What is Hazing?

The University of Memphis defines hazing as:

Engaging in hazing of another person for the purpose of initiation or admission into, affiliation with, or continuation of membership in any organization operating under the sanction of the University is prohibited. Hazing includes, but is not limited to, any action, activity or situation which recklessly, negligently or intentionally endangers the mental or physical health, welfare or safety of a person, creates excessive fatigue, sleep deprivation, mental or physical discomfort, exposes a person to extreme embarrassment or ridicule, involves personal servitude, destroys or removes public or private property, or implicitly or explicitly interferes with the academic requirements or responsibilities of a student. It is presumed that hazing is a forced activity regardless of the apparent willingness of an individual to participate in the activity. Apathy or acquiescence in the presence of hazing is not neutral; both are violations of this rule.

Endangering one's mental health or mental discomfort may look like:

  • Yelling
  • Demeaning names
  • Lineups
  • Kidnapping
  • Blindfolds
  • Requiring embarrassing attire or activities involving nakedness
  • Embarrassing activities (scavenger hunts)

Endangering one's physical health or physical discomfort may look like:

  • Tests of endurance
  • Consumption of alcohol or non-food substances, large amounts of water or other liquids
  • Exposing members to extreme weather conditions
  • Sleep Deprivation (early morning wake-ups, not allowing naps, specific bed times)
  • "Fountaining" (as admission or membership into a group, students are 'placed' in the fountain)

Personal servitude may look like:

  • Cleaning an active member's room
  • Repeatedly running errands for an active member; including but not limited to, "wake-ups," breakfast, pick-ups and drop-offs.
  • Carrying of equipment bags

Existence of Hazing

A 2008 national study conducted by researchers at the University of Maine found:

  • 55% of college students involved in clubs, teams, and other extra-curricular organizations are hazed.
  • 47% of students experienced hazing in high school.
  • Hazing occurs in a range of student activities and teams and includes behaviors that are abusive, dangerous, and often illegal.
  • The vast majority of college students do not report hazing to campus officials.
  • College students recognize hazing as part of campus culture.
  • Nine out of ten students who experience hazing in college do not consider themselves to have been hazed.

Hazing has become a widespread phenomenon for students who join groups/organizations that place group members in situations of high risk. As a parent, there is the very real possibility that your son or daughter has already been or will be hazed as a member of a student group or team. As a student, you may expect to be hazed and fail to recognize the harms associated with hazing. As an Advisor of a student organization, you may not know what to do.

Harms of Hazing

There are many harms to hazing and not all of them are obvious. While certain activities seem innocent enough, they may endanger a student's wellbeing. For your consideration:

  • Any activity that tests physical strength or courage, if not managed by a trained professional which few college students are, puts new or potential members at risk.
  • Having new or potential members of a student group perform calisthenics or other physical activities, such as running or wrestling, may lead to injuries, headaches, heat exhaustion, dehydration, or even something as severe as seizure or coma.
  • Having individuals consume large amounts of food or drink, or non-food substances, is inherently dangerous. As an example, students may have unknown allergies or other medical conditions.
  • Having new members dress inappropriately for the weather conditions or expose them to extreme weather conditions can lead to serious injury.
  • Confining someone in an enclosed space or restraining them with duct tape, etc is criminal conduct and can cause severe stress and anxiety. Students may have anxiety issues that are exacerbated by such activities.
  • Many college aged students have pre-existing medical conditions and the stress from hazing activities can exacerbate them or trigger new ones.

For more information about the perceived benefits versus the true harms of hazing, see Cornell's research on the subject.

Guynn, K.L. and Aquila, F.D. (2004). Hazing in High Schools: Causes and Consequences. Bloomington, Indiana: Phi Delta Kappa Educational Foundation.

Apgar, T., Szabo, R., Sullvian, T.J. Hidden harm: The dangerous impact of hazing on students with existing mental health issues. National Hazing Prevention Week Resource Guide. Campuspeak.
Lipkins, S. (2006) Preventing hazing: How parents, teachers, and coaches can stop the violence, harassment, and humiliation. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.