Hazing Paper/Sources

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Rites & Wrongs

Hazing, be it silly or scary, is banned in many schools. But it still exists--just ask a freshman.

By Matthew Bowers The Virginian-Pilot http://sks.sirs.com/cgi-bin/hst-article-display?id=SPL2300-0-3494&artno=0000238315&type=ART&shfilter=U&key=&res=Y&ren=Y&gov=Y&lnk=Y&ic=N Accessed on 03/29/2006 from SIRS Researcher via SIRS Knowledge Source <http://www.sirs.com>

Five years haven't erased Casey Culpepper's menacing memories of entering ninth grade.

It wasn't simply a bigger school, older students, or going out for volleyball. The threat of "initiation," a decades-old hazing tradition, haunted her all summer.

That tradition "made the first week of school very terrifying for me," said Casey, now a sophomore at James Madison University in Harrisonburg. "Like every corner you walk around, you're afraid you're going to run into a senior...I had that freshman look. They could smell it."

The initiation was this: Friends got snatched by seniors waiting outside after classes, and smeared with concoctions that included canned dog food, eggs, ketchup, mustard, horse manure and pet feces. Then they were hosed off so hard that it hurt. Casey escaped, but only because more than once her big sister Jill, then a senior, intervened.

To many students and adults, "initiation" was just an expected part of the Western Branch High School experience. That changed last fall. Parents of hazed freshmen in one incident complained to Chesapeake police and, apparently for the first time, criminal charges resulted. Some students were expelled.

Still, students returning Tuesday to public schools across South Hampton Roads--as well as their private-school peers already in classes--bring with them a variety of hazing practices, despite policies against it. They reflect what many researchers call a growing presence in high schools nationwide, even as the practice wanes in colleges, according to a report on hazing nationwide published last year.

Male soccer players at Tallwood High in Virginia Beach have been trussed in tape and dumped outside girls' team members houses.

Band members at Lake Taylor High in Norfolk have endured painful "beat-downs."

Norfolk Academy tennis players annually poured cake batter ingredients on teammates.

Freshmen all over get dumped into school trash cans or have "F's" scrawled on their hands. Drama students, service club members and athletes are made to wear costumes and sing, yodel and bark in schools and malls and restaurants.

But researchers say it's easy for seemingly harmless, prank-like teasing to evolve into more harrowing activities.

Adolescents commonly try to outdo one another. Their judgment is largely a work in progress, prodded by peer pressure and the need to belong, overdosed on gross-out TV shows such as "Fear Factor."

Lines blur. The three Western Branch High victims last fall suffered welts from being pelted with frozen eggs, and their skin turned blue from being doused with chemically treated waste scooped out of a portable toilet, police said. The three must undergo regular HIV and hepatitis tests for two years, because of the bodily wastes thrown on them.

"It gets more and more severe, and that unfortunately is where I've seen it go," said Susan C. Bon, who this year taught legal issues in education at Ohio's Ashland University. "Hazing is so dangerous because of the potential for crossing that line."

Hazing generally refers to "rite-of-passage" activities expected of someone to join or remain in a group--activities that intimidate, humiliate, ridicule or risk emotional, physical or legal harm. It can vary widely, from wearing embarrassing outfits to sexual assault.

"A very extreme form of bullying" is how Sara Jo Williams, director of Virginia Commonwealth University's Center for School-Community Collaboration, describes it.

The law construes it more narrowly.

Virginia's statute that makes hazing a crime added a limiting definition in 2003: The activity must "recklessly or intentionally endanger the health or safety of" or injure a student, whether or not the hazed student participates voluntarily. It's a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a $2,500 fine. But expulsion was deleted as the only available school punishment, to leave educators more flexibility.

"Criminal statutes should only be reserved for the worst things," explained Del. David B. Albo, a Republican from Fairfax County and a sponsor of the change. "Merely humiliating somebody--it's not nice, but it shouldn't give you a criminal record."

Virginia is one of 44 states with laws prohibiting hazing, according to StopHazing.org, an online information site created by New Hampshire anti-hazing lobbyists. Three states require schools to take steps to prevent hazing, Bon said. Virginia is not one of them.

A landmark 2000 study of U.S. high school hazing by Alfred University in New York found that almost half the students who joined school or youth organizations were hazed--1.5 million students a year--and more than a quarter were expected to perform potentially illegal acts.

Sports teams attract much of the notoriety, but the study found that virtually all types of organizations hazed--it happened to one out of four youths joining church groups. Making news just this past year:

  • Iowa wrestlers were charged with hazing and assault, accused of forcing their exposed genitals against freshmen teammates' faces.
  • A New Hampshire private school suspended 15 seniors after freshmen were sprayed with food products, asked sexually explicit questions and made to simulate sex acts.
  • Minnesota seniors were charged with assault and other crimes for a traditional last-day-of-school paddling of rising ninth-graders.
  • In July, Texas officials began investigating complaints that three basketball players at a private school held down a younger teammate and rubbed their genitals on his head, neck and shoulders during a January road trip. The practice is common enough that it has a name: "tea-bagging."

Hazing has been traced to the mid-1800s Navy. It began as a way to instill respect in younger sailors, according to the Pace Law Review, which reported on high school hazing last year. It got so bad that by 1874 Congress stepped in and made military hazing a court-martial offense.

Similar activities then popped up in other institutions, including universities. Many schools began denouncing hazing in the early 1900s after two students in Texas and Maryland shot their hazers. Instead, the practice went underground and spread in secrecy among collegiate organizations, notably fraternities, and then to high schools.

Hank Nuwer, an author, speaker and professor at Franklin College in Indiana, tracks high school hazing back 100 years to a possible 1905 incident in which a young Ohio teen died of pneumonia after classmates stuffed snow down his back.

Hazers don't lack for creativity. Nuwer's online chronology catalogs incidents of branding, tarring, paddling, sodomy and electric shock, but also forcible leg-shaving, running with crackers clenched in buttocks, and videotaped games of naked Twister.

Locally, students say initiation activities run more to silly costumes and empty threats. But not always.

Male band members at Lake Taylor High in years past have endured what's known as the "freshmen beat-down," the "band beat-down" or "the treatment," where older members corner new ones and punch them in the arms, said several students who know about the practice but said they hadn't participated in it.

"It's not hard enough to cry, but you'll feel it," said Ramon Jones, a senior.

Ray Ilas, a senior Tallwood High School tennis player, said he had to drink a mixture of salad-bar fluids--pickle juice, olive juice, Thousand Island salad dressing--through a straw at a team party his first year.

More commonly, variations of "Freshman Friday" are rumored early in the year at several schools. Threats are spread about stuffing first-year students into lockers, but typically they wind up only with "F's" scrawled on the backs of their hands.

"It was like an urban legend kind of thing," said Ashley Wenners-Herron, a senior at Princess Anne High in Virginia Beach who got tagged twice--and did the same to a younger friend last year.

However, at least one freshman at Tallwood High last year twice got dumped into school trash cans, students said. Sarah Kuhr, a graduate this year, said she helped pull him out.

"I'm sure he was hurting inside, but outside he was laughing," she said. "I guess so he wouldn't look like a pansy to the older guys."

Freshmen have literally been targets: for Silly String at Indian River High in Chesapeake, and for water balloons at Western Branch Highs band camp. At I.C. Norcom High in Portsmouth, they are assigned plain white T-shirts and nicknames by the band.

Aarthy Thamodaran's tennis team at Norfolk Academy traditionally poured cake batter, eggs, chocolate syrup and the like on new players during an annual road trip to Richmond but stopped after school officials banned initiations.

"I think they were just afraid that things had the potential to get out of hand," said Aarthy, who graduated this year. "Even though this was innocent, it had the potential to escalate."

It's common for athletic teams to make the new guys lug ball bags and water to practice and to cut their hair. Costumes or strange outfits and signs are big at several schools.

For most, students say, it's a laughing matter.

"It's not a hazing kind of thing," said Crystal Johnston, a senior soccer player at Kellam High in Virginia Beach, adding that the initiates "enjoy the attention." She said her team rousts freshmen out of bed, dresses them in "funky clothes" from their own closets and makes them hold signs outside the school as buses roll up, bearing phrases such as "Honk if you want a date."

"As much as I felt stupid walking down the hall," said Candice Sweeney, a sophomore softball player at Tallwood High made to wear her uniform and eye-black and mussed hair to school, "it was funny. It was just doing it for the team."

Kristy Conley, a recent Tallwood graduate and softball player, said she had to yodel while covered in Band-Aids at a shopping center. "I wasn't really embarrassed, she said, because everybody else was doing it."

But not everyone goes along.

Students said a Tallwood soccer player objected last year to an attempt to tape him up for initiation at an off-campus team gathering. He fought back, a mini-brawl erupted, and the entire team later found itself in the principal's office.

"The bottom line is, we don't condone that kind of behavior, and we kind of explained to them what could happen," Principal Jobynia Caldwell said. "This is not what team members do to each other. It was a teachable moment, rather than a punishable moment."

Afterward she re-emphasized that team gatherings should include coaches or other chaperones and be held in public venues.

At Cox High in Virginia Beach, Jack Lukic unhappily donned a costume and barked on command as part of a weeklong initiation into a theater group. He had gotten involved in plays for fun and for something extra to put on his college applications.

On the second day, he begged off. He was told he had to accept the treatment, or he couldn't join. He quit.

"It was just humiliating," Jack said. "You walk in, and they all laugh at you."

Two years later, college-bound Jack has never returned to drama, in school or elsewhere.

"I kind of had a bad taste for theater," he said.

School officials stopped a similar practice at the Beach's Princess Anne High last fall, after the Western Branch High incident became public, Ashley Wenners-Herron said.

All initiations aren't necessarily bad. But experts say the danger rises when it turns into an exercise of power. Mix in teens with little or no adult guidance, with immature ideas about what's appropriate and what's not, in packs where its easier to lose individual values--the "mob mentality"--and "that's when it can get out of hand," said Richard J. Hazler, professor of counselor education at Penn State University.

In addition, adults may seem to condone hazing by accepting it as tradition, by not making distinctions between the severity of acts they experienced and what may be going on today, and by referring to it as "a normal part of growing up...and kids pick up on that," said Jonathan K. Appel, assistant professor in educational leadership and counseling at Old Dominion University.

"It isn't necessarily behavior resulting from them being wild out-of-control criminals," Appel said. "They could be normal...Good kids do bad things with the lack of guidance."

Escalation is common. Adults remember "initiation" at Western Branch High once consisted of being sprayed with perfume, made to sing aloud or pushing a pencil down the hall with your nose.

By contrast, police said, last fall's publicized incident involved three freshmen standing in a water-filled ditch off a remote road, surrounded by many teens they didn't know--including non-students--who assaulted them with frozen and raw eggs, Mountain Dew bottles filled with urine, vomit that had been saved in sealed buckets, waste scooped out of a portable toilet, and deer and fox urine used for hunting.

But freshmen often go along. Amanda House, now a junior, said she endured Western Branch Highs initiation three times "just for fun," albeit with less-foul materials.

