“Just Tell Me What I Can’t Do”
We are often asked to simplify the definition by providing a list of prohibited actions. The problem with doing this is that just about any activity can be turned into hazing if the will to do so is present. Hazing can be as much about the way in which the activity is conducted and experienced as well as the activity itself.
For this reason, we prefer to focus on the nature of the activity—how it is done, where, and to whom—rather than the type of activity per se. While some activities—such as paddling new members until they are bruised—are obviously hazing because they threaten the physical or mental health of new members, others are less dramatic but still link affiliation and membership to submission. So focus on the nature of the activity. It is hazing if…
- It is forced, required or expected, either explicitly or implicitly.
- It is done secretly, often outside of officially sanctioned spaces like lodges.
- If questioned about the activity, those conducting lie.
- Only new members have to do it.
The following is a list of some behaviors that constitute hazing because they correspond with the points above.
- Misleading prospective members in an effort to convince them that they will not become members, that they will be hurt during induction/initiation, or any other activity that would cause extreme mental stress
- Requiring or compelling the forced consumption of any liquid or solid substance, including alcohol or other drugs
- Socially isolating new members
- Requiring new members/teammates to perform duties not assigned to others; or depriving new members of privileges granted to other members
- All forms of physical activity which are selectively imposed, used to harass and/or are not part of an organized athletic context and not specifically directed toward constructive work
- Causing embarrassment or shame to a member or prospective member, either within the organization or publicly
- Causing a member to be the object of amusement or ridicule, either within the organization or publicly
- Causing psychological or emotional strain
- “Road trips” and other types of involuntary excursions
- Kidnapping or confinement in any room or compartment
- Spraying, painting, or pelting with any substance, or burying in any substance
- Nudity or any state of undress at any time
- Simulation of sex acts or performing sex acts
- Requiring or compelling activities that create unnecessary work, duties, or detention, or any that do not allow adequate time for study
- Depriving individuals of sufficient sleep and holding late work sessions which interfere with scholastic activities
- Requiring or compelling exposure to uncomfortable elements
- Verbal harassment
- Requiring or compelling the wearing of apparel which is not in good taste or requiring the purchase and wearing of specific (i.e. only permitted to wear team/chapter colors)
- Burning, branding, or tattooing any part of the body, or any other activity, whether voluntary or involuntary, which may cause physical injury or endanger the life of the person being hazed
- Carrying any item (shields, paddles, bricks, hammers, etc.) that serves no constructive purpose or that is designed to punish or embarrass the carrier
- Blindfolding and parading individuals in public areas, blindfolding and transporting in a motor vehicle, or privately conducting blindfolding activities that serve no constructive purpose
- Binding or restricting any person's arms or legs that would prohibit him/her from moving on his/her own
- Requiring or suggesting that members or prospective members obtain or possess items (scavenger hunts, quests, treasure hunts)
- Requiring or compelling new members or teammates to perform personal service to other members such as carrying books, running errands, cooking, cleaning, etc.
- Any other activities which are not consistent with the regulations and policies of the University or state/federal law
Still confused? Ask yourself these questions:
- Would we get in trouble if the Dean of Students walked by?
- Would I be worried if this activity was shown on the evening news?
- Am I being asked to keep these activities a secret?
- Am I doing anything illegal?
- Does participation violate my values or those of my organization?
- Is it causing emotional distress or stress of any kind to myself or others?
- Would active/current members of this group refuse to participate with the new members and do exactly what they’re being asked to do?
- Could this activity possible humiliate, embarrass or degrade myself or others?
- Is there a risk of injury or question of safety?
- If someone were injured, would I feel uncomfortable being investigated by the insurance carrier?
- Would I be uncomfortable asking someone I love do this activity?
If the answer to any of these questions is yes, you may be being hazed or hazing others.