Hazing: A General Overview

What is Hazing?

Hazing is commonly understood as a form of initiation that may involve embarrassment, harassment, or ridicule.18 In Texas, hazing is legally defined as "any intentional, knowing, or reckless act, occurring on or off the campus of an educational institution, by one person alone or acting with others, directed against a student, that endangers the mental or physical health or safety of a student for the purpose of pledging, being initiated into, affiliating with, holding office in, or maintaining membership in an organization."14 Examples of hazing may include forced or required consumption of alcohol, humiliation, physical acts, or illegal activities such as theft.

Who is Involved?

Historically, hazing has been associated with fraternities and sororities, however, today it exists in almost every type of student group, including sports teams, clubs and honor societies.6 Furthermore, it is not strictly limited to college campuses: it exists in high schools, and, to a lesser extent, middle schools as well.6, 18

How Often does it Happen?

An early report estimated that 91 percent of all high school students belong to at least one group, and almost half of them have experienced hazing activities.12 More recent research, however, suggests that estimates such as these did not accurately represent the true prevalence of hazing, because students often do not report hazing.6

An early report estimated that 91% of all high school students belong to at least one group, and almost half of them have experienced hazing activities.

One of the main reasons students do not report hazing is because they do not always have a clear understanding of what constitutes hazing.6 One study found that only 12 percent of athletes in college reported being hazed, but 80 percent described hazing behaviors as part of team initiation.10 Another study found that nine out of ten students who reported having experienced hazing behavior in college do not consider themselves to have been hazed.1

Research also shows that even when students recognize hazing, they often choose not to report it because they either fear the social repercussions, or they do not consider hazing to be a serious issue. One recent study found that, of the college students who had observed hazing, 92 percent did not report it, and of students who personally experienced hazing, 95 percent did not report it. The most common reasons were fear of social retaliation, and the perception that the hazing behaviors were "no big deal."13 Similarly, a national study on hazing found that 95 percent of college students who had identified their experience as hazing did not report the events to campus officials.1

Whether due to lack of understanding, fear of social retaliation, or the perception that hazing is "no big deal," hazing tends to be underreported. Many coaches or organization leaders may not be aware that it is happening at all. This is important to recognize, because hazing is a dangerous activity which can have very significant consequences, not only for the individual, but for the group members involved, and the team/organization as a whole.

What are the Consequences?

Individuals who are hazed can experience a number of negative outcomes, including physical, emotional, and/or mental instability, post-traumatic stress syndrome, and, in the most severe cases, death.8 Those who participate in hazing can also suffer negative consequences. In Texas, individuals who lead or participate in hazing can face a Class B or Class A Misdemeanor conviction. If an organization is found to have condoned or encouraged hazing, it may be subject to a fine between $5,000 and $10,000. If the offense has caused personal injury, property damage, or other loss, the organization may be fined up to $20,000.15, 16

Individuals who are hazed can experience a number of negative outcomes, including physical, emotional, and/or mental instability, post-traumatic stress syndrome, and, in the most severe cases, death.

Some have argued that hazing can have positive outcomes, suggesting that it helps to promote cohesion and bonding among team members. Research however has failed to support this idea, finding that team cohesion is more related to socially acceptable team-building behaviors such as completing a rope course or a team trip.17 Another study found that most students do not perceive hazing as an activity that builds cohesion: they also do not see it as a fun activity, and they do not believe it is approved of by their friends.3 Furthermore, initiation rituals that involve humiliation, as hazing often does, are associated with lower levels of group affiliation.11 In summary, research does not appear to support the claim that hazing has any beneficial or positive impacts.

How can we Address Hazing?

Responding to hazing on a large scale will involve support and collaboration between leaders throughout the community, such as parents, students, faculty, coaches, and policymakers. Policies on hazing should be clearly established and enforced.3, 7 It might also be helpful to hold trainings on a regular basis for parent and teacher organizations, to ensure that they are knowledgeable about hazing policies and procedures for reporting. Finally, it is important to cultivate a positive environment that focuses on mutual respect.7 Hazing can be replaced with more positive, team-building exercises, such as planning fundraisers, or participating in community service. These types of activities are more likely to promote cohesion and bonding among team members.4 The following guidelines can help to address hazing at the organizational level:

Responding to hazing on a large scale will involve support and collaboration between leaders throughout the community, such as parents, students, faculty, coaches, and policymakers.

