Behind Hazing

Hazing is quite a controversial topic of discussion. Many college students that are part of a group or organization (like bands, football/sports teams, fraternities/sororities) still participate in the ritual, sometimes very violent.

There is more behind the practice of hazing, though. Whether students agree with the morality or immorality of the practice, it still happens, and will continue to happen.

Hazing occurs for many reasons. It can have both negative and positive impacts on the participating members. (Photo courtesy of sigep.pabb on flickr.com)

I will be giving some basic (even if hard to understand) reasons behind why it occurs, as well as a look at the ways that hazing can be avoided and even be put to a stop.

  • One of the most basic of reasons behind the whole practice of hazing is inclusion. Students who are put through any type of initiation do so with the result of being accepted into a group front and foremost in their minds. This ‘acceptance’ suggests that they have successfully completed a rite of passage and that they are no longer outsiders, but that they are part of something bigger and more meaningful than themselves.
  • Another reason under discussion is the fact that students who are initiated into a group tend to take more pride and responsibility within the group or organization. This is reflected by comradeship within the group—closeness between individual members directed toward the whole. Oftentimes, group members that have been initiated will watch the backs of their fellow members.
  • New members that pass initiation rites from hazing have reported feeling accomplished to have done so. They are accepted into the group and through the process learn more about themselves and those within the group, and they usually end up developing very close bonds with their fellow members.
  • Hazing/rites of passage enable students who are involved with a sense of self—that is, the ability and opportunity to learn more about what they can handle and what others can handle…not just physically, but mentally as well.
  • Hazing also is reported among participating students/group members as having a positive effect on self- and group-discipline.

Now, I am not even close to saying that any type of violent rite of passage or traditional hazing should be allowed. Not even close. I am stating what happens, psychologically, between the relationship of new members and senior members enacting the practice. Obviously there are definite and sometimes horrific outcomes of this practice. Some of which include:

  • Stress from being hazed/from being instigator of something against one’s moral values
  • Humiliation and embarrassment
  • Anxiety, depression, or other mental problems resulting from being hazed or the hazing of a new member
  • Distrust among new/current members
  • Legal recourse if caught
  • Accidental and inflicted injuries (some of which have been fatal like the death of band member Robert Champion of FAMU’s Marching 100)
  • Possibility of group/organization being lost or taken away

While these are just a few of the numbers of negative effects on the group as a whole and individual students, there are many more effects, both emotional and physical, that play a part in students’ lives that have participated in some way. There are ways to avoid these rites of passages, or take away the violent undertones of the practice. There are non-violent alternatives to traditional hazing when accepting new members into a group. For more information on different/non-violent ways to participate in rites of passage check out studentconduct.osu.edu’s page of positive alternatives to hazing.

And as an afterthought, oftentimes alcohol use in college or drug use play a role in the aggressors’ and ‘rookies’’ participation of these practices. For information on alcohol use as it relates to hazing check out Cornell University’s informational article.

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