Hazing is a term that many people are familiar with, but not everyone thinks of it in the same way. Hazing can be defined as “any act that endangers the mental or physical health or safety of a student, or that destroys or removes public or private property, for the purpose of initiation, admission into, affiliation with, or as a condition for the continued membership in a group or organization.” The issue of hazing can be controversial at times because some feel that it is nothing more than a way for a group to bond, but others fight against all kinds of hazing because of their belief that hazing is a serious threat to those who have to endure it, especially the youths of the world.
Hazing is most often associated with fraternities, but it is an issue in many different organizations, including sororities, the military, athletic teams, student clubs (such as marching bands), and in high schools. Those who have never been involved in hazing may wonder why the victim would agree to the often humiliating or dangerous initiation rituals. The most common answer to this question is that they participated because they believed it would give them a sense of belonging, despite the fact that these so-called traditions may harm the participants. Most anti-hazing laws make it clear that it does not matter if a person consented to be subject to hazing because of the pressure they are under at the time and their lack of knowledge about what the process would involve.
One of the most common forms of hazing, especially within fraternities and sororities, is the forced consumption of alcohol, often in lethal doses. One such incident involved Chuck Stevens, who was taken from his dorm in New York State, locked in the trunk of a car, and forced to drink a mix of bourbon, wine, and beer. Chuck died as a result of being hazed, and his mother, Eileen, has since founded the Committee to Halt Useless College Killings, or C.H.U.C.K., in memory of her young son. This organization promotes awareness and educational programs, tries to find alternatives to hazing, and works towards stricter anti-hazing laws.
People’s perception of exactly what hazing is often varies form person to person, which makes it hard to separate acceptable traditions from unacceptable traditions. Even people who have witnessed hazing rituals or been a part of a hazing ritual are reluctant to label it “hazing” because of the stigma associated with the word. Victims of hazing will often not report the incident because they are unsure if what they suffered is classified as hazing and they are afraid of no longer being a part of the group they had worked so hard to join.
A study conducted at Alfred University explored the various reasons why anyone would want to participate in a hazing ritual. Nearly half of those surveyed answered because they thought it was fun and exciting, but the majority of those students were only subjected to humiliating hazing. Other reasons include they were scared to refuse, they felt it brought the group closer, they wanted to get out some aggression through fighting, and they were immature when they agreed to the hazing. The study also discovered that many students did not know whether hazing was illegal in their state, and that if there was a law, it made no significant difference in the level of hazing behaviour.
Hazing is something that occurs much more than we are aware because most incidents go unreported. Those students who did report hazing also reported both positive and negative consequences of the actions committed by them and by others. A common occurrence among those hazed was depression, which often included anger, and if the hazing was physical, the victim may suffer internal bruising and pain. Not all hazing has such serious penalties, though, and one positive aspect that was reported by students is that they felt they had gained a valuable life experience and had been able to mature. The outcome of hazing is different for each person who goes through it and it all depends on what type of hazing they endure and for what purpose they felt it was worth agreeing to.
Aside from hazing taking place in the fraternities and sororities of universities, it is also a dominant problem in schools athletic teams. ” Nearly 80 percent of student athletes reported being subjected to one or more hazing behaviours, ranging from shaving their heads to being tied up and paddled, as part of their team initiations.” Amazingly, only twelve percent of these students were willing to call what they had gone through hazing. Many rookies, especially males, are also forced to humiliate themselves and others through some kind of sexual abuse or nudity, such as walking around naked while holding another mans genitals.
Members of the University of Vermont’s hockey team in reportedly carried out this shocking behaviour in October of 1999. Former UVM hockey player Corey LaTulippe, who filed a civil lawsuit against the university, has told the media that he was repeatedly subjected to hazing by other members of the team, and that school officials did nothing to end it. Women’s athletic teams also face hazing rituals, but they are more likely to embarrass their rookies, where men are more likely to be involved in extreme hazing, such as beatings or theft.
In addition to hazing being a major component of universities and high schools, it is also an issue that the military must deal with constantly. Military hazing “can be used to describe anything from a good-natured punch on the stripes when someone is promoted, to Navy chiefs who make a new chief wear a dress, to boot camp activities when superiors or peers try to transform a balky recruit into a trustworthy team player.” Hazing is an issue for branches of the military all over the world, including Canada, the United States, and Russia. Hazing in the Russian armed forces can be particularly harsh, considering that many first-year soldiers die at the hands of their “grandfathers,” or their superiors.
In the United States, the public knew nothing about military hazing until 1956, even though it began over a century ago. Just a few short years ago, there was a scandal that rocked the military when videotapes of Marines participating in blood pinnings were released to the media. This initiation ritual involved Marines ramming gold-wing pins into the chests of fellow Marines, which sickened all those who viewed the graphic footage.
Despite the many dangers that are associated with hazing, experts warn against eliminating it altogether. Sociologist Jamie Bryshun has said that “the traditions often run too deep, and nothing any coach or university administrator says or does can end them.” There is fear that if all hazing is completely forbidden, then the organizations will just take it underground, where it may become even more dangerous. Different groups have tried to come up with alternatives to hazing, such as planning special events as a way for the members to bond with each other.
The penalties for participating in hazing are on the rise. Hazing is now illegal in 41 states in the U.S.A., and many are working towards increasing that number. Under Texas law, hazing has been committed if a person engages in hazing, solicits, encourages, directs, aids, or attempts to aid another in engaging in hazing, intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly permits hazing to occur, or has firsthand knowledge that a hazing incident is being planned or has occurred and does not report their knowledge to the proper authorities.
Even if the person has agreed to be a part of the hazing activity, it is still classified as hazing and charges could still be filed. Some criminal penalties include: a fine up to $1000 and/or up to 180 days in jail for failing to report hazing, a fine of $1000-$5000 and/or 180 days to one year in jail for being involved in hazing that resulted in serious bodily injury, and a fine of $5000-$10000 and/or one to two years in jail for participating in hazing that resulted in the death of someone.
Despite the increase in awareness about the subject of hazing and the tougher anti-hazing laws, it is still a major problem for organizations all over the world. Even though many have died and countless others have been hospitalized, the trend of dangerous hazing has continued to grow, and it will not end until groups such as universities and the military receive a major wake up call. It is up to the leaders of the organizations to ensure that all its members are made to feel safe and no longer pressured to participate in activities that they know could endanger their lives.