"Hazing" refers to any activity expected of someone joining a group (or to maintain full status in a group) that humiliates, degrades or risks emotional and/or physical harm, regardless of the person's willingness to participate. (taken from StopHazing.org)
Additionally, hazing may be reflected in any act that is required of new members in order for them to gain admittance to an organization that is not required of the current membership. This may include, but is not limited to, the following behaviors:
- requiring new members to perform tasks that other members do not need to do (baking cookies, going on scavenger hunts for items not related to the organization, etc.)
- expecting certain items to always be in a new member’s possession
- requiring new members to address current members with certain titles
- verbally abusing new members
- expecting new members to do personal chores for current members
- performing sexual simulations in front of others
- forced use of alcohol or other drugs
- water intoxication
- public nudity
- asking new members to engage in illegal activities
- undue exposure to weather elements
While organizations may indicate that particpation is optional, the university (and the legal system) would consider any participation ("voluntary" or involuntary) as coerced.
Hazing is a form of peer pressure. Regardless of opportunities to not participate, new members may still feel obligated to participate in an activity.
Make the following inquiries of each organization activity to determine whether or not it is hazing. If the answer to any of these questions is “yes,” the activity is probably hazing:
- Is alcohol involved?
- Will active/current members of the group refuse to participate with the new members?
- Is there risk of injury or a question of safety?
- Do you have any reservations describing the activity to your parents, to a respected professor, or a University official?
- Would you object to the activity being photographed for the school newspaper or filmed by the local TV news crew?
Additional questions to consider...
- Is the organization’s advisor supportive of the activity?
- What are we trying to achieve by doing this activity?
- Is there another way to achieve the same outcome?
- Would you be prepared to go to court to defend the merit of this activity?
- Would you be willing to share a written description of this activity for other organizations like yours to use?
- Does the activity represent your organization and UWSP in a positive light?
- Would the behavior/activity be appropriate in a community volunteer group?
- Would an employer utilize this activity as a means to build team unity?
- Would you put your participation in this activity on a resume?
Keep in mind, all traditions do not reflect a positive influence on an organization. Our country has supported many “traditions” in the past that are no longer socially or legally acceptable.
“It builds a sense of unity.”
In actuality, hazing rituals pit new members against current membership. Forcing new members to “prove” their worth and interest in a group is an antiquated means of indoctrinating them into the group.
“New members need to prove themselves.”
In what other groups do members need to "prove" themselves? Athletic ability, grades, commitment to a certain way of thinking or belief are all ways in which new and current members show their willingness to participate. Asking new members to particiate in unrelated activities is hazing.
“It sets us apart from other groups.”
True. However, hazing does not have to be a requirement for initiation to a group. Treat members with respect and dignity and you will reap the benefits!
Often times, hazing rituals/traditions are passed on from one student generation to the next. Consider using the "Is it hazing?" checklist above for each of your group's tradition-based activities. Still not sure? Set up a confidential meeting through the Hazing Report to determine the status of your event. The report will be fielded by the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs office.
- Are the tasks required of participants directly related to the mission of your organization?
- Is there a "hell week" or similar event within your organization?
- Is your national office, NCAA, or campus student organization office supportive of the activity?
- Is the activity supposed to be kept a secret?
“Hidden Harm is a phrase used to describe the effects of a previous trauma. These hidden harms can be both physical and psychological, and they can have long-lasting effects on the individual. Hidden harms can manifest from a variety of past experiences – war, abuse, hazing, violence, families with alcoholism, and other sources. What we don’t know about another individual can be the ultimate harm of hazing. Someone who just joined an organization or team could have experienced something in their lives that makes them highly susceptible to serious repercussions if they’re hazed. Hazing can be physically and/or psychologically harmful to even perfectly healthy individuals, but mix hazing with any one of thousands of previous experiences and the damage can increase exponentially. –hazingprevention.org”