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Change of Seasons

Hazing in View:
College Students at Risk

Initial Findings from the National Study of Student Hazing


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Change of Seasons

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Hazing in View: College Students at Risk (page 1 of 5)

Initial Findings from the National Study of Student Hazing

MARCH 11, 2008

COMPILED BY Elizabeth J. Allan, Ph.D., Associate Professor & Mary Madden, Ph.D., Associate Professor University of Maine College of Education and Human Development


Psychological and physical harm are commonly reported outcomes of hazing.  Sometimes the behavior can be deadly, as documented by Nuwer’s chronology of hazing deaths (  For educational institutions, the risks include student attrition, abusive campus climates, and negative publicity to name a few.

Stereotypes often shape perceptions of hazing as only a problem for athletes and Greek-letter organizations; hazing behaviors are often dismissed as simply harmless antics and pranks. These views are shortsighted and may jeopardize the health and safety of students as well as hinder the overall quality of the learning environment in schools and post-secondary institutions.  Professional staff and administrators who are aware of dangers inherent in hazing often report feeling discouraged and perplexed by entrenched attitudes and beliefs that support a culture where hazing is normalized as part of college life.

Despite decades of documented problems, hazing is an issue that has been largely overlooked and under studied until recent years. The most extensive data regarding hazing practices were generated from the Alfred University/NCAA study on college athletes (Hoover & Pollard, 1999).  Other accounts of hazing have been provided by author/journalist Hank Nuwer (1990, 1999, 2000); and Ricky Jones (2004), who writes about hazing in Black Greek-letter fraternities.   Several thesis and dissertation studies have examined hazing in particular contexts; for example, in Greek life (Holmes, 1999; Lowery, 1998; Shaw, 1992), athletics (Gervais, 2000; Johnson, 2000; McGlone, 2000; Robinson 1998), and on individual campuses (Ellsworth, 2004).  As well, some campuses have examined hazing among their student body (e.g.,   

In addition to these examples, for nearly a decade the website, (co-founded by Elizabeth Allan) has received regular email queries from students who have been involved in hazing activities as members of marching bands, theatre groups, ski clubs, church groups, club sports, freshman camp, orientation groups, military groups, residence living units, and other social and academic clubs.  However, until now, no national studies have investigated the levels of hazing across a wider range of student organizations and across multiple institutions.

This study is unusual due to its magnitude and scope. It is the first to examine hazing across a range of student organizations and athletic teams within the context of diverse types of colleges and universities in different regions of the United States. Insights from the study help identify students and student groups most at risk for hazing. The study also delineates prominent hazing behaviors and examines student understanding of hazing, campus hazing prevention efforts, and student hazing experiences in high school.  The will provides a baseline for measuring changes in hazing over time. Through the vision and efforts of many, this study fills major gaps in the research and extends the breadth and depth of knowledge and understanding about hazing.

The National Study of Student Hazing: Examining and Transforming Campus Hazing Cultures was conceptualized in 2003–2004 under the leadership of Dr. Elizabeth J. Allan, Principal Investigator, in collaboration with the North American Interfraternal Foundation (NIF) and the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA). 

In 2005, the North American Interfraternal Foundation (NIF), with support from the NASPA Foundation and other collaborating partners, provided funding for the development and implementation of Phase I of this investigation.  Also during that time, Dr. Mary Madden, Associate Research Professor at the University of Maine, joined the initiative and has been instrumental in working with Allan to implement the investigation.   

Pilot Study
Phase I of this multi-year research initiative was a pilot study (Allan & Madden, 2005) that served as a springboard for the comprehensive national study.  The purpose of the pilot study was to assess sampling strategies and test the effectiveness of recruitment strategies for respondents, develop a web-based survey instrument and test its reliability, test interview protocols, and conduct a trial analysis of data.   The pilot study data collection was conducted from February–May, 2005 with students and staff at four post-secondary institutions in the Northeast and included a web-based survey for students and interviews with students, staff, and administrators at each campus. Participating institutions included a small private college as well as three larger public universities. 


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