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Dean’s talk No. 8 : Talking about our “Freshies”

European educational institutions established, about 700 years ago, a kind of “penalism system” to provide a tradition for welcoming and orienting new students to their campuses. In those times, there was a strong belief that new students were ‘uncivilized’ and needed systematic resocialization to their new experience from older students who had been around to learn the rules and regulations.  By doing this, new students would be able to perform better in their new and proper academic environment with proper manners. The tradition was followed in a number of prestigious universities, such as at Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, Yale and Sandhurst Cadet School.

Over time, this “penalism system” became institutionalized in undesirable ways, such as what might now be called “fagging” or “hazing”. The tradition included forcing new students to behave as servants to older students. If the newcomers did not comply with the demands of the older ones, they were punished; sometimes this included psychological and/or physical abuse, including sexual harassment, dehumanization and overt discrimination. However, the tradition led to dangerous practices and was widely criticized before it disappeared from the European institutions a century or more ago, since it condoned and even promoted violence and degradation of new students.

Although the tradition was ended in higher educational institutions in Europe, it remained widespread in universities in North America and Asia. After the post-colonial period, the tradition spread to former colonized nations such as the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, India, Sri Lanka and Thailand where hierarchical power structures remain. The tradition may also be found today in boarding schools in countries which were once British colonies, such as in South Asia, Southeast Asia and South Africa.

To reclaim the title of following ‘institutional modernization’, the old traditional system of “fagging” or “hazing” was later re-adopted in boarding schools and universities in England. As a result of all these changes, a number of schools, colleges and higher educational institutions in Thailand have, over time, adopted this tradition as a part of welcoming new students. In Thailand, for example, the “penalism system” was introduced into the Chamberlain School, Vajiravudh College which later became Chulalongkorn University, and Kings College. Attempting to duplicate the experience of the “penalism system”, some overseas-educated lecturers who graduated from Los Baños agricultural college in Philippines, were involved at Oregon State University and Cornell University in the U.S.A. in adopting this tradition to their institutions. The tradition included so-called ragging which included odious behavior such as putting new students through sessions where they were yelled at, humiliated and discriminated against.

However, happily, this “penalism system’ has fallen into disrepute. The United Nation is making a real effort to change this kind of ‘socializing’ experience in universities and other educational bodies. It advocates against an experience such as a “penalism system” with its “fagging” or “hazing”, andraggingto one that takes human rights and the dignity of each person into consideration.
In Thailand, the Office of the Higher Education Commission (OHEC) announced in 2005 that this tradition is prohibited in Thai educational institutions.

As Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences, Naresuan University, I will give my full attention to ensure that all of our new students in the Faculty will be treated equally and with our full respect.  All of our welcoming traditions and “cheers” will be expected to be organized within a friendly environment that invites politeness, love, kindness, and respect for human rights at all levels. Moreover, cheers and welcoming activities within our Faculty will always be voluntary and never forced on individuals. Students will always be asked to freely participate in activities, based on friendship and consideration.


All the best,

Assoc.Prof.Patcharin Sirasoonthorn, Ph.D
Dean, Faculty of Social Sciences
Naresuan University


Thai Edition