"The need to conform and be part of the group at that age is just immense," Appel said. "It would take a unique and strong person to not bend to the will of the group."

"Everybody wants to be included," VCU's Williams said. "And they'll go to any extreme to be included."

Western Branch High officials for years have opened the school year with written, public-address and in-person warnings against "initiation" activities. They weren't effective, Casey Culpepper said.

"Everybody would just start to laugh, because everybody knew that nobody ever got punished for it," she said.

Perhaps that's what shocked students, parents and others who complained of overkill last fall when police charged eight teenage boys, including seven students, with abduction or assault or both. The students were sentenced to probation and community service, and expelled from school. At least some have been allowed to return, however, for their senior year.

This week, those warnings will be amplified, said Arthur V. Brandriff Jr., the school's principal for 37 years. School officials will emphasize their legal right to discipline students for actions off school property, if they're on their way to or from classes, he said.

Officials also plan to emphasize that volunteering to be hazed also is wrong. Police will beef up their presence around the school, including officers on bicycles. And student leaders will be recruited to talk to their peers, under the assumption that students will listen to them more than to adults.

A specific prohibition against hazing was added to the school division's policy in the fall, following a state directive. No other steps are planned, board members said. They're expecting that expelling hazers last fall put students on notice.

"How many times," School Board member James A. Jay Leftwich Jr. asked, "are you supposed to tell somebody that you're not supposed to do something?"

"Some of them were good kids," said Jack J. Bider, the Chesapeake Police detective stationed at the school. "It sounds like it could be an innocent thing when you're back. But you have to put yourself in these victim's positions."

School shouldn't be a place you're scared to go to, especially your first day."

"Powder Puff" Football Game Out of Bounds

A muddy, violent girls' football "game" pushed high school hazing into the public eye. Television viewers around the world repeatedly saw the videotape in May 2003 of Chicago-area seniors beating and kicking their junior schoolmates and dumping buckets of urine, feces and animal entrails on them.

Five students were hospitalized, one with a fractured skull and tailbone. Sixteen others were convicted of battery or alcohol charges, including Marnie Gaule. Thirty-three were expelled from school. Two mothers were convicted of providing beer to minors. Lawsuits were filed.

Researchers say hazing occurs regularly in high schools nationwide, affecting many thousands annually.

Tips for Parents

  • Educate yourself. Read books on hazing from your library. Find out what your state's laws and school division's policies are concerning hazing.
  • Ask what measures your school or division is taking to prevent hazing and how they respond--the repercussions--when it occurs.
  • Ask your PTA or school administrators to invite police to talk to parents and students about hazing and the law.
  • Talk to other parents, especially of older children and your children's teammates. What have their children seen or experienced about hazing?
  • If your children have been hazed, tell school officials immediately. If physical abuse was involved, call police. Though your children may be reluctant to "tell on" peers, get details from them about the incident.
  • Set a good example--be independent yourself. Don't participate in activities that degrade people.
  • Encourage your children's individuality. Help them choose activities fostering positive social skills, and encourage them to choose friends who show them respect.
  • Most importantly, talk to your children. Make sure they know they can talk with you about anything that's making them uncomfortable.
  • Here's where you pull out the "if everyone else jumped off a bridge, would you, too?" speech. Remind them that they shouldn't feel pressured to do something, despite tradition or crowd mentality.
  • Talk specifically about hazing. Discuss how they should handle a hypothetical hazing situation. Don't lecture--it's more effective for your children to tell you what they'd do or what they think. Remind them that often it only takes one person to speak out or take a different action to change a situation, that it's important to tell them or school officials whenever students cause other students harm.
  • And explain that physical or mental abuse, big or small, shouldn't be part of joining groups or being "cool." It also could be illegal.

Sources: KidsHealth, StopHazing.org, Guidance Channel Online

News researcher Ann Kinken Johnson contributed to this report.

Reach Matthew Bowers at (757) 222-5120 or matthew.bowers@pilotonline.com.


INDIANAPOLIS STAR (Indianapolis, IN) Nov. 17, 2004, n.p.

Reprinted by permission. Distributed by Tribune Media Services.

When Rites Are Wrong: Opponents of Hazing Mobilize Forces

By T.J. Banes The Indianapolis Star http://sks.sirs.com/cgi-bin/hst-article-display?id=SPL2300-0-3494&artno=0000205419&type=ART&shfilter=U&key=&res=Y&ren=Y&gov=Y&lnk=Y&ic=N Accessed on 03/29/2006 from SIRS Researcher via SIRS Knowledge Source <http://www.sirs.com>

A scar the size of a dime on Jessica Zimmerman's right hip tells the story of an event that changed her life forever.

She was a freshman at DePauw University, among people she considered close friends. After inducing her to drink alcohol, they branded her with a lighted cigarette as part of an initiation.

"If I had a daughter or a friend who wanted to pledge a sorority today, I wouldn't discourage her, but I'd make sure she knew how to set boundaries," says Zimmerman, now 26. She has a master's degree in mental health counseling and is four credits shy of her school counseling license.

Hazing, as a rite of passage, has been documented in professional football, the military and other groups. But it is most associated with college fraternity life.

A half-dozen "pledge paddles" line the wall of Sigma Nu's fraternity house TV room at Butler University, but they are for decoration only.

"We don't haze; we don't believe in any of it," says Daniel Walt, a senior at Butler and a fraternity member.

Sigma Nu does not allow hazing, but it does employ a seniority system: Younger members mop the floors more often than the older ones. That isn't unlike a football practice, in which rookies do the grunt work, such as lugging the veterans' shoulder pads from the locker room to the practice field and back. Like Sigma Nu, most Greek organizations agree not to haze initiates.

Still, the number of hazing incidents nationwide continues to make headlines.

Last year, Franklin College professor Hank Nuwer tracked more than 200 media reports of hazing throughout the United States; nearly double the number of reports two years ago. With a grant from the college, Nuwer plans to compile the most up-to-date listing of national hazing incidents. He says his current research shows that more incidents involved fraternities than sororities. The greatest increase was in high school athletics, says Nuwer.

"Nobody really knows if the incidents are increasing, but the media is definitely more on top of it," says Nuwer. Part of that is making people understand what hazing is, added Nuwer.

"Hazing means different things to different people," says Daniel Walt, who came to Butler from Quincy, Ill.

He advises anyone considering joining a group to learn precisely what's involved in its initiation ritual. "You have to be clear with yourself: 'This is what I'm going to accept; if this happens, no.' Know what your limits are. And if you can't comfortably talk with (the members) about what makes you uncomfortable, then you're best not doing it."

Ritual Burning

In Zimmerman's case, she didn't see it coming.

As a condition of a lawsuit settlement between her and members of Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority, Zimmerman is not allowed to publicly discuss specifics of the ritual that took place in the fall of 1997. The incident, however, was widely publicized at the time, including a national report on ABC's "20/20," and in a book on hazing, "Wrongs of Passage," (Indiana University Press, $13.97) by Nuwer.

Zimmerman's mother, Cindie Shaleen, who is organizing the first Indiana chapter of Mothers Against School Hazing (MASH, Inc.), says Zimmerman was one of six "pledges," or would-be members, taken into a darkened dorm room.

Sorority members entered the room dressed in sheets, chanting, and encouraged the girls to drink alcohol. They then burned them with cigarettes, causing scars said to be "a family sign," "a tradition," recalls Shaleen. The next day, Zimmerman received medical treatment for the burns.

People often think of hazing as paddling, drinking games and other "Animal House" behavior.

Hazing ranges from seemingly innocuous activities such as blindfolding and scavenger hunts to dangerous, extreme physical punishments including sleep deprivation and excessive exercise, according to www.stophazing.org.

Those involved often look at hazing as an unpleasant way of earning membership in a club, team or even military branch.

The U.S. Department of Education requires colleges to report offenses. However, some psychological abuse such as insults or name-calling go unreported

Some experts say laws and school bans might actually increase interest in hazing as a kind of secret taboo. Others say television shows such as "Jackass" and "Fear Factor" might contribute to the number of hazing incidents across the country.

Mothers List Tips on How to Stop Hazing, Bullying

The Indianapolis Star

Mothers Against School Hazing Inc. (MASH), a nonprofit national organization, describes hazing as bullying, a negative act or words to hurt, embarrass or humiliate another person.

Following are some tips the organization offers for parents and their children to stop bullying and hazing:

  • Refuse to be a spectator.
  • Report incidents. Tell school or university authorities.
  • Use distractions to stop the incident.
  • Befriend a lonely student who may be vulnerable to bullies.
  • Talk about hazing and bullying with friends, school counselors and parents.
  • If you or your child is subjected to bullying or hazing, seek medical attention and counseling.
  • Understand that feeling threatened is a form of hazing.
  • Educating children and young adults about hazing is the first step in stopping it.

On the Web:

http://www.mashinc.org, Mothers Against School Hazing.

http://www.stophazing.org, provides definitions, laws and resources about hazing.

http://www.hazing.hanknuwer.com, Hank Nuwer, author of four books on hazing.

http://www.campuspeak.com, Denver organization provides educational speakers and programs for college students and administrators.



Reprinted, with permission, from THE AMERICAN SCHOOL BOARD JOURNAL, August 2000. Copyright 2000, the National School Boards Association. All rights reserved.

BRUTAL RITUALS, DANGEROUS RITES High School Hazing Grows Violent and Humiliating by Kevin Bushweller http://sks.sirs.com/cgi-bin/hst-article-display?id=SPL2300-0-3494&artno=0000121184&type=ART&shfilter=U&key=&res=Y&ren=Y&gov=Y&lnk=Y&ic=N Accessed on 03/29/2006 from SIRS Researcher via SIRS Knowledge Source <http://www.sirs.com>

Christopher Wall was afraid to go into the varsity football locker room at his Mansfield, Texas, high school. Once, he recalls, when a junior varsity player wandered into the locker room to retrieve some socks, he was wrestled to the floor and kicked by a gang of older kids.

That's why Christopher stayed away. But one November morning, a coach told him to return his football equipment to the varsity locker room. Christopher figured he was safe just this once. But after he dropped off his gear and hurried to leave, teenage voices and shadows in the background made him uneasy.

Suddenly, a bulkier, older varsity player stepped in front of him. The veteran player asked what grade he was in. Before 15-year-old Christopher could answer, a gang of boys emerged from the shadows and grabbed and punched him in the chest and shoulders. Christopher recalls: "I was thinking: I just need to get out." Trapped in a blur of flailing arms, the 5-foot-11-inch, 145-pound boy broke free. He raced past rows of lockers to a door leading outside.

When he returned home, he told his mother he was having trouble breathing. According to a doctor's report provided to AMERICAN SCHOOL BOARD JOURNAL, the group beating resulted in "contusions to the chest area" and a "mild appearance" of fluid in the lungs.

Christopher's parents transferred their son to a private school.


This boy's experience, unfortunately, is no anomaly. A rash of increasingly violent and humiliating hazing incidents in high schools--especially on athletic teams--is alarming school officials across the country.

