Hazing Myths and Realities

The following myths and realities were adapted in part from stophazing.org.

Hazing builds unity among new members.

Reality: Hazing may create unity among new members, but often there are costs as well. The effect of hazing on a group can be like the effect of a natural disaster on a community: residents feel closer to each other afterward but many are suffering. Would anyone suggest that it is good for a community to be hit by a natural disaster?

Hazing is the only method for holding new members accountable.

Reality: While holding new members accountable is 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. Chapter officers can work with Fraternity and Sorority Programs staff and the volunteers and staff of their national organization to develop programs that hold new members accountable without hazing them.

Hazing is okay as long as it is not physically dangerous.

Reality: Mental hazing can be brutal and leave lasting psychological scars. Some hazing victims report that the mental hazing they endured was worse than being physically abused.

A little hazing should be okay, as long as there's no mean-spirited or injurious intent.

Reality: Regardless of intent, some group bonding activities designed to be "all in good fun" still may raise some serious safety concerns." 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.

Hazing continues because everyone in the group supports it.

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 error" helps to perpetuate hazing. The strongest supporters of hazing are often the most vocal and dominant members.

If someone agrees to participate in an activity, it can't be considered hazing.

Reality: In states that have laws against hazing, the consent of the victim can't be used as a defense. This is because even if someone agrees to participate in a potentially hazardous action, it may not be true consent because of peer pressure, intentional or unintentional threats, and the withholding of information about what will occur.

Since alumni and current members were hazed, it is only fair that the new members go through it too.

Reality: "Tradition" does not justify subjecting new members to abuse. Traditions are created by groups, and groups hold the power to change or eliminate them. It only takes one year to break a hazing tradition. Remember that the founding members of organizations were not hazed.

Hazing practices preserve the uniqueness and exclusiveness of the organization.

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.

Other chapters on campus will not respect an organization that does not haze.

Reality: A positive, educational program will result in a better all-around organization and the ability to attract the best new members. Being able to recruit the best students will earn the respect of other groups.

Hazing only exists in fraternities and sororities.

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.