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Hazing and Abuse at Miss Porter's

Prep Talk: Justifying Hazing at Boarding School

High school girls have many ways of punishing each other, the silent treatment being a classic tactic. But what about seniors marching through dorms with the precision of the gestapo, lining up freshmen, yelling at them, making them perform chores, and forcing them to count to 100 in German? It's not reform school — it's an annual ritual at Miss Porter’s, an all-girls boarding and day school in Connecticut where Gossip Girl-sounding names are as common as class rings.

Since Miss Porter's students, graduates, and even the administration are a secretive brood, it’s hard to know which rituals continue today, but we do know traditions die hard on the leafy-green campus. The school even has its own Skull and Bones group named the Oprichniki, after Ivan the Terrible’s secret police. And while Miss Porter's denied its existence in a March New York Times article, 2007 graduate Blair Clarke confirmed it in July's Vanity Fair when she said she “crash-studied German” to join the Oprichniki.

While we can let our imaginations go wild trying to figure out what really goes on at Miss Porter's, we do know this: Tatum Bass, a former student who was expelled, is suing the school for not intervening when she was harassed by the Oprichniki. Why would an otherwise popular senior in student government earn the infamous group's ire? According to Tatum, it started after she suggested the school participate in a multischool prom. As a breach in Miss Porter’s tradition, it was a major faux pas. The taunting, she claims, led to her skipping class and cheating on a test, which led to her expulsion.

What’s shocking is not that she was expelled or that a secret society exists, but that the reaction of students and alumni was, more or less, "Buck up, Bass!" To find out how they reacted,


The ability to tough it out and not go crying to parents is a quality the school proudly instills in girls. So it's no surprise that students and alumni were appalled that Bass used taunting by classmates as an excuse to cheat. Cheating aside, how is it that adults justify teens abusing teens? I found my answer in both the Vanity Fair and New York Times pieces.

Blair Clarke, the confirmed Oprichniki member, said the group never inflicts real pain, just the anticipatory fear of it. Sarah Hart Hansen, a 1974 graduate, told the New York Times, “Maybe there’s nervousness in the beginning, but it’s a bonding moment.” Ah-ha! So it’s not hazing if there’s no physical pain? What a great definition that will create loopholes for underground societies, sororities, and fraternities everywhere.

Join The Conversation
GirlinMotion GirlinMotion 8 years
Exactly prblms4loki, she cheated and now she is coming up with excuses... Hazing is one thing but how does that make you cheat??? Her reasons don't make any sense... Just as others said, if there was hazing you should have done something about it before you got caught doing something just as bad
wackydeli wackydeli 8 years
sounds like a cope out but hazing is just stupid.why do kids put up with that? if some chick was in my face yelling and tried to put her hands on me id clock her.
prblms4loki prblms4loki 8 years
The bottom line is that she cheated. Frankly, if this was a problem, she should have spoken out about it before. Now it's just mixing up with her cheating issue and that's just muddying up the waters.
margokhal margokhal 8 years
This whole entire situation is just really really ridiculous. Everybody is wrong here. The school shouldn't let a secret police of students exist, and the girl shouldn't have cheated or skipped class. Hazing is just stupid, whether it be physical or emotional/mental. If the intention is to cause potentially permanent trauma, it shouldn't be tolerated, however it happens.
lickety-split lickety-split 8 years
one of the tutors we had for our daughter with autism went to miss porters for 2 years. that place is like a pressure cooker for young women. the rules for student conduct were extremely high, but everyone knew who broke the rules and it was a game to see who could get away with the most. for example, there was a no lights on rule after a certain time each evening, and so she got away with that (and so she was able to study later) by hanging up christmas lights. she told the school the lights reminded her of home and family. did i mention she was jewish, and no, her family never celebrated christmas. she said that after 2 years she was about half crazy from the competition for every little thing there was (best folder design for home room) and she came home. it all sounds absurd to me.
merie33 merie33 8 years
I agree Talldiva...I'm pretty close to Miss Porter's as well and the stories you hear coming out of there aren't too awesome. Some of them are probably exaggerated rumors, but rumors start somewhere.. And alot of the girls from there aren't exactly innocent, little sweethearts either..
Talldiva45 Talldiva45 8 years
I live in CT (pretty close to the school towns over) and have always heard about the awful hazing rituals at Miss Porters - really scary and sad.
kurniakasih kurniakasih 8 years
Hmmm, I'm so used to the tradition of hazing (where I came from, it was considered 'normal' and something you can't avoid at all--although sometimes things get out of hands and there were students who died during the hazing), I got hazed in school (grade school, junior high, high school, etc). And when I was a senior, they gave seniors (but only those who were in student council) a chance to haze the freshmen. Of course there were changes made by then, they add that physical hazing is a big no and if you indulged in it, you'd be expelled (basically no more making the freshmen eating worms or rotten food, or making a kid run 20 something miles or using fire, or no beating up some boy--yes, some boys will beat up other boys in the name of 'hazing'-- etc). But it was still 'ok' to make them do totally unnecessary assignment (like to listen/watch and basically make transcription of a radio show/tv show).
RoaringSilence RoaringSilence 8 years
What happens if you don't join a club like that, do they harass you still?
genesisrocks genesisrocks 8 years
Ok, it sounds like she deserves the expulsion, but the school not even looking into stopping the bullying? That's just wrong. Plus at a girls school, shouldn't they have cliques called "The Plastics" and not gangs called Oprichniki?
kty kty 8 years
the whole thing is really sad
kty kty 8 years
i attended boarding school but not in the U.S,and yes some older girls were always trying to scare the young ones but it was nothing serious or to the extend that she describes and i don't think that hazing will prompt someone to cheat though.....
nancita nancita 8 years
Oprichniki?! Wow, that's subtle. These kinds of stories make me sad too. I know it's hard to enforce rules against these clubs, but when schools seem to support them and tolerate them, it just seems wrong.
StarObsolete StarObsolete 8 years
Aww that's just so sad. ;___; It seems like such an under-wraps situation that's it's hard to address and deal with it...
ktownpolarbear ktownpolarbear 8 years
um, she CHEATED. that's why she got expelled. not that i'm for hazing, but i can't believe she's trying to excuse her cheating by saying that she got bullied.
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