Hazing: The Issue

What is 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.

There are three components that define hazing:

  1. It occurs in a group context
  2. Humiliating, degrading, or endangering behavior
  3. Happens regardless of an individual’s willingness to participate
three components of hazing

Where does hazing happen?

While commonly associated with college fraternities, hazing happens in many different places. Incidents of hazing occur in many types of clubs, organizations, and teams and in diverse settings including middle and high schools, colleges and universities, the military, and workplaces. Hazing is documented beyond postsecondary institutions.

A threat to health, safety, and well-being

The intimidating, harassing, and sometimes even violent nature of hazing can threaten the health and safety of its victims. It can even be deadly.

55% of college students involved in clubs, teams, and organizations experienced hazing

Hazing, however, often impacts more than the group or individual involved. In higher education, hazing is at odds with educational goals as it can harm students and contribute to abusive campus climates, negative publicity, and student attrition. The same can be said for other settings where hazing exists — schools, the military, and workplaces. Hazing creates an environment where community members feel unsafe and where a healthy and productive sense of belonging, inclusion, and well-being are all compromised. 

Hazing takes many forms

There is a wide range of behaviors that fit the definition of hazing. For this reason, it can often go unrecognized and unreported. 

The Spectrum of Hazing Behaviors

If not recognized, reported, and properly addressed, hazing can become a systemic, self-perpetuating problem. The environments where hazing most often occurs — student clubs, organizations, and teams — are living-learning laboratories for leadership development. If hazing is happening in these groups, our leaders-in-training may be learning that humiliating, harassing, or violent behavior is an accepted or expected way to induct new members and build cohesion.

Confronting the issue

Like bullying, the problem of hazing has existed for many decades, yet research about the nature and extent of hazing and its prevention is in nascent stages of development. With more than three decades of experience, StopHazing is a trailblazer in research-to-practice initiatives that are building the knowledge base needed to promote inclusive school, campus, and organizational climates where healthy leadership, well-being, and belonging are cultivated and sustained.


*Suggested page citation:
StopHazing Research Lab. (2020, December). Hazing: The Issue, StopHazing Consulting. https://www.stophazing.org/issue

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