In Trumbull, Conn., for example, nine members of a high school wrestling team were charged this winter with felonious assault and reckless endangerment for brutally hazing younger teammates. In that case, a 15-year-old wrestler was bound with tape, rolled up in a wrestling mat, and thrown against a wall. Then the boy was held down while teammates raped him with the handle of a plastic knife.

In San Angelo, Texas, four varsity players allegedly beat a junior varsity player with a paddle made from a baseball bat. In Howard County, Md., younger high school soccer players were forced to stand bent over, facing a wall, while older players kicked soccer balls at them. One boy suffered a concussion when a ball knocked his head against a wall, according to the Baltimore Sun. And in Avon, Ind., an overnight high school football camp included nighttime beatings of younger players with electrical cords, belts, and tennis balls stuffed in socks.

Hazing--the practice of seasoned veterans intimidating, humiliating, or physically punishing younger recruits as a rite of passage--is nothing new, of course. In recent years, some brutal hazing rituals in the military were captured on videotape and later aired on national television. Veteran soldiers who defended the brutality argue that it toughens new recruits for the mental and physical trials of war. In sports, to deflate young superstar egos, older teammates often humiliate rookie athletes. And, many college fraternities and sororities are notorious for their bizarre or potentially deadly initiation rites.

Less known was how frequently this goes on in high schools, says Hank Nuwer, author of HIGH SCHOOL HAZING: WHEN RITES BECOME WRONGS. Over the past few years, Nuwer says, there has been an increasing number of reported cases in high schools, some of the incidents followed by costly lawsuits filed against school districts for failing to prevent hazing. Not only has the number of such incidents grown, he says, but so have the degree of violence involved and the pressure to perform humiliating simulated sex acts. In some instances, Nuwer says, human excrement has been rubbed on students' faces and older kids have urinated on younger ones, creating potentially serious health hazards. Most of the reported incidents involve athletic teams, but Nuwer says hazing occurs in other aspects of high school life as well.

The only national survey of hazing shows it is probably more pervasive than most school officials would like to believe. Nearly eight of every 10 college athletes reported they experienced questionable or unacceptable initiation rites, according to an Alfred University study (http://www.alfred.edu/news/html/executive_summary.html). Of the 255,637 college athletes who reported being hazed in college during the 1998-99 academic year, more than four of every 10 said they were subjected to hazing in high school, and one of every 20 said it happened in middle school.

In Christopher's case, Nuwer sees many of the typical signs of hazing: Older students intimidating younger ones. Gangs of kids fueling each other's aggression. A general fear, among younger players, of the veterans.

Even so, school officials refuse to call Christopher's beating an incident of hazing. After Mansfield Independent School District police conducted an investigation and interviewed the 12 kids involved, says district spokesperson Sherilyn Conn, "it appeared to us not to be an organized hazing incident. It was not a premeditated plan." She says the district saw the beating more as a random act of aggression.

Beyond that, says Conn, the punishment for the students involved was "swift and harsh." They were slapped with three to six days of in-school suspension and suspended for a few games if they were playing winter or spring sports. Says Conn: "We felt we made an absolute statement that this behavior would not be tolerated."

Christopher and his parents see it differently. They believe a culture of intimidation and aggression existed in the locker room. That, they say, is what set the stage for their son's beating. "This is horrible that kids are doing this to other kids," says Rose Mary Wall, Christopher's mother. "It just terrifies and appalls me."

In the cafeteria the day of the beating, Christopher says, some of the students involved were bragging: "Yeah, we got him." Worse still, after his parents reported the incident to school officials, Christopher says a friend called to tell him the older boys were angry. Christopher believes they wanted to settle the score: "I felt very fearful."


On a cold December night in Essex, Vt., Lizzie Murtie--a 5-foot-1-inch, 100-pound, 14-year-old who collected Beanie Babies and worshipped the older girls on her high school gymnastics team--was trapped. She was standing in a parking lot, surrounded by a circle of cars and dozens of teenagers.

Earlier that night, Lizzie had to don a tennis outfit and stand on a busy street corner and sing "I'm a little teapot, short and stout." After a few other relatively harmless initiation rituals, Lizzie thought the night was over and the kids would head back to a teammate's house for what had been billed to parents as a team sleepover.

That's when the veteran gymnasts drove Lizzie and the other rookies to the parking lot. A boy was standing on the edge of the circle. One by one, the older girls ordered the younger ones to walk over to the boy, get on their knees, and put their hands behind their back. Then, they had to eat a banana that was protruding out of the boy's zipper.

According to Lizzie's mother, Linda Murtie, if the rookie gymnasts didn't do what they were told, the older girls warned them they would not be considered part of the team. And, if they told anyone about what happened in that parking lot, they would get everyone in trouble--maybe even cause the gymnastics season to be canceled.

Lizzie, fear and confusion swirling in her head, did what she was told to do. So did the other younger girls.

The gymnastics season went on, and Lizzie competed. But she told nobody about the hazing. "After it happened, I tried to block it out of my mind, but I still knew it was there," she told AMERICAN SCHOOL BOARD JOURNAL. "I got really depressed. I had trouble concentrating. My grades dropped. I didn't want to be around any of my friends. I just pretty much stayed at home in my room. I felt like I couldn't trust anybody. I had looked up to them, the seniors--most of them were good students, going on to college."

Near the end of the school year, long after the gymnastics season ended, a parent overheard her daughter talking about the incident and reported it to the gymnastics coach. The Murties were contacted. Linda Murtie recalls her daughter crying that day and saying over and over: "I can finally tell you."

That was more than three years ago. But Linda Murtie still bristles at what she considers a lackluster response from the school. She believes none of the students involved were punished.

Mike Deweese, co-superintendent of the Chittenden Central Supervisory Union, which includes Essex High School, disagrees. Most of the students were held accountable, he says. Because the incident was reported to school officials near the end of a school year, Deweese says, the district gave the students involved three choices: They could choose not to attend graduation ceremonies, commit to 30 hours of community service, or put in 10 hours of work developing a school anti-hazing program. They all chose the community service, Deweese says, and only two of the 12 did not honor that commitment. Those two were seniors.

All the sophomores and juniors returning for the next school year were put on athletic probation for a full year. And, Deweese says, the students paid for revisions to the school's yearbook to cover up surreptitious references to bananas in the "Locker Room Chatter" section of that year's edition.

On one thing, though, Linda Murtie and Deweese do agree: "It was a disturbing incident," he says.


Fortunately, Lizzie bounced back. Next year, she will be the captain of her gymnastics team. And she's become a high-profile opponent of hazing in her state and in the nation. She lobbied the legislature to pass Vermont's first anti-hazing law and was invited to join the governor this spring when he signed the bill into law.

But her lobbying for the law likely would have fallen on deaf ears if not for a disturbing hazing scandal this winter involving the much touted University of Vermont (UVM) hockey team, says Bill Sorrell, the state's attorney general. In a disgusting display of human behavior, UVM freshman hockey players were pressured to drink warm beer and eat seafood pie until they vomited and to participate in a bizarre ritual called the "elephant walk," in which the freshmen stripped off their clothes and stood in a line with other rookies. Older players ordered them to grab the genitals of the player in front of them and walk around the room without breaking the human chain.

The incident made national headlines when a freshman player who endured it, but was later cut from the team, filed a lawsuit against the university for failing to prevent hazing. During a university investigation, virtually every player lied to investigators, according to Sorrell. When school officials learned that they had been deceived, the university president canceled the remainder of the team's season.

The more Sorrell dug into the issue, he says, the more convinced he became that the Murtie family was right--Vermont needed an anti-hazing law. "What makes hazing difficult is the issue of consent," says Sorrell. "Some say 'I had a great time.' Others say 'I had a miserable time.' And others see it as a necessary evil." Psychologists say most students endure hazing and never tell anyone outside the group because of an overwhelming need to belong.

Indeed, in Sorrell's follow-up investigation, a veteran UVM player defended the tradition: "I enjoyed it. It was fun. It's a bonding experience for us."

"That's bull," says Art Taylor, a psychologist at the Center for the Study of Sport in Society at Northeastern University in Massachusetts. Humiliating hazing rituals are more likely to tear people apart, destroy trust, and cause feelings of hatred, he says. What's more, he suggests, boys and men who enjoy hazing others in brutal or humiliating ways are more likely to become abusive husbands or fathers.

In the end, Vermont's anti-hazing law passed, but Sorrell believes it is not tough enough. The law provides for civil penalties of up to $5,000, but Sorrell wanted criminal penalties. Still, he says, it's a start. To begin with, the law makes it clear that a hazing victim's consent to endure a ritual is not a defense for the accused. The law also requires that all public school districts and colleges have anti-hazing policies in place by the 2001 school year. (For a breakdown of state-by-state anti-hazing laws, see http://www.stophazing.org/laws.html.)

Over the past several months, Sorrell says, he's heard from a number of public school parents who say hazing is practiced in their children's schools. In light of that, he warns school officials against assuming "that [hazing] is not going on or hasn't gone on." Schools can't afford to turn a blind eye to hazing, he says, because it can range from "the silly to the deadly."

Alice Haben knows the deadly consequences of hazing all too personally. Her son Nick--a muscular kid with a wide, welcoming smile--died in a college lacrosse team hazing incident at Western Illinois University in 1990. Now, Haben visits secondary schools and colleges to talk to students and educators about the dangers of hazing. "My point when I talk to young people is that they have to have control," she says.

Nick was just 18 when he was pressured to consume extraordinary amounts of hard liquor and beer, jump over bonfires, do push-ups and sit-ups, and swim in a creek--all part of a day of hazing. Eventually, Nick passed out and fell into a coma. But instead of taking him to the hospital, his older teammates, the ones running the hazing ritual, left Nick on the ground while the initiation rituals continued, according to his mother. Later, a group of rookies carried him back to his dorm room, where he died. His mother laments: "It would have taken only one person to save my son's life."

This year, Alice Haben is working with a group of parents in a school district in Illinois, where some parents are worried about the possibility of what Haben calls the "snowball effect." Each year, freshmen at the school are pressured to participate in a hazing ritual in which boys are forced to push a truck up a hill and girls have food smeared on their faces. But some parents fear that each successive class will try to outdo the previous one, inventing more dangerous or humiliating experiences. The event occurs off school grounds and not during school hours--still, Haben says, school officials need to confront it, especially if parents are worried.

Even if hazing is not happening in high school, she says, high school administrators should address the issue before students go to college. If students are taught to refuse to participate in dangerous hazing rituals, she believes, someone's life could be saved. "It's a power struggle--[the hazers] are saying, 'I'm better than you and if you do what I say you'll be as good as me,'" says Haben. "Kids need to know they have choices."


One difficult choice students have is to break the code of silence surrounding hazing. That's what happened last year at Avon High School in Avon, Ind.

Marina Hennessy, a reporter for the school's student newspaper, THE ECHO, had read about a hazing incident involving a swimming team at a nearby high school. Boys were apparently sexually assaulted with objects as part of the hazing rituals.

