Hazing Prevention at a School that “Doesn’t Haze”
December 13, 2022
Guest writer: Bianca Dunay, Student Intern
There has been at least one hazing-related death each year since 1970.1
While that statistic is heartbreaking, I’m sure we’ve all thought “There is no way this would happen at my school.”
So, at a school that “doesn’t haze,” why do you need to be concerned with hazing prevention?
I think of this question in two parts: why are hazing and hazing prevention relevant, and how can you effectively educate your campus about it?
This is a story of my experience leading hazing prevention initiatives at my university, with the lens of a college student. I will first break down what hazing is and how it can be witnessed, discuss prevention strategies, and my experiences leading hazing prevention programming.
Why is Hazing Prevention Necessary For All Institutions?
Consider this: What is hazing?
The foundation of hazing prevention starts by educating stakeholders on the definition of hazing.
Hazing is any activity expected of someone joining or participating in a group that humiliates, degrades, abuses, or endangers them, regardless of a person’s willingness to participate.2
There are three components to the definition of hazing:
- It occurs in a group context
- Humiliating, degrading, or endangering behavior
- Happens regardless of an individual’s willingness to participate3
With this in mind, let’s look at how hazing can appear on campuses. Hazing can take many forms, and as shown in the Spectrum of Hazing image below, hazing is best represented across a range of behaviors.
Hazing can be something as “harmless” as demeaning calling or nicknames, all the way to life-threatening behaviors such as assault and forced consumption of alcohol or drugs.
55% of college students involved in clubs, teams, and organizations experience hazing. However, in 95% of hazing cases, students who were hazed did not report it.4
That being said, it is crucial to recognize the importance of hazing prevention, educating people on how to recognize hazing, and how to stop hazing before it turns into further harm or tragedy.
How to Effectively Engage in Hazing Prevention
Everyone at colleges and universities have a role in hazing prevention – students, administration, staff, even community and family members.
This has become evident to me, especially this year as I am serving on the University of Pittsburgh’s Panhellenic Executive Board as Chief Justice. This role primarily aims to find ways to support students and work on risk mitigation with chapter leaders. The first thing I wanted to do in this role was implement more intentional hazing prevention.
I have found that student-driven initiatives seem to have the most impact on my campus. So that is what I did. I sought to introduce hazing prevention efforts led by the student body. I coordinated a workshop facilitation by StopHazing for the University of Pittsburgh (Pitt), with the support from the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life.
Angela Ging, a StopHazing facilitator, led Pitt sorority leaders in the workshop titled Practicing Values-Based Leadership & Decision Making in October of 2022.
Risk managers, presidents, and leadership positions of 16 sororities at Pitt learned about incorporating their sorority values into leadership that focused on hazing prevention in a school where many students believe hazing does not occur.
In this facilitation, Ms. Ging started our hazing prevention discussion by leading us through a reflection of our own chapter’s values, and why we wanted to be leaders in our community. This really helped set the tone for the workshop by giving us a personal reason to actively work on hazing prevention: we all chose to be leaders in our community because we want to uphold positive values.
I surveyed the group that attended the workshop to understand student’s perceptions on hazing. One of the most salient takeaways, as quoted from a student was: “leaders have the responsibility to make changes to traditions that are negative for the organization and are considered hazing, regardless of the weight the tradition holds within the organization.”
That statement really resonated with me as a leader on Pitt’s campus. A lot of hazing in Greek Life is rooted in tradition, and it is our responsibility as leaders in our own chapters to ensure no student experiences hazing.
Out of the student leaders who participated in the workshop, 20% indicated they do not know how to report hazing at Pitt. With this revealing information, we were able to then plan a presentation with our Office of Compliance, Investigations, and Ethics for next semester to ensure this information is more accessible to all members of our community. We are looking forward to this presentation, and working with StopHazing again in the future to support students who are survivors of hazing and educating campuses about hazing prevention.
All in all, students walked away from the workshop with a better understanding of hazing, hazing prevention, and how to become leaders that make spaces in their organizations hazing-free. One student said that “[This workshop] helped expand my view on hazing and the different steps we as individuals and as leaders can take to ensure nobody is ever placed in a situation where they are being hazed.”
This was a great start for our Panhellenic community but we recognize that hazing can take place in any group setting, beyond sororities and fraternities. There is an opportunity for all students at Pitt to learn about hazing prevention and we are looking forward to having consistent conversations about hazing prevention.
How can StopHazing help your school prevent hazing?
StopHazing is an incredible resource for students, university staff, and communities that are committed to ending hazing. I first came across StopHazing when I was looking for programming for my university for National Hazing Prevention Week (NHPW). I was impressed with the amount of resources, research, and no-cost workshop facilitations to help schools implement hazing prevention.
StopHazing offers a plethora of free materials, customizable to fit each school’s needs, including toolkits specific to Fraternity and Sorority Life and Campus Professionals. Additionally, StopHazing offers other premium programs including the Hazing Prevention Consortium and an Annual Membership program.
A way for high school and college students motivated to make a difference in hazing prevention campus-wide is by joining StopHazing’s Student Network for Advocacy and Prevention, or SNAP. This is a low commitment way for anyone interested in advocating for hazing prevention efforts to share their story and build prevention skills and strategies on campuses and at schools across the country.
1 From “U.S. Hazing Deaths Database Part 2: 2000-2022.” Hank Nuwer Unofficial Hazing Clearinghouse. 2022
2 From Allan, Elizabeth J, and Mary Madden. Hazing in View: College Students at Risk. 11 Mar. 2008
3 From “The Issue: What Is Hazing: Solutions: Stophazing.” Stophazing.org, 5 Nov. 2021
4 From Allan, Elizabeth J, and Mary Madden. Hazing in View: College Students at Risk. 11 Mar. 2008