Whether you’re a member of a sorority, sports team, or even a more unofficial group, think twice before you haze – it’s way more serious than it seems at first glance. Some people see hazing as a rite of a passage, a tradition, or something that will make people stronger and more committed. In reality, hazing is dehumanizing, cruel, and potentially dangerous…not to mention illegal. Considered “adult bullying,” hazing at a college level is punishable by law.
Get the facts before you participate in any hazing rituals.
What is hazing? By definition, hazing is “”any activity expected of someone joining a group that humiliates, degrades, abuses or endangers, regardless of the person’s willingness to participate. This does not include activities such as rookies carrying the balls, team parties with community games, or going out with your teammates, unless an atmosphere of humiliation, degradation, abuse or danger arises.”
Hazing can be as simple as withholding rights, or as severe and serious as burning, assaulting, or drugging another person. And while the more innocent forms of hazing may seem inconsequential, these are often considered misdemeanors – even if the victim is consenting. The power structure of hazing is dangerous in and of itself; a younger person or someone who is a position of inferiority often feels too threatened by possible punishments to speak out, so even if someone doesn’t seem bothered by your actions, it’s still considered hazing.
The reason these rules are in place is simple: nobody means to kill or seriously harm the person who is being hazed, but these situations often spiral out of control. Take the 2002 Cal State Los Angeles hazing that left two girls dead: after being made to perform exercises on the beach for hours, Kenitha Saafir and Kristin High were told to walk backwards into the ocean. Saafir went along with the task even though she couldn’t swim, and when the tide carried her away, her fellow pledge went after her. Both girls drowned. Clearly this was not the sorority’s intention, but when hazing is involved, these things happen and those that initiated the activity are held accountable.
The number people who have ruined their own lives by hazing others is remarkable. Without even meaning to harm anyone, initiators can leave others seriously injured or even dead – and if the possibility of living with that guilt isn’t enough of a reason not to haze, the legal repercussions should be. In the past, those who have hazed to death have been convicted of manslaughter – whether or not they wanted things to get so far out of hand.
So be smart – avoid hazing at all costs, even if it makes you look or feel like you’re going against the group. If something makes you feel uncomfortable, don’t do it. In my opinion, belonging to a group is never worth taking such a serious risk.