Marina didn't think anything like that could happen at her school. Indeed, she had heard that Avon's cross-country team practiced positive bonding rituals, such as rock climbing. Marina planned to write a fall sports roundup of these positive rituals. She started with the football team. And that's when her story took a decidedly different twist.

At a summer overnight football camp, players told her, rookies on the varsity football team (most of them sophomores) were beaten with electrical cords, belts, and tennis balls wrapped in socks. Sometimes the beatings were random; sometimes the rookies were ordered to line up to be hit. A few boys told Marina they thought the beatings made stronger, better football players of the rookies. But she says most kids believed it was a cruel and pointless tradition. In her story, one boy tells Marina: "I kind of wish the coaches would do something about it; instead we just lie in fear all night."

Pam Essex, an English and journalism teacher who serves as THE ECHO's faculty adviser, says the Avon principal, who has since been put on paid administrative leave for an unrelated matter, ordered Essex not to publish the story. The principal accused Marina of sensationalizing what was simply "youthful horseplay," according to Essex. But Marina's mother threatened that, if the story were killed, she would take it to the local newspaper or the school board. The principal backed off.

In the aftermath, the football coach--who was unaware of the team's hazing traditions--resigned. Dick Helton, Avon superintendent, says the new football coach has canceled the overnight camp this year. If the camp is started up again, Helton promises there will be more vigilant adult supervision. School administrators and coaches also plan to institute more positive initiation rituals to build team unity. And, Helton says, the district is thinking of having a sports psychologist talk to student athletes about the dangers of hazing.

As it is, the district has no specific anti-hazing policy because Helton believes current school policies addressing student behavior and conduct cover hazing. More important, Helton believes, is the fact that school officials are on the lookout.

Still, Essex, a 23-year teaching veteran, worries. She was startled by the comments of some students' fathers. After Marina's story attracted coverage from the local newspaper and television stations, some fathers told Essex they didn't see what the big deal was about the traditional beatings: "Well, that's what happened when I was in high school."

Essex says the younger football players had a much different reaction: "They came to me and said, 'Thank you for running that story.'"


It's tempting to believe your student-athletes would never haze teammates. But think again, warns Art Taylor, a psychologist at the Center for the Study of Sport in Society at Northeastern University. "The more a school board and athletic director play ostrich and put their heads in the sand, the more they're going to get these kinds of problems."

Anti-hazing experts say there are some commonsense ways to keep hazing out of your schools--and protect your district against legal action if a hazing incident occurs.

  • REACT IMMEDIATELY AND AGGRESSIVELY. At Glendale High school in Glendale, Calif., veteran football players chased younger players around the locker room, pinning victims on the floor or holding them against a wall while poking them in the pants with a sawed-off broom handle. When police investigated, none of the players said they were offended by the tradition. "They thought it was just goofing around," says Sgt. Rick Young of the Glendale City police department.

Because nobody complained, and because the broom handle was not used to sexually assault any students, the police dropped the case. The school district could have brushed the incident off and moved on. But it didn't. "We took it much more seriously [than the police]," says Mike Livingston, coprincipal of the 3,500-student school. "We don't think it's horseplay."

Students involved were suspended and made to do 40 hours of community service. Soon after, the school also created a policy that specifically banned hazing. What's more, Livingston says, school officials plan to hire locker-room security personnel.

  • HAVE A SPECIFIC ANTI-HAZING POLICY. Too often, anti-hazing policies are crafted only after an incident occurs. That's usually too late, says Douglas Fierberg, a Washington, D.C., attorney who has represented hazing victims in court cases. Schools without policies put themselves at greater risk of being sued.

Fierberg says anti-hazing policies should define hazing and identify behaviors that are unacceptable. Beyond that, he says, a policy needs to be communicated to students and school officials. "Do you have coaches include it as a discussion item at the beginning of the season? Or is it just a case of [the coaches saying], 'Here's the sign-up sheet, and by the way, what's your jock size?'"

  • EDUCATE YOUR COACHES. Many coaches participated in hazing rituals when they were younger, and some might believe the experience made them tougher, says Hank Nuwer, author of HIGH SCHOOL HAZING: WHEN RITES BECOME WRONGS. But "if a coach gives tacit approval of hazing," Nuwer warns, "that'll kill you in court."

A hazing scandal that led to the cancellation of the University of Vermont hockey season "set off a light bulb for all of us," says Jim Desmarais, executive director of the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association. This year, for the first time, the association's annual conference for high school athletic directors included a workshop on tactics for preventing hazing. Says Desmarais: "We need to heighten awareness."

  • HAVE ADULT SUPERVISION IN THE LOCKER ROOM. When Al Dobson became athletic director at New Hampshire's Lebanon High School, several coaches were not school employees. More often than Dobson liked, those coaches were late reaching the locker room because they were held up at their jobs. To ensure that there were adults in the locker room before the students arrived, he has tried to hire more coaches who work at the school. But sometimes that's easier said than done. It's difficult to find good coaches who also work in the school--and in some cases, men coach girls' teams and women coach boys' teams. That's why Glendale's Livingston says it's easier for his school to create a locker-room watchdog position.
  • SURVEY YOUR ALUMNI. Current students might not be willing to break the code of silence surrounding hazing, says Taylor, who suggests surveying alumni instead. What initiation rituals did they experience? Taylor says rituals are usually passed along from one class to the next.
  • PAY ATTENTION TO LITTLE THINGS. If you notice that older athletes aren't carrying equipment bags but younger ones are carrying two or three each, the older students are clearly bossing the younger ones around. And there could be more serious hazing behaviors going on, says Dobson: "It can escalate."

For more resources on this topic, go to http://www.stophazing.org.--Kevin Bushweller

Kevin Bushweller (kbushweller@nsba.org) is a senior editor of AMERICAN SCHOOL BOARD JOURNAL.



Modern Language Association (MLA)

Citation: "Hazing." Issues & Controversies On File 7 Aug. 1998. Issues & Controversies @ FACTS.com. Facts On File News Services. 29 Mar. 2006 <http://www.2facts.com>.

Issue Date: August 07, 1998


Like many other college students, 25-year-old Michael Davis wanted to join a fraternity. But in February 1994, as part of his initiation into the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity at Southeast Missouri State University in Cape Girardeau, Davis and other pledges were pummeled, bodyslammed and kicked repeatedly by elder fraternity members. After losing consciousness, Davis died as a result of trauma to the brain. According to an autopsy report, Davis also suffered broken ribs, a lacerated kidney and a bruised liver.

Eileen Stevens, president of the Committee to Halt Useless College Killings (CHUCK), says that Davis is one of about 70 people, mostly young males, who have died as a result of hazing rituals during the past two decades. After losing her own son, Chuck Stenzel, in a hazing incident in 1978, Stevens founded CHUCK to raise awareness about the potential dangers of hazing and to lobby for antihazing laws.

Although it may take many different forms, hazing usually involves forcing a person to endure some sort of physical or mental abuse, harassment or humiliation as a condition of gaining membership or acceptance into a group. In the U.S., hazing is most often associated with gaining admission to college fraternities, but it is also practiced by many other groups, including sports teams, marching bands, police academies, the armed forces, street gangs and military academies. Hazing may even occur at the workplace, where new employees may be taunted, harassed or forced to perform humiliating acts before they are accepted by coworkers.

College fraternities--and to a lesser degree, sororities--continue, however, to be the organizations most involved with hazing and hazing-related deaths. To combat the problem, national fraternities and sororities have passed rules to outlaw hazing among their local chapters, and in recent years they have been quick to condemn serious hazing incidents when they occur. Likewise, nearly every college and university now has an antihazing policy, although there is debate over whether those policies have been enforced effectively.

As the public has become more aware of the potential dangers of hazing, state lawmakers have also responded by passing laws to punish hazers more severely. Since 1978, more than 30 states have either passed antihazing laws or have strengthened their existing laws regarding hazing, bringing the total number of states with antihazing laws to 40.

While there is consensus that the most physically abusive and life-threatening forms of hazing should be punished, some observers believe that hazing in its less severe manifestations is relatively harmless. They are concerned that some antihazing laws are so broadly written that they may outlaw innocent rituals, pranks and other initiation customs that fraternities have practiced for decades without mishap. In addition, they note that in most cases, the alleged victims of hazing are willing participants, students who have freely chosen to join a fraternity and willingly accept some kind of hazing as part of their initiation.

Some of the most outspoken defenders of hazing hail from military institutions and academies, where it is sometimes hard to distinguish acts of hazing from the routine physical and mental hardships that cadets encounter in boot camp. Some military personnel say that initiation rituals, even those that involve some amount of physical harm, can serve an important role by building trust among soldiers or cadets. By enduring hazing, new cadets can show their fellow soldiers that they "have what it takes" to face the grueling physical and mental challenges of war.

Proponents of strong antihazing laws, on the other hand, contend that all hazing is dehumanizing and should be outlawed. Too often, they say, hazing has resulted in the death or serious injury of students who are pressured into joining a group and who endure brutal hazing simply to gain the respect of their peers. Hazing opponents argue that fraternity and military leaders should institute positive, constructive customs to initiate new members and build solidarity, rather than what they call the sadistic hazing practices that continue to be a common part of fraternity and military life.

Even among the most vocal opponents of hazing, however, there is disagreement over the best approach to curb the practice. Some favor strong laws that punish hazers as criminals and hold national fraternities liable for any harmful incidents of hazing that occur among their local chapters. They also support the growing trend among colleges and universities to closely regulate or even eliminate fraternities and sororities.

But others are concerned that broad antihazing policies may backfire by forcing fraternities and other groups to be even more secretive about hazing. They fear that hazing activities could become more severe and dangerous if they are practiced off campus, far from the sight of supervising officials or the public eye. Rather than being regarded as adversaries, they say, national fraternities should be viewed as allies who can play an effective role in reducing hazing.

Roots of Military Hazing

According to social psychologists, one of the main purposes of hazing and other initiation rites is to build group solidarity. Prolonged hazing works to break down a person's earlier group allegiances and replace them with new beliefs and loyalties, according to James Ogloff, a psychology professor at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada. "The whole idea with hazing, the purpose of any kind of team activity--and this is why you see it in the military, in fraternities and in sports teams--is the process of de-individuation, in which one must lose his identity as an individual and emerge as a member of a collective," says Ogloff.

In military institutions, where group solidarity is considered essential for the success of combat units, hazing has had an especially long history. Captain Andrew Wilcox, a commanding officer in the U.S. Marine Corps, says "bizarre rites of passage" have been used in the military for centuries "to impart tradition to sailors and Marines." In one such tradition, dating back at least to the 18th century, navy sailors who were sailing past the equator for the first time were treated to a "crossing-the-line" ceremony. Nicknamed "wogs," the sailors were struck with fire-hose whips and forced to crawl through garbage. A version of the rite is still practiced today.

