Definition of Hazing from stophazing.org (2014): “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.
Who is being hazed?
Hazing occurs in most sanctioned and non-sanctioned groups. These groups could be athletic teams, music-related groups, art or theater groups, peer groups, and gangs.
While it is not easy to know the extent that hazing incidents are occurring in the United States due to the secretive nature of hazing, one study from Alfred University has been done to determine the extent and nature of hazing in U.S. high schools. This study found that of those polled, 48 percent of the students that belonged to a group reported that they had been subjected to hazing activities. Thirty-six percent of the students reported that they would not report a hazing incident because they felt that there was no one to tell, and 27 percent feel that the adults will not handle the situation “right.”
It is hard to create and feel unity within a group of students when some members subject others to humiliation and embarrassment. Hazing creates tension and can become divisive and dangerous. In the hazing study, 71 percent of the students that had been subjected to hazing reported that they experienced negative consequences (e.g., getting into fights, being injured, poor academic performance, fighting with parents, feeling confused, angry, guilty, or embarrassed, and had difficulty eating, sleeping, or concentrating).
Is there a law against hazing?
West Virginia’s Anti-hazing Law (18-16-2) defines hazing as: “any action or situation which recklessly or intentionally endangers the mental or physical health or safety of another person or persons or causes another person or persons to destroy or remove public or private property for the purpose of initiation or admission into or affiliation with, or as a condition for continued membership in, any organization operating under the sanction of or recognized as an organization by an institution of higher education.”
Such activities and situations include, but are not limited to: “any brutality of a physical nature, such as whipping, beating, branding, forced consumption of any food, liquor, drug or other substance, or any other forced physical activity which could adversely affect the physical health and safety of the individual or individuals, and includes any activity which would subject the individual or individuals to extreme mental stress, such as sleep deprivation, forced exclusion from social contact, forced conduct which could result in
extreme embarrassment or any other forced activity which could adversely affect the mental health or dignity of the individual or individuals, or any willful destruction or removal of public or private property.”
Any person who is involved in acts of hazing will be subject to the College’s disciplinary procedures, and according to West Virginia’s law (18-16-3), “any person or persons who causes hazing is guilty of a misdemeanor, and, upon conviction thereof, shall be fined no less than one hundred dollars nor more than one thousand dollars, or confined in a county or regional jail, not more than nine months, or both fined and imprisoned.”
What steps can be taken stop hazing?
- Educate all coaches, students, parents, and other district employees about hazing awareness and the dangers of hazing.
- Take seriously and investigate all rumors and reports of hazing.
- Implement a strict anti-hazing procedure.
- Hold coaches and organizational leaders responsible for what occurs on their team or group; do not let them plead ignorance. Hold them accountable, and if they suspect hazing and do nothing about it, they should be aware that their job/position is at-risk.
- Create alternative team and group building or spirit-building activities or traditions that carry a positive message (e.g., volunteering at a race for charity, going to a ropes/challenge course, or building a brick wall piece-by-piece as team/group goals are met).