Hazing in View: College Students at Risk
Initial Findings from the National Study of Student Hazing
March 11, 2008
Elizabeth J. Allan, Ph.D., Associate Professor
Mary Madden, Ph.D., Associate Professor
College of Education and Human Development
Implications and Recommendations
The following implications and general
recommendations emerge from this report of the initial findings. A
follow-up report will provide more detail. Summary paragraphs are
followed by the relevant recommendation below:
Data from this study support the
conclusion that hazing is woven into the fabric of student life and
campus culture in U.S. colleges and universities. More than half
(55%) of the students who become involved in campus student
organizations, clubs, and teams are hazed in the process of becoming a
member or maintaining membership in these groups, and nearly seven in 10
students (69%) say they are aware of hazing in organizations other than
Over the years, images of hazing have
been most closely associated with fraternities (and, more recently,
varsity athletic teams). However, this investigation found hazing
among undergraduate students is far more widespread. Students
report experiencing hazing behaviors across a range of group-types
including athletic teams and Greek-letter groups as well as club sports,
intramurals, performing arts groups, service fraternities and
sororities, recreation clubs, academic clubs, honor societies; and some
students indicated they had experienced hazing in other kinds of groups
as well including military groups, religious or church-based groups,
student government, and culturally-based student organizations.
Design hazing prevention efforts to be
broad and inclusive of all students involved in campus organizations and
Hazing is sometimes dismissed as
nothing more than silly pranks or harmless antics, yet data from this
investigation indicate hazing often involves
high-risk behaviors that are dangerous,
abusive, and potentially illegal. Disturbingly, a number of the
most frequently reported types of hazing practices have been implicated
in college student deaths in recent years (e.g., drinking to the point
of passing out and drinking large amounts of non-alcoholic beverage).
Aside from the fact that hazing itself is illegal in 44 states, hazing
is also likely to violate the law through underage drinking and sexual
activities where consent is questionable due to the coercive dynamics
and peer pressure inherent in hazing. These same dynamics
contribute to a group context where embarrassment, humiliation, and
degradation can take an emotional toll and lead to what is called the
hidden harm of hazing—the emotional scars that can result from the
humiliating and degrading aspects of hazing**.
Make a serious commitment to educate
the campus community about the dangers of hazing; send a clear message
that hazing will not be tolerated and that those engaging in hazing
behaviors will be held accountable.
Hazing is not the well-kept secret that
some may have believed; the findings noted several public aspects to
hazing including coach and student organization advisors' awareness of
hazing practices, friends and family's knowledge of hazing, and photos
of hazing posted on public web spaces.
Broaden the range of groups targeted
for hazing prevention education to include all students, campus staff,
administrators, faculty, alumni, and family members.
To date, hazing awareness and
prevention efforts in postsecondary education have largely focused on
students in Greek-life and more recently intercollegiate athletes.
Yet, the data from this study indicate that students affiliated with
these groups continue to be at high-risk for hazing as more than seven
in ten students belonging to these groups report experiencing at least
one hazing behavior in relation to their involvement. The extent of
hazing in these groups prompts questions about the effectiveness of past
and present prevention efforts.
Design intervention and prevention
efforts that are research-based and systematically evaluate them to
assess their effectiveness.
Nearly half of the students (47%)
report experiencing hazing behaviors prior to coming to college
indicating that students may expect to be hazed when they join teams and
organizations connected to their postsecondary institution.
Involve all students in hazing
prevention efforts and introduce these early in students' campus
experience (i.e., orientation).
Findings from this investigation
highlight some of the complexities related to hazing on college
campuses. For example, this research found that students identify
more positive than negative consequences of hazing; students are least
likely to report hazing to campus officials and police; and only one in
two students report they have been made aware of campus anti-hazing
As well, it is clear students have a
limited understanding of the definition of hazing and risks associated
with it. This is highlighted by the fact that more than half of
students involved in campus groups experience a hazing behavior, but a
mere fraction of these (nine out of ten) consider themselves to have
been hazed. In addition, students who have been hazed tend to
dismiss institutional and legal definitions of hazing and minimize the
potential harm that can result.
Design prevention efforts to be more
comprehensive than simply one-time presentations or distribution of
anti-hazing policies. Focus on helping all students:
Develop an understanding of the power
dynamics so they can identify hazing regardless of context.
Understand the role that coercion and
groupthink can play in hazing.
Recognize the potential for harm even
in activities they consider to be "low level."
Generate strategies for building
group unity and sense of accomplishment that do not involve hazing.
Align group membership behavior with
the purpose and values espoused by their organizations and teams.
Develop leadership skills needed to
deal with resistance to change among group members.
Develop critical thinking skills needed
to make ethical judgments in the face of moral dilemmas.
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