Hazing has also been pervasive in the nation's military academies. Even Douglas MacArthur, the commander of Allied troops in the Pacific during World War II, had suffered hazing as a first-year student, or "plebe," at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y. In 1900, the young MacArthur and other cadets were forced to testify before a congressional panel that was investigating a hazing-related death at the school. Asked about his own experiences, MacArthur testified that he had been hazed so brutally that his body went into convulsions, but like many other victims of hazing, he refused to name those who abused him. Hazing at West Point "was practiced with a worthy goal, but with methods that were violent and uncontrolled," MacArthur reflected decades later, in his book Reminiscences (1965).

Another military school, the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) in Lexington, was beset by a rash of high-profile hazing incidents during the 1920s. As part of school tradition, first-year cadets at VMI undergo a harsh year-long initiation ritual, now known as the "ratline," characterized by physical ordeals and incessant verbal harassment. In the 1920s version of the ratline, a student named Frank Dinges was beaten so badly during his initiation, according to news reports, that his appendix had to be removed. After an investigation into the incident showed that hazing was widespread, the Virginia state legislature responded by passing one of the nation's first antihazing laws in 1928. Under the law, hazing was defined as mistreatment that results in "bodily injury."

Seventy years later, hazing continues to be a problem at VMI and other military academies. In May 1998, three VMI seniors were indicted by a Rockbridge County, Va. grand jury for allegedly beating six freshman on a regular basis for months. As part of a hazing rite, the freshmen were reportedly beaten on the thighs and buttocks three times a week with belts--and once with a coat hanger.

At The Citadel military academy in Charleston, S.C., cadets Kim Messer and Jeanie Mentavlos cited severe harassment and hazing as the reason for their decision to leave the school in January 1997. Messer and Mentavlos were two of four women to attend the first coeducational class at the formerly all-male school, which was forced to admit women for the first time in 1996 as a result of a 1995 Supreme Court ruling. Messer and Mentavlos said that they were repeatedly punched and kicked by upperclassmen, and that on several occasions their clothing was doused with lighter fluid and set on fire. [See 1998 Integration at VMI and The Citadel]

Following an investigation of the alleged hazing at The Citadel, the Justice Department issued a report in January 1998 that found that "hazing, including physical abuse, still exists to a disturbing degree" at the military college. The report said investigators had uncovered incidents in which male cadets had carved letters into other cadets' flesh, punched staples into their chests and cut their faces with swords.

Since hazing is usually practiced secretly, the public rarely has a chance to witness hazing firsthand. But in January 1997, the Cable News Network (CNN) and the television news program "Dateline NBC" broadcast amateur videotapes of a hazing tradition involving Marine Corps paratroopers. The videotapes depicted an unofficial rite, known as "blood pinning," in which newly acquired medals were pounded into the chests of paratroopers, some of whom writhed and screamed in pain. [See 1998 'Blood Pinning': Harmless Tradition or Abusive Hazing?]

Amateur videotapes have also helped shed light on brutal hazing practices in Canada's infantry. The Canadian Airborne Regiment, an elite fighting unit, was rocked by scandal in January 1995 when videotapes showing the regiment's gruesome hazing rituals were released. The videotapes depicted Airborne soldiers receiving electric shocks and being forced to eat feces, vomit and bread soaked with urine. Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien called the regiment's behavior "horrible and unacceptable." Citing the hazing incidents and other scandals involving Airborne soldiers, Canadian Defense Minister David Collenette disbanded the regiment later that month.

Fraternity Hazing

According to Hank Nuwer, author of Broken Pledges: The Deadly Rite of Hazing (1990), veterans and former cadets at military academies may have been partly responsible for introducing the more violent forms of hazing to college fraternities. Greek-letter fraternities, which began to be formed in the late 1700s, have included initiation rituals since they were founded, but those early initiations rarely included physical abuse, harassment or heavy alcohol drinking. In fact, hazing at colleges and universities was seldom a problem until the late 19th century, when fraternities began to embrace more dangerous pranks and physically violent initiation rituals, perhaps in imitation of the hazing that was commonplace among military schools at the time.

At first, the most serious hazing that took place at colleges and universities stemmed from class rivalries. Traditional battles royal, or "scraps," between sophomores and freshmen at some colleges, for example, pit the classes against one another in physical contests. The confrontations erupted into violence during the early 1900s at many schools, including St. John's College in Annapolis, Md., Columbia College in New York City, and Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J. At Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pa., school faculty suspended the entire sophomore class in 1909 for a hazing incident involving the class and a group of freshmen.

Hazing became less common during World War II, since many college-aged men were fighting overseas. But after the war ended in 1945, veterans began enrolling in college in record numbers and hazing resumed. In a number of cases, veterans who enrolled in college introduced strenuous physical hazing that gave some fraternity pledge programs "a boot-camp aura," according to Nuwer.

By the 1970s, many fraternities had gained a reputation for their wild parties, risky pranks and abusive hazing. Movies, such as the 1978 hit Animal House, reinforced that image, although many fraternities complained that popular culture depicted them unfairly. By most accounts, however, national fraternities did little to dispel their reputation at the time and rarely enforced official regulations against hazing.

Also by the 1970s, alcohol had become an increasingly central part of fraternity parties and pledge initiations. Fraternity pledges are often encouraged or forced to drink large amounts of alcohol in short periods of time, a practice known as binge drinking. According to Stevens, alcohol is a factor in 98% of all fatal hazing incidents. She says hazing fatalities are often not counted correctly since they are reported only as alcohol-related accidents by many college officials. [For more information on binge drinking, see 1998 Alcohol Issues]

Although hazing had traditionally been associated with fraternities, reports of sorority hazing also began to surface in the 1970s. Sorority hazing less often includes physical abuse, but frequently involves harassing or publicly humiliating pledges. [See 1998 Hazing and Sororities]

During the 1980s, colleges began to monitor hazing more closely and to penalize it more severely. In addition to the passage in many states of antihazing laws, national fraternities and sororities issued strong regulations to forbid their local chapters from hazing. In part, national fraternities have been compelled to crack down on hazing to lower their court costs. Since the mid-1980s, national fraternities have faced an onslaught of lawsuits from pledges harmed by hazing and from the families of students killed in hazing incidents.

In a recent case, Joseph Snell was awarded $375,000 in punitive damages against the Psi Phi fraternity in July 1997. Snell, a former student at the University of Maryland in College Park, alleged that members of the fraternity beat him on a regular basis with a hammer, horsehair whip and the legs of a chair. The fraternity argued, unsuccessfully, that it was not responsible for Snell's injuries since it did not authorize or condone the hazing committed by individual fraternity members.

In the case of Michael Davis, the 25-year-old who died after being beaten in a hazing incident in 1994, the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity agreed to pay Davis's family $2.25 million to settle a wrongful death suit. In addition, several members of the fraternity were convicted of hazing, then a misdemeanor in Missouri. In the wake of Davis's death, however, the Missouri legislature passed a law in 1995 to reclassify hazing as a felony carrying a penalty of up to seven years in prison. [See 1998 Antihazing Laws In the States]

Are Antihazing Laws Needed?

Not everyone believes that state antihazing laws are necessary or effectual. Critics point out that nearly every college and university already has rules to discourage and punish hazing. They say colleges and universities are in the best position to detect and punish hazing when it occurs since they are closer to the problem and can better assess the seriousness of individual incidents. Students who are not deterred by their school's antihazing policies, they add, will likely not be deterred by state laws either.

Others contend that antihazing laws are redundant since every state already has laws that outlaw physical assault and other acts, such as kidnapping and forced confinement, that a hazing incident might involve. It does not make sense for antihazing laws to "compete" with those other laws, opponents say, especially since the penalties for assault and kidnapping are usually much stiffer than the penalties for hazing.

In some cases, the laws against hazing have gone overboard, according to opponents. Besides outlawing physical abuse, most state antihazing laws also target activities that might cause embarrassment or mental stress. Such laws, they contend, often hinge on vague and subjective views of what constitutes mental stress. Almost any initiation act, even the required memorization of an oath or the memorization of a fraternity's history, might be considered stressful by some people, they say.

Under an antihazing measure debated by the Colorado legislature in early 1998, acts of hazing that lead to "severe emotional distress" would have been outlawed. Critics of the measure argued that the language of the bill would subject fraternities and sororities to criminal penalties for simply asking students to wear funny hats or to dance in public. "What about running laps?" asked Chris Butler, a student at Colorado State University in Fort Collins and an opponent of the law. "To some people that can be emotionally troubling," he said. As of July 1998, debate over the measure in the Colorado legislature had stalled.

Critics of antihazing laws also say that most cases of hazing are not only harmless, but can often be rewarding for everyone involved. The majority of pledges who undergo a hazing ritual are still eager to join their fraternities when the ordeal is over, and many view their hazing as a positive experience, one that builds character and forges ties with the group. When "Dateline NBC" ran its footage of paratroopers getting their "blood pinnings," for example, many former paratroopers who suffered the practice said that they considered the experience to be an honor.

A related issue is the willingness of individuals to participate in hazing practices, even when they know that they might be harmed. Few victims of hazing are ever forced against their will to endure abuse, and in most cases they have the option of not participating by simply withdrawing as a pledge from the fraternity. "These people are adults," Butler noted, referring to students who consent to being hazed. "They have a right to submit to some degree of intimidation."

Judges and juries are sometimes reluctant to punish fraternity members for hazing when the alleged victims could have chosen not to participate. In June 1998, for example, Maryland District Court Judge Robert Horsey dismissed felony assault charges against members of the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity, who had been charged with beating pledges with canes and paddles every day for two months. Five pledges were hospitalized and at least two of them had to undergo surgery to remove infected flesh on their buttocks. But Horsey said that the pledges should have known that their beatings would continue and noted that other pledges chose to leave the fraternity rather than continue to endure the hazing. Referring to the hospitalized pledges, Horsey said, "I think they should have gotten smarter...and gotten out."

Stronger Laws Advocated

Advocates of strong antihazing laws, on the other hand, argue that consent should not be used to excuse hazing. Hazing victims are often intimidated and feel that they must obey their hazers to avoid suffering even more abuse, they argue. In many cases, they say, students are required to pledge their loyalty to the fraternity and to take vows of secrecy about their initiation ritual long before they fully realize the severity of the hazing that they are forced to endure. Afterward, pledges are often reluctant to betray the fraternity by reporting their abuse to authorities.

Frequently, fraternity members initially try to make pledges feel comfortable, so that the pledges will trust them. As a result, pledges are often surprised--and unprepared--for hazing when it begins, and may be too trusting to object to the abuse, according to critics. Adding to the problem, most victims of hazing are first encouraged or forced to drink large quantities of alcohol, which can cloud their judgment about their own safety.

While opponents of hazing applaud colleges and fraternities for adopting tough antihazing policies, they say that those measures are simply not enough. They say that state antihazing laws, which treat hazing a crime, are necessary since state laws can carry stiff penalties, such as jail time, that colleges cannot impose. In addition, schools have limited authority to regulate hazing that occurs off their campuses. It is difficult for schools to penalize hazing that takes place during an off-campus party, for example, or during a ski trip that is not sponsored by the school.

