If you Google hazing and college campuses, the breadth of articles or stories that appear is endless. You may ask why information about hazing is so prevalent in 2024 when so much has been written about deaths, investigations and lives ruined over this abusive behavior. There is no logical answer to this question. The more important question is why this behavior is still accepted and, in some cases, promoted and condoned.
Every individual on a college campus should be familiar with what hazing is, why it is harmful and the negative impacts it can have on individuals, organizations and entire institutions. It can occur in any club, team or organization. No organization is immune.
Frankly, it is hard to believe that hazing-related deaths, injuries and negative consequences persist in our society today. Currently, 44 of the 50 states have anti-hazing laws in place and over the past several years, a growing number of states have worked to strengthen anti-hazing laws to require transparency for reported hazing incidents on college campuses and make certain types of hazing a crime. Federal legislators have also proposed laws to address hazing and outline procedures for reporting and tracking hazing incidents.
Furthermore, substantial anti-hazing research and education have been shared in various formats to include real-life stories of how hazing has destroyed lives and negatively impacted families. According to a 2019 study, 82% of students agreed that hazing is not an effective way to create bonding and 86% of students agreed that hazing is not an effective way to initiate new members. Additionally, the same study found that nearly 97% of students agreed that they did not need to be hazed to feel like they belonged to a group.
So, why does hazing persist? Why do individual members of organized groups participate and accept this type of behavior? Why do members support or look the other way when actions take place that put them, so-called friends, and their organizations in the crosshairs for criminal and civil action? These are all questions that should be top of mind for all of us.
Preventing hazing and stopping its harmful impact should be something we all take seriously. It is important to have a continual conversation about the topic, expand knowledge and awareness, and share tools and resources that can be utilized to stop this harmful behavior.
So, the first course of business is to understand what hazing is. According to Stop Hazing, it involves three components:
- Occurs in a group context.
- Involves humiliation, degrading, or endangering behavior.
- Happens regardless of an individual’s willingness to participate.
Hazing can take many forms. It can involve intimidation, harassment, or even violence. Some of the most egregious cases of hazing involve the forced consumption of alcohol, physical abuse, personnel servitude or other demeaning and degrading activities that are required to be “part of the group.”
When I hear about hazing incidents, I often ask myself why anyone would want to be part of a group that treats their members that way. A leading expert in anti-hazing, Gentry McCreary, shares that much of this behavior is passed down in the organization and even small acts of hazing can lead to bigger issues.
Therefore, the best way to stop hazing is to:
- Call it out when it is observed
- Speak up when you see or hear others glamorizing or promoting hazing as a right of passage
- Know your responsibility under the law
Surviving the trials of hazing does not make you a better or stronger person, it just means you allowed yourself to be manipulated and abused. And when you become the abuser with the mindset that “now it is my turn,” that only makes you part of the problem.
Is this practice of abuse, mistreatment and humiliation worth one more horrific experience, injury, or worse, death? Is it worth risking negative academic impact and criminal or civil penalties? I hope that you agree with me that the answer to this question is a resounding NO!