A Dangerous Tradition: Hazing on College Campuses

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Students starting their college education face many new and exciting challenges. Living on one’s own, pursuing academic goals and making lifelong connections all contribute to the college experience. However, social pressures can be more stressful than academic pressures. Hazing on college campuses has become a serious concern for educators, parents and lawmakers. HazingPrevention.org defines hazing as “any action taken on any situation created intentionally that causes embarrassment, harassment or ridicule and risks emotional and/or physical harm to members of a group or team, whether new or not, regardless of the person’s willingness to participate.”

To learn more, check out the infographic below created by Eastern Kentucky University’s Online Safety, Security & Emergency Management Program. 

How students, parents, and administrators can combat hazing behaviors on campus.

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Hazing Statistics

More than 50% of college students involved in college clubs and organizations experience hazing. 74% of students involved in varsity athletics have gone through hazing, as have 73% of students involved in social fraternities and sororities and 64% of students involved in club sports.

Of those hazed, 26% report hazing via participation in drinking games, making it the most frequently reported hazing behavior. 17% report being hazed through signing or chanting in public, while 12% each experienced hazing through association with certain people and not others or binge drinking to the point of getting sick or passing out. Other types of hazing behaviors include sleep deprivation, participating in sexual acts, eating spicy foods or other substances, or participating in illegal activities.

Studies indicate that 25% of coaches and/or advisers were aware of hazing, and that 25% of those present at hazing episodes were alumni. Studies also show that 26% of students shared their experiences with peers, and 48% of students shared their experiences with family members.

Hazing can have severe consequences, and these seem to be on the rise. There have been more than 200 hazing-related deaths since 1838, however there have been 40 such incidents reported in the past decade.

Examining the Hazing Problem

Hazing isn’t an isolated issue, and the perpetrators that usually lead the hazing experience aren’t the only ones responsible for the consequences.  For instance, bystanders present can have the authority to increase or decrease the severity of the hazing. Alumni may also return to encourage the severity of the hazing episode. Additionally, a hazing group can have supervisors that lead a team or group that carry out specific hazing activities.  School administration may also be legally responsible for hazing activities even if they’re not aware of them. Finally, the community may be at fault for not intervening via incident reporting, despite the fact that hazing often occurs in broad daylight.

Hazing Settings

Hazing usually occurs at the same place every time. Settings may include locker rooms, sports fields, school buses, or other large areas.

Consequences of Hazing

Individuals involved in hazing may face expulsion, suspension, and legal consequences such as fines and jail time. Clubs or organizations involved in hazing may face withheld or withdrawn funds, suspended status or charges, or find themselves under investigation.

The victim, meanwhile, may experience sleep deprivation, illness or hospitalization, poor academic performance, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Some of the negative ramifications could extend to perpetrators and bystanders, as they may suffer poor academic performance, damaged reputation, distorted sense of leadership, or even media scrutiny.

How to Spot Hazing

HazingPrevention.org recommends students ask themselves a few questions to determine hazing in action. These questions involve asking if the hazed individual is doing something illegal, if the individual is asked to keep their activities a secret, and whether or not the activity being done violates the hazed individual’s or the institution’s values.

People can also look for warning signs of hazing behaviors. These can include changes in a student’s behavior, strange social media photos, or symptoms of depression.

Preventing Hazing on College Campuses

Students, parents and campus administrators can all take action to prevent and stop hazing. Students, for example, can educate themselves on what constitutes hazing by visiting sites like StopHazing.org or HazingPrevention.org, or reporting hazing by calling the anti-hazing hotline 1-800-NOT-HAZE.

Parents can help neutralize hazing by discussing the practice and its dangers with their children. They can also advise children to maintain friendships outside the organization and tell them they can report hazing incidents confidently. Supervisors and administrators can help fight hazing by explicitly defining and prohibiting hazing activities and clearly announcing and enforcing consequences.

Reporting and Recovering from Hazing

There are several ways that students can report hazing. 911 is essential if the hazing is considered life threatening, while the Office of Greek Life can be the place to report hazing involving fraternity or sorority members. Other resources, such as a Campus Counseling Center of the Center for Campus Involvement, offer resources that can help students recover from hazing. Additionally, students can also mine various resources to learn more about hazing. These range from sites like HazingPrevention.org and StopHazing.org to Fraternal Law Partners, a law firm specializing in legal issues pertaining to Greek and student life organizations.

Preventing hazing starts with spreading awareness. To completely erase hazing from college campuses, change must start with campus leadership – the price of ignorance and inaction is too high. Students deserve a safe and supportive learning environment.