Others argue that colleges already do a poor job of monitoring hazing and of condemning it when it occurs. They say that because colleges and universities want to avoid bad publicity, the schools tend to underreport hazing and often fail to investigate claims of abuse. Virginia's antihazing law, for example, is often sharply criticized since it stipulates that only the presiding authority of a school can bring hazing charges. The law is weak, according to Nuwer, because it allows judgments over hazing to be made by a person "with a vested interest in the school not losing face."

Opponents also say that state laws prohibiting assault are an ineffective way to stop hazing, in part because they fail to acknowledge psychological hazing, such as sleep deprivation, ostracism and public humiliation. They contend that mental hazing can have a debilitating effect on the emotional health of students and can lead to more serious abuse, accidents and even suicide. Stevens cites hazing cases in which students have had recurring mental breakdowns and have been forced to leave college, jeopardizing their careers, as a result of the humiliation and mental abuse that they were forced to endure.

Furthermore, unlike other state criminal laws, most antihazing measures include provisions that allow entire groups, not just individuals, to be charged with hazing crimes. Prior to the passage of antihazing laws, fraternities and sororities often escaped criminal prosecution as groups, even though they organized or encouraged the hazing that resulted in a person's death or injury.

Most antihazing measures also allow fraternities and other clubs to be charged with a hazing crime even if the victim of the hazing refuses to cooperate with authorities. Antihazing advocates say such laws are needed to prevent fraternities from trying to threaten or silence victims and to send the clear message that even hazing that is ostensibly voluntary will not be tolerated.

Are Fraternities To Blame?

While many opponents of hazing favor the passage of tougher criminal antihazing laws, others believe that the best way to curb hazing is to target national fraternities. Alcohol is a factor in nearly all fatal hazing incidents, and hazing opponents blame fraternities for encouraging irresponsible drinking among new pledge members. Observers say that fraternities rarely obey minimum-age drinking laws, which prohibit anyone under the age of 21 from drinking alcohol and which make it a crime to serve alcohol to anyone underage.

The perils of excessive drinking among college fraternities were highlighted by the death of 18-year-old Scott Krueger in September 1997. Krueger died of an alcohol overdose following a fraternity pledge party during which he and other pledges were forced to drink alcohol until they vomited. Just one month earlier, 20-year-old Benjamin Wynne died from an alcohol overdose at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. Like Krueger, Wynne was also pledging into a fraternity.

Citing concerns over hazing, alcohol abuse and vandalism, some colleges have abolished fraternities and sororities from their campuses. The trend has been most prevalent among small, liberal arts colleges in the Northeast. Amherst College in Massachusetts and Colby College in Waterville, Maine both abolished their fraternities and sororities in the 1980s. More recently, Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine announced in March 1997 that it was planning to abolish fraternities and sororities by the year 2000. Anti-fraternity sentiment had been growing at Bowdoin since March 1996, when a student visiting from the University of Maine died by falling off the roof of a fraternity house during an unauthorized party.

In their defense, fraternities and sororities claim that they are the wrong targets in the campaign to curb hazing. Many fraternity and sorority leaders say that the Greek system has been unfairly stereotyped, and note that most fraternities and sororities devote an immense amount of time and money toward positive traditions, such as charity and volunteer work.

In early 1997, the National Panhellenic Conference and the National Interfraternity Conference, two of the nation's largest organizations representing fraternities and sororities, released a report showing the benefits of participating in the Greek system. The report found that members of fraternities and sororities are more likely to remain in school than other students and more likely to donate their time and money to their communities.

National fraternities and sororities are also quick to note their recent efforts to eliminate hazing. "Enforcement has been strong," said Jonathan Brant, executive vice-president of the National Interfraternity Conference. "Fraternities are not hesitating to close chapters or expel members. We are trying." Brant and other leaders contend that it is wrong to hold national fraternities responsible for the violent, unauthorized hazing committed by some rogue chapters and individual members.

Military Hazing

Regulating hazing among the armed forces and in military academies poses different problems than those raised by hazing among college fraternities. As part of their normal training in boot camp, soldiers and cadets are forced to endure various physical tests and ordeals on a regular basis. As a result, it is difficult to draw a precise line where the routine physical demands of being in boot camp end and where hazing begins.

Complicating the issue is the often brutal treatment that first-year students must endure as part of the traditional hazing at military academies, such as VMI, The Citadel and the Army's U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y. Under the "adversative" approach used at those schools, freshmen are ostracized, verbally harassed, demeaned and forced to perform strenuous physical activities, such as pushups or laps, at the whims of upperclassmen.

"Hazing is a relative term and is difficult to define in a military sense," says Marine Captain Wilcox. "The mental and physical stress we place on our recruits and officer candidates during introductory training probably would constitute hazing in a collegiate setting." But like many others who work in the military, Wilcox says that forcing cadets to undergo such ordeals is "is essential to building warriors," since it gives them a taste of the hardships that they could confront during wartime.

The sometimes brutal treatment that recruits and cadets are required to endure, Wilcox adds, are designed to test their courage and commitment to their military units. In the past, elder war veterans often severely hazed newcomers to their units, for example, to ensure that the inexperienced soldiers had the strength and stamina to be depended upon on the battlefield, where courage and mutual trust are essential.

"Acts of hazing--sometimes even violent acts--are rites of passage that link young Marines to their predecessors and teach them they can endure far more pain and stress than they thought they could," writes Dennis O'Brien, a staff writer for the Chicago Tribune and former Marine. O'Brien says that the public needs to recognize that training people for the Marines--a job in which soldiers are taught to kill as well as to risk their own lives--needs to include training in how to endure pain.

However, opponents of the adversative approach used in the armed forces and in military academies contend that such sanctioned abuse simply fosters resentment between those who are hazed and their abusers. They say that military leaders need to devise more constructive ways to develop and maintain group unity, such as cooperative games. Demeaning and abusing students, they say, does not serve to build solidarity, but only to weaken it.

Furthermore, opponents of military hazing argue that abusing new recruits only teaches cadets the wrong lessons, telling them that it is permissible to mistreat subordinates and demean fellow cadets. Some worry that hazing can become progressively more severe each year as a result of "hazing creep," the tendency of each new upper class to want to inflict more suffering than they themselves endured as new recruits.

Can Severe Hazing Be Stopped?

Analysts generally agree that there is a greater willingness on the part of colleges and universities, lawmakers, military leaders and fraternities to condemn hazing today there was a mere decade ago. Stevens remarks with optimism that hazing is something that is no longer "being swept under the rug" by national fraternities and sororities. She notes that many states have also begun to pass laws to specifically target hazing that occurs in high schools.

Some observers, however, are worried that tougher antihazing laws and penalties against fraternity chapters may force the practice of hazing to move underground. Hazing is already often shrouded in such secrecy that it is hard to uncover and punish, they say. They fear that hazing could become even more severe and secretive if fraternities are compelled to practice their initiation rites off campus, away from supervising authorities. At least when hazing takes place on campus, critics say, hazing victims have a greater opportunity to seek help or medical attention. When hazing occurs off campus, on the other hand, victims may feel trapped and unable to escape from their situation.

"Banning the offending organizations only forces the sadism underground or transfers it to another group eager to take its place among the elite in inflicting and suffering pain and humiliation," cautions David Lowery, an editorial writer for the Austin American Statesman. Lowery says fraternity leaders need to set a better example and begin to replace abusive hazing with more positive initiation rituals. "The law can't end ritual cruelty," he says, "but individuals can cripple it by rejecting it and destroying the allure."

Stevens, however, remains adamant that strong antihazing laws are necessary since they can help bring attention to the issue. When fraternities members are fined or sent to prison for hazing, she says, society is sending the message that hazing is wrong and will be punished.

Still, hazing has continued, despite the passage of antihazing laws in most states and greater efforts among colleges and fraternities to end the practice. Stevens says that the key to eliminating and preventing hazing is education. Students and their parents need to become informed about hazing, its dangers and the

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from Opposing Viewpoints center


A Culture of Violence?: Current Topics of Special Interest

Source Database: Information Plus: Youth Violence, Crime, and Gangs: Children at Risk

High homicide rates, gang violence, bullies, school shootings, crimes based on hate, tales of violent hazings at school, and young people's easy access to guns are just some of the issues frequently cited by the media, lawmakers, and the public as indications that a culture of violence pervades the United States. Whether one reads a newspaper in print or online or watches television, cable, or satellite news, stories featuring crime and violence permeate those publications and broadcasts. "Breaking news" events often spur a flurry of special reports on topics related to the news event. For example, after Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold went on a shooting rampage at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, in 1999, many reports focused on the easy availability of guns and youths' fascination with weapons. Or, when someone is killed in a drive-by shooting, reports often center on gang violence and what law enforcement is doing to prevent it. When the world learned the identities of the Washington, D.C.-area snipers and discovered one was a juvenile, it sparked discussion of whether juveniles should be tried as adults. During the subsequent trial of the young sniper, Lee Boyd Malvo, much debate focused on whether juveniles should be eligible for the death penalty.

Such topics might receive a lot of attention, then fade from view when another incident of a serious, but different, nature occurs. In time, many of those earlier topics are back in the news, the focus of new studies and the subject of much discussion. This chapter presents detailed information on several of the topics frequently discussed in the early twenty-first century.

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Works Cited

Michaels, Marty. "'Vanity Fair': Brouhaha at Private School." Chronicle of Philanthropy 18.6 (2006): 42-42. MasterFILE Premier. 31 March 2006. http://search.epnet.com.


Governance and Regulation 'Vanity Fair': Brouhaha at Private School


A HOST OF SCANDALS have plagued St. Paul's School, the elite boarding school in Concord, N.H. In an article for Vanity Fair, Alex Shoumatoff (Class of '64) returns to his alma mater to examine how the allegations have affected the "idyllic campus" and its students, teachers, administration, and alumni.

Mr. Shoumatoff writes that discontent had been long simmering, but incidents reached a head in August 2003 when The Wall Street Journal reported that then-rector Craig Anderson was being paid $524,000 a year in salary, bonuses, pension, and perks that included having his daughters' tuition at the University of Chicago put on the school's tab.

That was followed by an investigation by the New Hampshire attorney general's office, as well as an audit by the Internal Revenue Service on financial impropriety that is not yet concluded.

Since then the school has been rocked by other scandals, including allegations of sexual abuse and molestation by teachers and hazing violations by girls at the school.

The article chronicles the "stonewalling" that some parents and alumni received from the administration when they tried to get to the bottom of the allegations, leading them to form ad hoc committees and investigate the charges themselves.

Mr. Shoumatoff cites a fellow alumnus: "A school administration used to be able to handle [such] news. But now there are blogs and cell phones that spread rumors, and the school has to react. The ability to keep information private is gone, and that is really hard for the administration of a school."

He notes that St. Paul's has recruited an executive-search company in Princeton, N.J., to find a permanent replacement for Bill Matthews, interim rector since Mr. Anderson agreed to step down last year. According to Vanity Fair, "In October the firm circulated an admirably frank 12-page job announcement." The specifications include "leading the school with absolute integrity, humility, and transparency" and "making a concerted effort to rebuild bridges with disaffected alumni."

