Is It Hazing? Recognizing the Signs and Risks

Reviewed Dec 22, 2016

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Summary

Hazing is defined as any deliberate mental or physical harassment, embarrassment, or stress of new members or recruits.

During hazing, current members of a club, team, or other organization tell new or potential members to do things most people would not want to do. Eating disgusting combinations of foods, reciting memorized rules or literature, wearing humiliating outfits … any of these activities can be considered hazing.

Hazing also can take dangerous forms. New members have been beaten ("paddled"), kidnapped and abandoned, deprived of sleep and food, and encouraged to consume dangerous quantities of alcohol.

Excessive alcohol consumption is one of the most common hazing behaviors and is a serious problem in fraternities and sororities. According to a study conducted by the organization Stop Hazing, 26 percent of reported hazing incidents involved drinking games, and 12 percent involved drinking until getting sick or passing out.

Acceptable initiation activities vs. hazing

Hazing is defined as any deliberate mental or physical harassment, embarrassment, or stress of new members or recruits. People who agree to the hazing do it because they want to be part of the group; the message is that those who refuse to be hazed are unworthy of membership.

The Alfred University/NCAA study grouped some typical hazing activities into categories based on their ability to do harm as well as their potential for building positive habits. Although the list was developed by looking at the hazing practices of sports teams, similar activities occur in other types of organizations.

Acceptable initiation activities:

  • Attending preseason training
  • Tests for skill, endurance, or performance in a sport
  • Keeping a specific grade-point average
  • Dressing up for team functions (besides uniforms)
  • Attending a skit night or team roast
  • Doing volunteer community service
  • Taking an oath or signing a contract of standards
  • Completing a ropes course or team trip

"Questionable" initiation activities:

  • Being yelled or sworn at or cursed
  • Wearing embarrassing clothing
  • Tattooing, piercing, head shaving, or branding
  • Participating in calisthenics not related to a sport
  • Being required to associate with specific people
  • Acting as a personal servant to players off the field or court
  • Depriving oneself of food, sleep, or hygiene
  • Consuming extremely spicy/disgusting concoctions

Alcohol-related and unacceptable initiation activities:

  • Consuming alcohol on recruitment visits
  • Participating in drinking contests
  • Making prank calls or harassing others
  • Destroying or stealing property
  • Engaging in or simulating sexual acts
  • Being tied up, taped, or confined in a small space
  • Being paddled, whipped, beaten or kicked, or similarly beating others
  • Being kidnapped or transported and abandoned

The dangers of hazing

Hazing can put new members in life-threatening or dangerous situations. Too often, the news reports that another young person has died of alcohol poisoning or has been hospitalized with injuries resulting from either direct hazing or peer pressure to participate in an activity. Excessive physical hazing, such as push-ups or midnight calisthenics, can lead to injuries from pushing the body past its limits.

Indeed, hazing may not create a bond between new members and their tormenters. Rather, as with other forms of abuse, hazing can generate mistrust and a sense of betrayal. New recruits might bond with each other, but not necessarily with the older members, ultimately creating a less cohesive group.

Most states now have laws against hazing, but they are difficult to enforce because much hazing is done in secret. In addition, many students do not believe that they have been hazed, or downplay the seriousness of their experience. Although many incidents go unreported, some students who have been seriously injured have successfully sued or pressed criminal charges against the perpetrators.

Colleges and high schools increasingly are enforcing policies against hazing. Fraternities and sororities, as well as many teams, are being encouraged to turn to new activities, such as leadership courses, to build the group unity and skills that hazing is supposed to develop.

Am I being hazed?

The organization Stop Hazing offers the following checklist to determine whether an activity can be considered hazing:

  • Is alcohol involved?
  • Will active/current members of the group refuse to participate with the new members and do exactly what they're being asked to do?
  • Does the activity risk emotional or physical safety?
  • Is there risk of injury or a question of safety?
  • Do you have any reservations about telling your parents, a professor, or university official about the activity?
  • Would you object to the activity being photographed for the school newspaper or filmed by the local TV news crew?

If the answer to any of these questions is "yes," the activity is probably hazing.

By Caroline Polk
Source: “Binge Drinking Unabated.” Harvard Public Health Review, Fall 1998; Hoover, Nadine C. National survey: Initiation Rites and Athletics for NCAA Sports Teams. Alfred, NY: Alfred University, 1999; Nuwer, Hank. “Hazing separating rites from wrongs,” American Legion Magazine 147(1), 1999; Stop Hazing www.stophazing.org; Nuwer, Hank. Wrongs of Passage: Fraternities, Sororities: Hazing and Binge Drinking, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1999.
Reviewed by Wendy Welch, MD, CHCQM, Federal VP/Medical Director, ValueOptions Federal Services Inc.

