Hazing in View: College Students at Risk (page 4 of 5)


The following implications and general recommendations emerge from this report of the initial findings. A follow-up report will provide more detail. Summary paragraphs are followed by the relevant recommendation below:

Data from this study support the conclusion that hazing is woven into the fabric of student life and campus culture in U.S. colleges and universities. More than half (55%) of the students who become involved in campus student organizations, clubs, and teams are hazed in the process of becoming a member or maintaining membership in these groups, and nearly seven in 10 students (69%) say they are aware of hazing in organizations other than their own.

Over the years, images of hazing have been most closely associated with fraternities (and, more recently, varsity athletic teams). However, this investigation found hazing among undergraduate students is far more widespread. Students report experiencing hazing behaviors across a range of group-types including athletic teams and Greek-letter groups as well as club sports, intramurals, performing arts groups, service fraternities and sororities, recreation clubs, academic clubs, honor societies; and some students indicated they had experienced hazing in other kinds of groups as well including military groups, religious or church-based groups, student government, and culturally-based student organizations.

Recommendation 1:
Design hazing prevention efforts to be broad and inclusive of all students involved in campus organizations and athletic teams.

Hazing is sometimes dismissed as nothing more than silly pranks or harmless antics, yet data from this investigation indicate hazing often involves high-risk behaviors that are dangerous, abusive, and potentially illegal. Disturbingly, a number of the most frequently reported types of hazing practices have been implicated in college student deaths in recent years (e.g., drinking to the point of passing out and drinking large amounts of non-alcoholic beverage). Aside from the fact that hazing itself is illegal in 44 states, hazing is also likely to violate the law through underage drinking and sexual activities where consent is questionable due to the coercive dynamics and peer pressure inherent in hazing. These same dynamics contribute to a group context where embarrassment, humiliation, and degradation can take an emotional toll and lead to what is called the hidden harm of hazing—the emotional scars that can result from the humiliating and degrading aspects of hazing.

Recommendation 2:
Make a serious commitment to educate the campus community about the dangers of hazing; send a clear message that hazing will not be tolerated and that those engaging in hazing behaviors will be held accountable.

Hazing is not the well-kept secret that some may have believed; the findings noted several public aspects to hazing including coach and student organization advisors’ awareness of hazing practices, friends and family’s knowledge of hazing, and photos of hazing posted on public web spaces. When the campus community is educated more members of the community will be able to recognize and respond to signs that may indicate the occurrence of hazing.

Recommendation 3:
Broaden the range of groups targeted for hazing prevention education to include all students, campus staff, administrators, faculty, alumni, and family members.

To date, hazing awareness and prevention efforts in postsecondary education have largely focused on students in Greek-life and more recently intercollegiate athletes. Yet, the data from this study indicate that students affiliated with these groups continue to be at high-risk for hazing as more than seven in ten students belonging to these groups report experiencing at least one hazing behavior in relation to their involvement. The extent of hazing in these groups prompts questions about the effectiveness of past and present prevention efforts.

Recommendation 4:
Design intervention and prevention efforts that are research-based and systematically evaluate them to assess their effectiveness.

Nearly half of the students (47%) report experiencing hazing behaviors prior to coming to college indicating that students may expect to be hazed when they join teams and organizations connected to their postsecondary institution.

Recommendation 5:
Involve all students in hazing prevention efforts and introduce these early in students’ campus experience (i.e., orientation).

Findings from this investigation highlight some of the complexities related to hazing on college campuses. For example, this research found that students identify more positive than negative consequences of hazing; students are least likely to report hazing to campus officials and police; and only one in two students report they have been made aware of campus anti-hazing policy.

As well, it is clear students have a limited understanding of the definition of hazing and risks associated with it. This is highlighted by the fact that more than half of students involved in campus groups experience a hazing behavior, but a mere fraction of these (nine out of ten) consider themselves to have been hazed. In addition, students who have been hazed tend to dismiss institutional and legal definitions of hazing and minimize the potential harm that can result.

Recommendation 6:
Design prevention efforts to be more comprehensive than simply one-time presentations or distribution of anti-hazing policies. Focus on helping all students:

• Develop an understanding of the power dynamics so they can identify hazing regardless of context.
• Understand the role that coercion and groupthink can play in hazing.
• Recognize the potential for harm even in activities they consider to be “low level.”
• Generate strategies for building group unity and sense of accomplishment that do not involve hazing.
• Align group membership behavior with the purpose and values espoused by their organizations and teams.
• Develop leadership skills needed to deal with resistance to change among group members.
• Develop critical thinking skills needed to make ethical judgments in the face of moral dilemmas.


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Hazing: What’s the big deal?

Stories shared from the Globe and Mail newspaper September 20th and October 25th 2006 on-line editions and the websites: HazingatCornell.edu, badjocks.com and stophazing.org

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