By Marty Michaels

Seven - Not using

"Hazing." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 26 Mar 2006, 14:46 UTC. 31 Mar 2006, 18:31 <http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Hazing&oldid=45567007>.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Hazing is often ritualistic harassment, abuse or humiliation with requirements to perform meaningless tasks; sometimes as a way of initiation into a social group. The term can refer to either physical or mental practices and is most frequently encountered in the USA: in the Commonwealth ragging or fagging is rather used. In continental European languages terms with a 'christening' theme or etymology are often preferred (e.g. baptême in French) or variations on a theme of naivety and the rite of passage such as a derivation from a term for freshman (e.g. bizutage in French, ontgroening 'de-green[horn]ing' in Dutch).

Often most or all of the endurance, or at least the more serious, is concentrated in an orgy-like session, which may be called hell night, or prolonged to a hell week and/or retreat or camp, sometimes again at the pledge's birthday (e.g. birthday spanking), but some traditions keep terrorizing pledges (a common term for the initiation candidates; alternative terms include newbie, rookie, mainly in athletic teams, and freshman) over a long period, resembling fagging. Contents [hide]

1 Scope 2 Controversy 3 Methods 4 See also 5 Sources and references



Hazing has been reported in a variety of social contexts, including:

  • Academic fraternities and sororities (see Fraternities and sororities)
  • College and Universities in general. This practice occurs no less in smaller institutions such as the officially sanctioned 'Kangaroo Court' at Quincy University, Illinois.
  • associated groups, like fan clubs, school bands
  • secret societies and even certain service clubs (such as the US Freemasons)
  • similarly various other competitive sports teams or clubs, even 'soft' and non-competitive ones (such as arts)
  • The armed forces — e.g. in the US, hard hazing practices from World War I boot camps were introduced into colleges. In Poland army hazing is called Polish fala "wave" adopted pre-World War I from non-Polish armies. In the Russian army (formerly the Red Army) still often excessive hazing is called "Dedovshchina".
  • Police forces (often with a paramilitary tradition)
  • Rescue services, such as lifeguards (also drilled for operations in military style)
  • In workplaces (Davis, 1998)
  • Inmate hazing is also common at confinement facilities around the world, including frequent reports of beatings and sexual assaults by fellow inmates. Nuwer recorded an incident at Lone Peak Minimum Security Facility in Bluffdale, Utah, USA in which soon-to-be released prisoners were allegedly hazed by prisoners scheduled to remain in custody.
  • Hazing in Indian colleges is known as "ragging," though there are some differences between the two. Compare fagging
  • various forms of 'fire baptism' for the 'graduating' novice apprentice in some sport of discipline, e.g. a pilot's first solo-flight.

It is a subjective matter where to draw to line between 'normal' hazing (somewhat abusive) and a mere Rite of passage (essentially bonding; proponents may argue they can coincide), and there is a gray area where exactly the other side passes over into sheer degrading, even harmful abuse that should not even be tolerated if accepted voluntarily (serious but avoidable accidents do still happen; even deliberate abuse with similar grave medical consequences occurs, in some traditions even rather often). Furthermore, as it must be a ritual initiation, a different social context may mean a same treatment is technically hazing for some, not for others, e.g. a Line-crossing ceremony when passing the equator at sea is hazing for the sailor while the extended (generally voluntary, more playfull) application to passengers is not. [edit]


The Glenbrook North High School hazing incident concerned many people worldwide

Although pervasive reports of hazing have been prevalent throughout the years, the practice of ritual abuse among social groups is poorly understood. This is partly due to the secretive nature that often accompanies rookie situations, especially within collegiate fraternities and sororities, and in part a result of long-term acceptance of hazing. Thus, it has been difficult for researchers to agree on the underlying social and psychological mechanisms that perpetuate hazing.

A tentative explanation from evolutionary psychology is that hazing activates the capture-bonding psychological trait better known as Stockholm syndrome.

Most critiques of hazing fail to note its origins or purpose. In military circles hazing serves to test recruits under situations of stress and hostility. This weeds out those weaker members prior to being put in situations where failure to perform will cost lives. Although not a perfect recreation of combat, hazing does put people into stressful situations that they are unable to control. A possible argument against the continued assertion that hazing victims must be suffering from 'Stockholm Syndrome' in order to be willing participants neglects to examine the viewpoint that recruits are motivated by a desire to prove to the senior soldiers their stability in future combat situations, making the unit more secure.

It would be more difficult to make such a case in favour of hazing ceremonies in academic bodies and social clubs, where the origin is imitating educational (parental and school) discipline in substitute households and internal teaching.

Under a grant from Franklin College in Indiana, USA, Professor Hank Nuwer is compiling a list of hazing incidents dating back to the founding of Harvard University. For the year 2000, Nuwer identified 861 reported cases of hazing in the Italian Army, 15 hazing deaths among Russian Federation troops (see Dedovshchina), 46 hazing-related incidents at U.S. college fraternities, 10 related to sororities and eight collegiate-sports-related hazing allegations.

In a 1999 study, a survey of 3293 collegiate athletes, coaches, athletic directors deans found the group favored a variety of approaches to prevent hazing including strong disciplinary and corrective measures for known cases, implementation of athletic, behavioral, and academic standards guiding recruitment; provisions for alternative bonding and recognition events for teams to prevent hazing; and law enforcement involvement in monitoring, investigating, and prosecuting hazing incidents (Dr. Nadine C. Hoover, Alfred University, 1999).

Hoover's research suggested half of all college athletes are involved in alcohol-related hazing incidents, while one in five are involved in potentially illegal hazing incidents. Only another one in five was involved in what Hoover described as positive initiation events, such as taking team trips or running obstacle courses.

"Athletes most at risk for any kind of hazing for college sports were men; non-Greek members; and either swimmers, divers, soccer players, or lacrosse players. The campuses where hazing was most likely to occur were primarily in eastern or southern states with no anti-hazing laws. The campuses were rural, residential, and had Greek systems," Hoover wrote. Hoover uses the term "Greek" to refer to US style fraternities and sororities.

Non-fraternity members were most at risk of hazing, though a US-style fraternity system on campus proved a strong indicator of hazing likelihood, Hoover reported. Football players are most at risk of potentially dangerous or illegal hazing, the study found.

In the May issue of the American Journal of Emergency Medicine, Michelle Finkel, MD, reported that hazing injuries are often not recognized for their true cause in emergency medical centers. The doctor said hazing victims sometimes hide the real cause of injuries out of shame or to protect those who caused the harm. In protecting their abusers, hazing victims can be compared with victims of domestic violence, Finkel wrote.

Finkel cites hazing incidents including "beating or kicking to the point of traumatic injury or death, burning or branding, excessive calisthenics, being forced to eat unpleasant substances, and psychological or sexual abuse of both males and females". Reported coerced sexual activity is sometimes considered "horseplay" rather than rape, she wrote. Finkel identified 56 hazing deaths between 1970 and 1999.

There is anti-hazing (French bizutage) law in France - till six moths or 7500 Euro. [edit]


Before the Great Depression, US hazing achieved an art form status amongst benevolent fraternities such as the Mooses and the Freemasons. The DeMoulin Catalog is a catalog of many hazing implements used, most famously the electric carpet. In many cases nowadays, the hardest abuse is usually only enacted for a photograph (sometimes even posted on the Internet) or video.

Reported hazing activities can involve all kinds of ridicule and humiliation within the group or in public - many of which could easily be considered abusive if a candidate were not a consenting adult - while others are quite innocent, akin to pranks. Examples of hazing, often performed in combination, include:

  • Spanking (see that article for details). This is done mainly in the form of paddling among fraternities, sororities, and similar (e.g. athletic) clubs, sometimes over a lap, a knee, furniture or a pillow (pile) with the victim 'assuming the position,' or bending over. A variation of this (also as punishment) is trading licks.
  • This practice is also used in the military (where a new round of hazing can follow a promotion, etc.). Alternative modes (including bare-buttock paddling, strapping, and switching, as well as mock forms of antiquated forms of physical punishments such as stocks, walking the plank, and running the gauntlet) have been reported in the US and other countries, even though all hazing is officially illegal.

  • Being wettened (as by sprinkler, buckets, hoses), soiled with dirt or (often rotten) food such as eggs, tomatoes and flour (also as a food fight etc.), even urinated upon. Olive- or baby oil may be used to 'show off' the bare skin, for wrestling or just slipperiness, e.g. to complicate pole climbing. Cleaning may be limited to a dive into water, hosing down or even paddling the worst off.
  • Tedious cleaning. Examples include swabbing the decks, cleaning the heads (e.g. with a toothbrush).
  • Servitude, such as waiting on others (as at frat parties) or various other forms of housework, often "bunny boy" style, or in se pointless tests of obedience.
  • Being made to eat or drink too much. Pledges are sometimes force-fed raw eggs, peppers, hot sauce, laxatives, various liquids or even alcohol (mainly beer). Some hazing includes eating or drinking vile things such as bugs, rotting food, even vomit or fresh urine straight into the mouth, or food from an absurd container (Frisbee, dog bowl, glasses tied to a ski for a collective gulping...) or through a straw, food fights, finding something in a messy dish without hands.
  • Clothing. An imposed piece of clothing, outfit, item or something else worn by the victim in a way that would bring negative attention to the wearer. Examples include:
  • Uniform (Toga in Greek societies)
  • A leash and/or collar
  • Infantile and other humiliating dress and attire (e.g. soiled diapers, underpants (sometimes of the opposite sex) or a condom on the head; cross-dress or fake breasts; wearing just a box or a barrel)
  • Complete or partial nudity (with or without cupping of the genitals). In the case of partial nudity, victims are sometimes allowed just an apron, jockstrap, loin-cloth or improvised version, thongs, towel, (under)pants torn or altered to expose the wearer's genitals, a strategically placed sock or tie, a tool belt, cardboard box, wrapping paper, foil, or duct tape. Sometimes the rule is 'anything but clothes', or victims are made to hold their crotches. A German variation is the 'cloths line', i.e. contributing garments (remaining decent, e.g. in swim suit) to form a long line
  • Holding lowered trousers, shorts and/or underpants or underwear up 'revealingly'.
  • Wedgies or things put in the shorts
  • Forced mooning, sometimes accompanied by smacking by a senior or mutually.
  • Being forced to wear a phallus or dildo, even in explicitly homo-erotic poses.
  • Underwear wet to make it see-through;
  • sometimes specifically with an audience, either internal or in a public place (such as college sports venues, ordered to be high profile supporters), sometimes specifically of the other sex (often associating a fraternity with a sorority). This often combined with other tasks or parading, performing (dancing, singing, reciting obscenities, skit, ...) or just being exposed.

