What is hazing?

Hazing is defined as any action or situation that recklessly or intentionally endangers the health, safety or welfare of an individual for the purpose of initiation, participation, admission into or affiliation with any organization at the university. Hazing includes, but is not limited to, any abuse of a mental or physical nature, forced consumption of any food, liquor, drugs or substances, or any forced physical activity that could adversely affect the health or safety of the individual. Hazing also includes any activity that would subject the individual to embarrassment or humiliation, the willingness of the participant in such activity notwithstanding.

It is important to know that hazing can happen in any group, including:

  • Club sports teams
  • College athletics
  • Academic clubs
  • Performing arts organizations
  • Fraternities and sororities

  • Honor societies
  • Intramural sports teams
  • Political or religious organizations
  • Residence hall floors
  • Student organizations

What does hazing look like?

Hazing encompasses a wide range of activities. These activities are often required of specific members of the group, such as new recruits. Additionally, they are often meant to take priority over other activities in a person’s life as part of the initiation process. Due to the nature of these activities, many hazing behaviors go unrecognized and unreported.

  • Deception, secrecy, coercion
  • Assigning demerits
  • Demeaning names
  • Social isolation
  • Expecting certain items to always be in your possession
  • Ignoring members
  • Progress reports for members
  • Duties assigned only to specific members
  • Trying to instill fear in members
  • Depriving members of privileges

(Allan, 2015; Allan & Kerschner, 2020; Adapted from Bringing in the Bystander)

  • Verbal abuse
  • Threats or implied threats
  • Asking members to wear embarrassing attire
  • Skit nights with degrading or humiliating acts
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Sexual simulations
  • Questioning or interrogation under pressure
  • Requiring new members to perform personal service to active members or alumni (e.g. carrying books, running errands)
  • Required singing or chanting at an unrelated game or event

(Allan, 2015; Allan & Kerschner, 2020; Adapted from Bringing in the Bystander)

  • Forced consumption of alcohol, drugs, food, etc.
  • Beating, paddling or other forms of assault
  • Branding
  • Water intoxication
  • Abduction/kidnapping
  • Sexual assault, including inappropriate touching, non-consensual sex (oral, anal, vaginal) or sexual acts with objects (including sex toys)
  • Forced tattoos or body piercings
  • Enduring harsh weather without appropriate clothing or protection

(Allan, 2015; Allan & Kerschner, 2020; Adapted from Bringing in the Bystander)

What to do if you are being hazed

  • Maintain a balance between friendships/relationships and the organization. Do not lose contact with friends and family you have outside of the organization.
  • Be open about what you are going through. Your family and friends want to support you regardless of if hazing is occurring. They cannot do that without open communication.
  • Do not be afraid. You still have control over how you participate. You can refuse to participate. You can leave the group. You can unite and work with other members who are also being hazed.
  • Seek out advice from family, friends, healthcare professionals, administrators, advisors etc. They want what is best for you.
  • Call 911 if there is an immediate threat to your safety or the safety of others.
  • Report the hazing, anonymously if you prefer, to Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution. Know that reporting anonymously may impact outcomes.

Signs of someone you know being hazed

  • Prioritizing group/membership activities over other areas in their life (e.g. school, relationships, etc.).
  • Expressing fear or hesitation about what might happen to them if they do not participate in a specific group activity, even if it makes them uncomfortable.
  • Changes to their behavior or mood, including depression, anxiety or restlessness while participating in a new group.
  • Missing class, work or outside social events in order to join a group.
  • Describing “traditions” that sound like hazing.
  • Changes to sleep habits, including fatigue to participate in a specific group activity.
  • Posting concerning or odd things on social media in relation to a group.
  • Secrecy related to group membership or “traditions.”

Responses to hazing vary from person to person and can cause someone to experience physical, emotional and psychological distress. The feelings can range anywhere from seeing the activities as a personal challenge to feeling a sense of abuse and harassment.

How to help someone being hazed

Knowing what hazing looks like can help you understand what is okay and what crosses the line. To help identify if an action may be considered hazing, ask the following questions:

  • Is this part of the membership process for a particular group?
  • Could this cause harm, including feelings of embarrassment, humiliation or degradation?
  • Are people involved being pressured or coerced to participate?
  • What will happen to someone who does not want to participate?

It is important to know that groups who participate in these types of hazing activities or rituals often swear members to secrecy about all aspects of the group, including initiation requirements and activities. Speaking up about hazing, even when it interferes with a group’s expectations, can help prevent it from escalating or happening to other members.

If you are concerned about a friend who may be experiencing hazing, here are some ways to start the conversation. 

  • Start from a place of care. Show the individual that you care about them and are concerned. For instance, you can say something like “I’ve noticed you’ve been spending more time with [group], and I’m concerned about how it has been affecting you.”
  • Describe what you have observed (e.g., lack of sleep, changes in your friend’s mood). Sometimes individuals being hazed do not realize they are being hazed.
  • Listen without judgment. Show the person it’s okay to come to you for support, even if it is a hard subject to talk about.
  • Validate that hazing is wrong, it’s not okay and it’s not the person’s fault.
  • Empower the individual to take some sort of action by suggesting options or resources (e.g., talking to a professional, leaving the organization, reporting the organization, etc.).
  • Stay connected. Not all individuals going through hazing are ready to take action and need time to process. It is vital that you are still there for support as they could need you later on.

How to help prevent hazing

The risk of hazing can differ from group to group depending on a number of factors, including group culture and tolerance for hazing behaviors. Taking some time to reflect on the types of groups you want to join and why can help you understand what types of relationships and experiences you want to have in college. It can also help you begin to outline what activities you are or are not comfortable doing in order to be part of a given group.

  • Instill a strong sense of belonging in group members. Group members get to know each other and build feelings of connectedness, and healthy relationships with each other.
  • Understand how the group works. Make sure group members understand the expectations, dynamics within and operations of the group.
  • Learn and build an awareness of group history. Group members learn about the history of the group's formation, identities, represented and evolution over time.
  • Build trust among the group. Group members build trust amongst themselves through open, honest, and accountable communication and behaviors.
  • Promote a strong sense of purpose. Group members feel connected to each other and the larger meaning of the group, developing a sense of pride and purpose for their accomplishments.
  • Encourage continued reflection and consideration of group and personal values, and how they are in misalignment with hazing and other harmful behaviors, activities and dynamics that can be created in group spaces.
  • Discuss how values-based decision making can create safer, welcoming and healthy group spaces - and can be a means of preventing hazing.
  • Make connections between ethical leadership and group members’ sense of belonging.
  • Gain familiarity with hazing and the ways in which it can affect group leadership and can impact the communities to which we belong.
  • Consider group behaviors related to ethics, personal, group and community values, and how shifting group behaviors can create space to positively change a group culture.

Team leaders can also:

  • What types of groups or organizations have you thought about joining and why?
  • What do you know about the group? How can you find out more?
  • What kinds of activities are required to join?
  • Will it impact your academics, social life or other activities?
  • Is drinking or drug use involved?
  • How comfortable are you with the activities or the unknowns related to the membership process?

Be willing to approach University staff for advice or to report hazing activity. These resources include:

For more information, you can also check out Stop Hazing's Toolkit.​