Photo of three male students drinking together.

College can come with a lot of social pressures. Sometimes, in a student's efforts to make fast friends or join a particular group, they can find ourselves in uncomfortable or dangerous situations.

Here are four things families should know about hazing.

What is hazing?

Hazing includes any activities expected of a person to join or participate in a group that has the potential to humiliate, degrade, abuse, endanger or risk emotional and/or physical harm. Hazing can also include any action or situation that recklessly or intentionally causes harm.

When we talk about hazing, it’s important to know that a student’s willingness to participate in a given activity or task does not make it okay.

Who is at risk?

It’s 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

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

If your student is considering joining a group, try asking them the following questions:

  • 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?

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. 

Here are some examples of what hazing can look like in real life. 


  • 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 

Harm to well-being

  • Verbal abuse 
  • Threats or implied threats 
  • Asking members to wear embarrassing attire 
  • Skit nights with degrading or humiliating acts 
  • Sleep deprivation 
  • Sexual simulation or harassment 
  • 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 

Violence/physical harm

  • Forced consumption of alcohol, drugs, food, etc. 
  • Beating, paddling or other forms of assault 
  • Branding 
  • Water intoxication 
  • Abduction/kidnapping 
  • Sexual assault, including unwanted touching or pentration (oral, anal, vaginal)  with a body part or objects  
  • Forced tattoos or body piercings 
  • Enduring harsh weather without appropriate clothing or protection 

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

 Due to the nature of these activities, many hazing behaviors go unrecognized and unreported. 

It’s 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. Encouraging your student to speak up about hazing, even when it interferes with a group’s expectations, can help prevent it from escalating or happening to other members.

What can I do about hazing?

Hazing can be a sensitive topic, especially if someone has been subjected to degrading, humiliating or violent behaviors and activities. 

Here are a few things you can do if you think your student may be at risk for experiencing hazing.

1. Learn to identify hazing activities

Knowing what hazing looks like can help both you and your student 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 doesn’t want to participate?

2. Make note of changes

Hazing can cause students to experience physical, emotional and psychological distress. Here are some signs to take note of if you think a student may be experiencing hazing:

  • 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 don’t participate in a specific group activity, even if it makes them uncomfortable
  • Changes to their behavior or mood, including depression, anxiety or restlessness
  • Missing class, work or outside social events
  • Describing “traditions” that sound like hazing
  • Changes to sleep habits, including fatigue
  • Posting concerning or odd things on social media
  • Secrecy related to group membership or “traditions”

Learn more about the signs of hazing

3. Start the conversation

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

  • Start from a place of care. Show your student 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 student’s mood or performance, etc.). It’s important to know that sometimes individuals being hazed do not realize they are being hazed.
  • Listen without judgment. Show your student that 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 your student’s fault if it’s happening to them or one of their friends.
  • Empower your student 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 students going through hazing are ready to take action and may need time to process. It is vital that you are still there for support as they could need you later on.

Connect with resources

Whether you or someone you know is struggling with hazing or initiation practices, there are support resources available. For more information, you can also check out

Don’t Ignore It

This site helps students explore their options for seeking confidential support, reporting concerns and learning skills for helping others. If something seems off, it probably is—don't ignore it.

Office of Victim Assistance (OVA)

OVA provides free and confidential information, consultation, support, advocacy and short-term, trauma-focused counseling services for students, grad students, faculty and staff who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic, disturbing or life-disruptive event. This includes hazing.

Confidential resource

Student Support and Case Management (SSCM)

SSCM provides individualized support to students. SSCM case managers connect students with campus partners, community resources and support systems, while also building a trusting relationship and coaching them toward self-advocacy.

Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution (SCCR)

If your student or someone they know has experienced hazing, they can file an anonymous report to Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution (SCCR).

Office of the Dean of Students

The Dean of Students supports and advocates for students, and connects them with resources essential to their success. If you are unsure how to advise a student in need of support, call the office at 303-492-9048 for assistance and referrals.