Prefore said. “I understand that they were trying to be more impactful than just telling us the horrible realities of hazing, but I feel that they crossed a line making us watch something like that.”

Matura said that she understands and sympathizes with people who felt the need to leave the Goat viewing.

“I can understand why some people might be upset, there were some very graphic scenes at the beginning,” Matura said. “Honestly, creatively, I don’t know why it was necessary to show [such graphic scenes] in the movie. So, I really do understand, and I sympathize with that completely.”