Summary

Hazing is defined as any deliberate mental or physical harassment, embarrassment, or stress of new members or recruits.

During hazing, current members of a club, team, or other organization tell new or potential members to do things most people would not want to do. Eating disgusting combinations of foods, reciting memorized rules or literature, wearing humiliating outfits … any of these activities can be considered hazing.

Hazing also can take dangerous forms. New members have been beaten ("paddled"), kidnapped and abandoned, deprived of sleep and food, and encouraged to consume dangerous quantities of alcohol.

Excessive alcohol consumption is one of the most common hazing behaviors and is a serious problem in fraternities and sororities. According to a study conducted by the organization Stop Hazing, 26 percent of reported hazing incidents involved drinking games, and 12 percent involved drinking until getting sick or passing out.

Acceptable initiation activities vs. hazing

Hazing is defined as any deliberate mental or physical harassment, embarrassment, or stress of new members or recruits. People who agree to the hazing do it because they want to be part of the group; the message is that those who refuse to be hazed are unworthy of membership.

The Alfred University/NCAA study grouped some typical hazing activities into categories based on their ability to do harm as well as their potential for building positive habits. Although the list was developed by looking at the hazing practices of sports teams, similar activities occur in other types of organizations.

Acceptable initiation activities:

  • Attending preseason training
  • Tests for skill, endurance, or performance in a sport
  • Keeping a specific grade-point average
  • Dressing up for team functions (besides uniforms)
  • Attending a skit night or team roast
  • Doing volunteer community service
  • Taking an oath or signing a contract of standards
  • Completing a ropes course or team trip

"Questionable" initiation activities:

  • Being yelled or sworn at or cursed
  • Wearing embarrassing clothing
  • Tattooing, piercing, head shaving, or branding
  • Participating in calisthenics not related to a sport
  • Being required to associate with specific people
  • Acting as a personal servant to players off the field or court
  • Depriving oneself of food, sleep, or hygiene
  • Consuming extremely spicy/disgusting concoctions

Alcohol-related and unacceptable initiation activities:

  • Consuming alcohol on recruitment visits
  • Participating in drinking contests
  • Making prank calls or harassing others
  • Destroying or stealing property
  • Engaging in or simulating sexual acts
  • Being tied up, taped, or confined in a small space
  • Being paddled, whipped, beaten or kicked, or similarly beating others
  • Being kidnapped or transported and abandoned

The dangers of hazing

Hazing can put new members in life-threatening or dangerous situations. Too often, the news reports that another young person has died of alcohol poisoning or has been hospitalized with injuries resulting from either direct hazing or peer pressure to participate in an activity. Excessive physical hazing, such as push-ups or midnight calisthenics, can lead to injuries from pushing the body past its limits.

Indeed, hazing may not create a bond between new members and their tormenters. Rather, as with other forms of abuse, hazing can generate mistrust and a sense of betrayal. New recruits might bond with each other, but not necessarily with the older members, ultimately creating a less cohesive group.

Most states now have laws against hazing, but they are difficult to enforce because much hazing is done in secret. In addition, many students do not believe that they have been hazed, or downplay the seriousness of their experience. Although many incidents go unreported, some students who have been seriously injured have successfully sued or pressed criminal charges against the perpetrators.

Colleges and high schools increasingly are enforcing policies against hazing. Fraternities and sororities, as well as many teams, are being encouraged to turn to new activities, such as leadership courses, to build the group unity and skills that hazing is supposed to develop.

Am I being hazed?

The organization Stop Hazing offers the following checklist to determine whether an activity can be considered hazing:

  • Is alcohol involved?
  • Will active/current members of the group refuse to participate with the new members and do exactly what they're being asked to do?
  • Does the activity risk emotional or physical safety?
  • Is there risk of injury or a question of safety?
  • Do you have any reservations about telling your parents, a professor, or university official about the activity?
  • Would you object to the activity being photographed for the school newspaper or filmed by the local TV news crew?

If the answer to any of these questions is "yes," the activity is probably hazing.

By Caroline Polk
Source: “Binge Drinking Unabated.” Harvard Public Health Review, Fall 1998; Hoover, Nadine C. National survey: Initiation Rites and Athletics for NCAA Sports Teams. Alfred, NY: Alfred University, 1999; Nuwer, Hank. “Hazing separating rites from wrongs,” American Legion Magazine 147(1), 1999; Stop Hazing www.stophazing.org; Nuwer, Hank. Wrongs of Passage: Fraternities, Sororities: Hazing and Binge Drinking, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1999.
Reviewed by Wendy Welch, MD, CHCQM, Federal VP/Medical Director, ValueOptions Federal Services Inc.