  • Markings. Victims are made to wear visible symbols, drawings or text (obscenities, instructions for abuse) on (under)clothing or on bare skin. They are painted on, tattooed on, written on or even shaved in (on head, legs, even pubic hair), sometimes collectively forming a message (one letter, syllable or word on each pledge), receive tar (or glue) and feathers or branding.
  • Being tied together, e.g. by the underwear, thus complicating/rendering ridiculous any task, e.g. eating together while all participants hands or food containers are tied to a long stick.
  • Quizzes. Pledges might be required to study material relating to their school, fraternity or club history, rules and traditions and then tested on it. Such “exam” may however also be given unannounced or even on 'general knowledge'. As the punishments for wrong answers can constitute the "real fun", trick or nearly unsolvable questions are likely.
  • Hierarchy. Slave-like veneration of the seniors and thus verbal or physical submission to them, is common. Etiquette required of pledges or subordinates include prostration, kneeling, literal groveling, kissing (sometimes dirty) feet, footwear or the crotch.
  • Degrading positions and tasks. Some pledges are locked up in a cage or barrel, commanded to move on all fours or crawl on their bellies, eat or fetch "doggy style", kiss or urinate in public, having bodyparts and/or (under)clothing shoved into an orifice of their body (e.g. a burning candle in the rectum).
  • Physical feats. Performing calisthenics and other physical tests, such as push-ups (sometimes as the hazer keeps his/her foot on the pledges’ back), jumping jacks (under near impossible conditions), sit-ups, mud wrestling, forming a human pyramid or dog piling, climbing a greased pole, skinny diving, leap-frog, human wheel-barrow etc., often with some twist (follow the links)
  • Exposure to the elements. Examples include: Running, swimming or diving (almost) bare in cold water or snow. Holding ice water and/or having snow poured over a person or even sitting on ice in an open fridge holding more frozen objects.
  • Orientation tests. Pledges are abandoned, often quite far or fettered without transport, in the dark and/or in a public place.
  • Fundraising. Collecting money for the club or some charity, either by begging, selling a product, or performing services (such as washing cars).
  • Treasure hunt or scavenger hunt (perhaps requiring theft)
  • Dares. Examples are jumping from some height (bungee or in water), stealing from police or rival teams and obedience.

Some peculiar examples of named hazing practices:

  • Blood pinning among military aviators (and many other elite groups) to celebrate becoming new pilots by piercing their chests with the sharp pins of aviator wings.
  • Burning desire and great ball of fire tests involve fireworks or burning objects (especially in mesh-form) fixed in the buttocks or on the testicles, remaining in position or running a distance.
  • The elephant walk is a moving line of male pledges, often naked or at least pant-less, that imitates an elephant herd (holding each other by the tail in nature). Each pledge grabs the one in front of him by the privates (tail is also a euphemism for the penis, and for the thus exposed butt, the favorite target in paddling traditions.
  • On his first crossing the equator in military and commercial navigation, each 'pollywog' (sailor; sometimes even passengers) is subjected to a series of endurances usually including running and/or crawling a gauntlet of abuse (soiling, paddling, etc.) and various scenes supposedly situated at King Neptune's court.
  • A pledge auction is a variation on the slave auction, where people bid on the paraded (often exposed) pledges.
  • Either as an open fund raiser where the general public (or just an invited sorority/frat of the other sex) can bid,
  • Or internally to decide which brother can impose his fantasies on which pledge.

  • Treeing is binding up with ropes, chains, handcuffs or other means, to a tree or pole, or in some variations on a cross (mock crucifixion), to be helplessly abused and/or bound.
  • The term tunnel seems to have various meanings in different traditions, such as a spanking tunnel. It may be appealing as a symbolic rite of passage: one goes in as a rookie and emerges as something of a brother or teammate,
  • As in this version in rugby: the rookie crawls under 10 players who strip him down, push a carrot in his anus and tie a pink ribbon around his erect penis, which he must keep on for two weeks (which will be checked at each training session).

  • Academic salute is (at least in Liberia) jumping up while holding one's crotch; may be followed by the order to enact coitus, hastly divesteing, sometimes even spilling seed in a hole

Of course in certain circles there are also more specific practices, using ingredients peculiar to their activies. For example, in various trades hazing for apprentices when finishing their apprenticeship: in printing, it consisted of applying to the apprentice's privates bronze blue, a colour made from mixing black printers ink and dark blue printers ink which takes a long time to wash off; similarly, mechanics get them smeared with old dirty grease. [edit]

See also

Look up hazing in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.

  • Pentucket Regional School District (site of another hazing incident)

Sources and references

  • World Corporal Punishment Research Corporal punishment as initiation

Retrieved from "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hazing"




High School Hazing

Frequent misconceptions about hazing include the idea that hazing is nothing more than harmless pranks and that it is a practice largely isolated to college fraternities. The reality is that hazing activities occur in many different arenas. As a recent study indicates, hazing takes place in both men’s and women’s organizations and is common among student groups in middle/high schools—particularly athletic teams. To date, there has been no large scale research focused solely on hazing at the high school level. However, Hank Nuwer’s book, High School Hazing marks the beginning of a much-needed focus toward this issue.

Hazing at any age can be exceedingly harmful. Hazing at the high school level is particularly troubling because the developmental stages of adolescence create a situation in which many students are more vulnerable to peer pressure due to the tremendous need for belonging, making friends and finding approval in one’s peer group. Further, the danger of hazing at the high school level is heightened by the lack of awareness and policy development/enforcement around this issue. While many colleges and universities in the U.S. have instituted anti-hazing policies and educational awareness programs related to hazing, very few secondary schools have done the same.

A major part of the problem is the lack of understanding among the general population about hazing. Hazing practices in high schools are often overlooked and dismissed as mere "traditions" because students, parents, teachers, coaches and administrators do not understand the definition of hazing and how it operates in society. Many who are aware of hazing activities do not concern themselves with confronting the behavior because of the popular myths and misconceptions that are attached to the term. Hazing is not about harmless traditions or silly antics—hazing is about abuse of power and violation of human dignity. Hazing is a form of abuse and victimization. This is why it is crucial to promote anti-hazing education and support for victims at the middle and high school levels.




The following are some examples of hazing divided into three categories: subtle, harassment, and violent. It is impossible to list all possible hazing behaviors because many are context-specific. While this is not an all-inclusive list, it provides some common examples of hazing traditions. More Examples. A. SUBTLE HAZING: Behaviors that emphasize a power imbalance between new members/rookies and other members of the group or team. Termed “subtle hazing” because these types of hazing are often taken-for-granted or accepted as “harmless” or meaningless. Subtle hazing typically involves activities or attitudes that breach reasonable standards of mutual respect and place new members/rookies on the receiving end of ridicule, embarrassment, and/or humiliation tactics. New members/rookies often feel the need to endure subtle hazing to feel like part of the group or team. (Some types of subtle hazing may also be considered harassment hazing).

Some Examples:

  • Deception
  • Assigning demerits
  • Silence periods with implied threats for violation
  • Deprivation of privileges granted to other members
  • Requiring new members/rookies to perform duties not assigned to other members
  • Socially isolating new members/rookies
  • Line-ups and Drills/Tests on meaningless information
  • Name calling
  • Requiring new members/rookies to refer to other members with titles (e.g. “Mr.,” “Miss”) while they are identified with demeaning terms
  • Expecting certain items to always be in one's possession

B. HARASSMENT HAZING: Behaviors that cause emotional anguish or physical discomfort in order to feel like part of the group. Harassment hazing confuses, frustrates, and causes undue stress for new members/rookies. (Some types of harassment hazing can also be considered violent hazing).

Some Examples:

  • Verbal abuse
  • Threats or implied threats
  • Asking new members to wear embarrassing or humiliating attire
  • Stunt or skit nights with degrading, crude, or humiliating acts
  • Expecting new members/rookies to perform personal service to other members such as carrying books, errands, cooking, cleaning etc
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Sexual simulations
  • Expecting new members/rookies to be deprived of maintaining a normal schedule of bodily cleanliness.
  • Be expected to harass others

C. VIOLENT HAZING : Behaviors that have the potential to cause physical and/or emotional, or psychological harm.

Some Examples:

  • Forced or coerced alcohol or other drug consumption
  • Beating, paddling, or other forms of assault
  • Branding
  • Forced or coerced ingestion of vile substances or concoctions
  • Burning
  • Water intoxication
  • Expecting abuse or mistreatment of animals
  • Public nudity
  • Expecting illegal activity
  • Bondage
  • Abductions/kidnaps
  • Exposure to cold weather or extreme heat without appropriate protection

Hazing Defined

“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. In years past, hazing practices were typically considered harmless pranks or comical antics associated with young men in college fraternities.

Today we know that hazing extends far beyond college fraternities and is experienced by boys/men and girls/women in school groups, university organizations, athletic teams, the military, and other social and professional organizations. Hazing is a complex social problem that is shaped by power dynamics operating in a group and/or organization and within a particular cultural context.

Hazing activities are generally considered to be: physically abusive, hazardous, and/or sexually violating. The specific behaviors or activities within these categories vary widely among participants, groups and settings. While alcohol use is common in many types of hazing, other examples of typical hazing practices include: personal servitude; sleep deprivation and restrictions on personal hygiene; yelling, swearing and insulting new members/rookies; being forced to wear embarrassing or humiliating attire in public; consumption of vile substances or smearing of such on one's skin; brandings; physical beatings; binge drinking and drinking games; sexual simulation and sexual assault.

Some common definitions and examples of hazing are below:

In the Alfred/NCAA survey of college athletes, hazing was defined as:

"any activity expected of someone joining a group that humiliates, degrades, abuses or endangers, regardless of the person's willingness to participate. This does not include activities such as rookies carrying the balls, team parties with community games, or going out with your teammates, unless an atmosphere of humiliation, degradation, abuse or danger arises."

“Hazing is an activity that a high-status member orders other members to engage in or suggests that they engage in that in some way humbles a newcomer who lacks the power to resist, because he or she want to gain admission to a group. Hazing can be noncriminal, but it is nearly always against the rules of an institution, team, or Greek group. It can be criminal, which means that a state statute has been violated. This usually occurs when a pledging-related activity results in gross physical injury or death” (from Hank Nuwer's book Wrongs of Passage , 1999, p. xxv).

Hazing is defined by the FIPG (Fraternal Information Programming Group) as:

"Any action taken or situation created, intentionally, whether on or off fraternity premises, to produce mental or physical discomfort, embarrassment, harassment, or ridicule. Such activities may include but are not limited to the following: use of alcohol; paddling in any form; creation of excessive fatigue; physical and psychological shocks; quests, treasure hunts, scavenger hunts, road trips or any other such activities carried on outside or inside of the confines of the chapter house; wearing of public apparel which is conspicuous and not normally in good taste; engaging in public stunts and buffoonery; morally degrading or humiliating games and activities; and any other activities which are not consistent with fraternal law, ritual or policy or the regulations and policies of the educational institution."

"1. If you have to ask if it's hazing, it is. 2. If in doubt, call your advisor/coach/national office. If you won't pick up the phone, you have your answer. Don't B.S. yourself. 3. If you haze, you have low self-esteem. 4. If you allow hazing to occur, you are a 'hazing enabler.' 5. Failure to stop hazing will result in death..."

Will Keim, Ph.D., "The Power of Caring"