  • Hazing should be clearly defined for students, faculty, club advisors, coaches, and parents.
  • The school board or governing body should adopt a policy that clearly establishes that hazing is prohibited.
  • Consequences for violation of anti-hazing policies should be clearly established.
  • School leaders should create an environment that focuses on the worth and dignity of each individual.
  • Teachers, students, and parents should be informed of the proper procedures for reporting hazing incidents, and be assured that there will be no retaliation or reprisals.
  • School leaders should promptly investigate reported incidents of hazing involving student organizations.

Additionally, if you believe your child or a student that you know is being hazed, HazingPrevention.org advises to look out for the following warning signs:19

  • Sudden change in behavior or attitude after joining an organization or team
  • Wanting to leave the organization or team with no real explanation
  • Sudden decrease in communication with friends and family
  • Physical or psychological exhaustion
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Unexplained injuries or illness
  • Change in sleeping or eating habits
  • Withdrawal from normal activities
  • Expressed feeling of sadness or feeling of worthlessness
  • Increase in secrecy and unwillingness to share details

Policies and procedures for reporting hazing incidents may vary from campus to campus, and it would be helpful to familiarize yourself with those that are specific to your child's school, college, or university.

References

1Allen, E. J. & Madden, M. (2008). Hazing in view: College students at risk: Initial findings from the national study of student hazing.

2Allen, E. J., & Madden, M. (2011). The nature and extent of college student hazing. International Journal of Adolescent Medicine and Health, 24(1), 83-90.

3Campo, S., Poulos, G., & Sipple, J. W. (2005). Prevalence and profiling: Hazing among college students and points of intervention. American Journal of Health and Behavior, 29(2), 137-149.

4Chin, J. W., & Johnson, J. (2011). Making the team: Threats to health and wellness within sport hazing cultures. International Journal of Health, Wellness 1(2), 29-38.

5College Hazing. (2014). Inside Hazing. Accessed October 11, 2016, at http://www.insidehazing.com/statistics_25_college.php

6Diamond, A. B., Callahan, S. T., Chain, K. F., & Solomon, G. S. (2015). Qualitative review of hazing in collegiate and school sports: Consequences from a lack of culture, knowledge and responsiveness. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 50(3), 149-153.

7Essex, N.L. (2014). Hazing in public schools: A liability challenge for school leaders. Clearing House, 87(6), 236-240.

8Hazing and its Consequences. (2015). Accessed October 11, 2016 at http://hazingprevention.org/home/hazing/hazing-and-its-consequences/

9Hazing Law & Legal Definition. (2016). US Legal. Accessed October 11, 2016, at http://definitions.uslegal.com/h/hazing/

10Hoover, N. C. (1999). National survey: initiation rites and athletics for NCAA sports teams. Alfred University. Accessed at http://www.alfred.edu/sports_hazing/docs/hazing.pdf

11Mann, L., Feddes, A. R., Doosje, B., & Fischer, A. H. (2016). Withdraw or affiliate? The role of humiliation during initiation rituals. Cognition & Emotion, 30(1), 80-100.

12Pollard, N., Allen, E., et al. (1999). Alfred University Study. Accessed October 11, 2016 at http://www.insidehazing.com/statistics_25_high.php

13Silveira, J. M., & Hudson, M. W. (2015). Hazing in the college marching band. Journal of Research in Music Education, 63(1), 5-27.

142 Tex. Education Code, § 37.152(6)

152 Tex. Education Code, § 37.152(a)-(f)

162 Tex. Education Code, § 37.153(a)-(b)

17Van Raalte, J. L., Cornelius, A. E., Linder, D. E., Brewer, B. W. (2007). The relationship between hazing and team cohesion. Journal of Sport Behavior, 30(4), 491-507.

18What Hazing Looks Like. (2015). Hazing Prevention.org. Accessed October 11, 2016, at http://hazingprevention.org/home/hazing/facts-what-hazing-looks-like/

19What Parents Need to Know. (2015). Hazing Prevention.org. Accessed October 11, 2016, at http://hazingprevention.org/home/hazing/what-parents-need-to-know/