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Understanding and Identifying

What exactly is hazing?
 

Hazing is any activity expected of an individual wishing to join a group, or of an individual wishing to gain or maintain full status in a group, which humiliates, degrades, abuses, endangers or subordinates that individual, regardless of his or her willingness to engage in the activity.

Some forms of hazing are obvious: personal servitude, sleep deprivation, yelling, swearing at, striking or insulting one or more members. Other common forms of hazing include having members wear embarrassing clothing, perform humiliating activities or consuming vile substances. Excessive consumption of alcohol often accompanies hazing. Requiring another to consume alcohol is a violation of hazing policy regardless of whether the pressure to consume alcohol is physical, psychological or social.

Some forms of hazing are more subtle, but no less harmful. Hazing includes requiring some members to perform duties not required of other members, requiring silence of some members or otherwise socially isolating them and creating needless hierarchies to assign privileges and chores. Hazing can occur in the context of a single activity or “tradition,” or it may occur over a period of time.

Hazing is often excused as a form of team building. This is simply untrue. Hazing does not bring a group together—it is divisive. Those being hazed are divided against the members doing the hazing. Those who object are divided against those who participate. Sometimes new members may say they want to be hazed, but people generally do not want to be humiliated, intimidated, or physically abused—they want to belong. They may participate because of peer pressure, threats, or because they don’t know what the activity involves. Even if someone “agrees” to hazing, it is not OK. Hazing can have serious, long-lasting effects on physical and emotional health.

If you're unsure if an activity is considered hazing, ask yourself the following questions. If you answer yes to any of them, it’s most likely hazing. If you feel the need to ask yourself these questions in the first place, it’s probably hazing.

  • Are participants required to consume alcohol or drugs of any kind?
  • Would senior group members be willing to do what they are asking new members to do?
  • Does the activity intimidate or cause some other form of mental distress?
  • Does it involve physical abuse, such as sleep deprivation or physical confinement?
  • Is there a potential risk of harm to anyone involved?
  • Does the activity involve socially isolating other group members or invading their privacy?
  • Would you be uncomfortable doing it in front of university staff or a local news film crew?