Summary

Hazing is defined as any deliberate mental or physical harassment, embarrassment, or stress of new members or recruits.

During hazing, current members of a club, team, or other organization tell new or potential members to do things most people would not want to do. Eating disgusting combinations of foods, reciting memorized rules or literature, wearing humiliating outfits … any of these activities can be considered hazing.

Hazing also can take dangerous forms. New members have been beaten ("paddled"), kidnapped and abandoned, deprived of sleep and food, and encouraged to consume dangerous quantities of alcohol.

Excessive alcohol consumption is one of the most common hazing behaviors and is a serious problem in fraternities and sororities. According to a study conducted by the organization Stop Hazing, 26 percent of reported hazing incidents involved drinking games, and 12 percent involved drinking until getting sick or passing out.

Acceptable initiation activities vs. hazing

Hazing is defined as any deliberate mental or physical harassment, embarrassment, or stress of new members or recruits. People who agree to the hazing do it because they want to be part of the group; the message is that those who refuse to be hazed are unworthy of membership.

The Alfred University/NCAA study grouped some typical hazing activities into categories based on their ability to do harm as well as their potential for building positive habits. Although the list was developed by looking at the hazing practices of sports teams, similar activities occur in other types of organizations.

Acceptable initiation activities:

  • Attending preseason training
  • Tests for skill, endurance, or performance in a sport
  • Keeping a specific grade-point average
  • Dressing up for team functions (besides uniforms)
  • Attending a skit night or team roast
  • Doing volunteer community service
  • Taking an oath or signing a contract of standards
  • Completing a ropes course or team trip

"Questionable" initiation activities:

  • Being yelled or sworn at or cursed
  • Wearing embarrassing clothing
  • Tattooing, piercing, head shaving, or branding
  • Participating in calisthenics not related to a sport
  • Being required to associate with specific people
  • Acting as a personal servant to players off the field or court
  • Depriving oneself of food, sleep, or hygiene
  • Consuming extremely spicy/disgusting concoctions

Alcohol-related and unacceptable initiation activities:

  • Consuming alcohol on recruitment visits
  • Participating in drinking contests
  • Making prank calls or harassing others
  • Destroying or stealing property
  • Engaging in or simulating sexual acts
  • Being tied up, taped, or confined in a small space
  • Being paddled, whipped, beaten or kicked, or similarly beating others
  • Being kidnapped or transported and abandoned

The dangers of hazing

Hazing can put new members in life-threatening or dangerous situations. Too often, the news reports that another young person has died of alcohol poisoning or has been hospitalized with injuries resulting from either direct hazing or peer pressure to participate in an activity. Excessive physical hazing, such as push-ups or midnight calisthenics, can lead to injuries from pushing the body past its limits.

Indeed, hazing may not create a bond between new members and their tormenters. Rather, as with other forms of abuse, hazing can generate mistrust and a sense of betrayal. New recruits might bond with each other, but not necessarily with the older members, ultimately creating a less cohesive group.

Most states now have laws against hazing, but they are difficult to enforce because much hazing is done in secret. In addition, many students do not believe that they have been hazed, or downplay the seriousness of their experience. Although many incidents go unreported, some students who have been seriously injured have successfully sued or pressed criminal charges against the perpetrators.

Colleges and high schools increasingly are enforcing policies against hazing. Fraternities and sororities, as well as many teams, are being encouraged to turn to new activities, such as leadership courses, to build the group unity and skills that hazing is supposed to develop.

Am I being hazed?

The organization Stop Hazing offers the following checklist to determine whether an activity can be considered hazing:

  • Is alcohol involved?
  • Will active/current members of the group refuse to participate with the new members and do exactly what they're being asked to do?
  • Does the activity risk emotional or physical safety?
  • Is there risk of injury or a question of safety?
  • Do you have any reservations about telling your parents, a professor, or university official about the activity?
  • Would you object to the activity being photographed for the school newspaper or filmed by the local TV news crew?

If the answer to any of these questions is "yes," the activity is probably hazing.

By Caroline Polk
Source: “Binge Drinking Unabated.” Harvard Public Health Review, Fall 1998; Hoover, Nadine C. National survey: Initiation Rites and Athletics for NCAA Sports Teams. Alfred, NY: Alfred University, 1999; Nuwer, Hank. “Hazing separating rites from wrongs,” American Legion Magazine 147(1), 1999; Stop Hazing www.stophazing.org; Nuwer, Hank. Wrongs of Passage: Fraternities, Sororities: Hazing and Binge Drinking, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1999.
Reviewed by Wendy Welch, MD, CHCQM, Federal VP/Medical Director, ValueOptions Federal Services Inc.

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