Hazing Myths

Hazing Myths vs Reality

Reality: Read the definition and then ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does the activity involve mental distress such as humiliation or intimidation?
  • Does it involve physical abuse (e.g., sleep deprivation)?
  • Is there a significant risk of injury or a question of safety?
  • Would you have any reservations describing the activity to your parents or a university official?
  • Is alcohol involved? Would you be worried if the activity was shown on the evening news?

If the answer to any of the above questions is "Yes," the activity is probably hazing.

Reality: Occasionally there are new members who say they want to be hazed. But generally most do not want to be humiliated, intimidated, or physically abused. "Wanting" to be hazed usually means desiring an intense, challenging experience. It is not necessary to haze new members in order to challenge them.
Reality: While there are more and less severe forms of hazing, even low level hazing crosses the line. Even a "little" hazing can have an unintended negative impact on new members. And if the action meets the definition of hazing, the group will get in trouble if caught.
Reality: Hazing may create unity among new members, but often there are costs as well (see Arguments for and Against Hazing). The effect of hazing on a group can be like the effect of a hurricane on a community: residents feel closer to each other afterward but some may be suffering. Would anyone suggest that it is good for a community to be hit by a hurricane?
Reality: While holding new members accountable may be important, there are effective ways to do so without hazing. Effective parents, teachers, and bosses all know ways to hold others accountable without humiliating, degrading or physically hurting them. These skills can be learned.
Reality: If this statement was true, then child abuse and torture would be prescriptions for personal growth. So while it's true that difficult situations can help individuals grow and prepare for life's challenges, many experiences that don't "kill" nevertheless do damage because of their psychological or physical impact.
Reality: Even if there's no malicious "intent," safety may still be a factor in traditional hazing activities that are considered to be "all in good fun." For example, serious accidents have occurred during scavenger hunts. And when members are drunk, they sometimes subject the new members to more than they originally intended.
Reality: Many group members may not approve of hazing but go along with the activity because they mistakenly believe everyone else agrees with it. This "reign of terror" helps to perpetuate hazing. The strongest supporters of hazing are often the most vocal and dominant members.
Reality:While it does take a certain strength to make it through hazing, many people submit to it because they desire acceptance by others, are afraid to resist, or feel a need to prove to themselves or others that they are worthy or tough enough (e.g., "a real man"). These motives reflect conformity, fear and insecurity, which are not qualities typically associated with strength. In contrast, standing up to a group of abusive peers or breaking free from hazing takes courage. That's real strength.
Reality: Since hazing practices are secret, group members often don't realize that their "unique" practices are typically variations on common themes: extensive memorization with verbal abuse for incorrect answers, sleep deprivation, servitude, kidnappings, drinking rituals, calisthenics, lineups, cleaning up messes, isolation of members, theft, impossible games, sexual embarrassment, inappropriate clothing, absurd scavenger hunts, unpalatable food, and physical violence.
Reality: Hazing incidents have occurred across the country in athletic teams, military units, performing arts groups, religious groups, and other types of clubs and organizations. Hazing occurs in high schools as well as on college campuses.
Reality: The U.S. military does not, in fact, condone hazing practices. The military does engage in a unique type of training for dangerous military operations. This training is conducted by professionals to prepare military personnel for putting their lives on the line for their country. According to the Dept. of the Army's TRADOC Regulation 350-6: "Hazing is strictly prohibited" and is "an offense punishable under the Uniform Code of Military Justice."