College Hazing: What It Is and How to Stop It
Zac Efron and Dave Franco portray the prototypical frat brothers in the 2014 comedy “Bad Neighbors,” acting out scenarios of rowdy college parties and an unbreakable camaraderie. The film also depicts hazing traditions as a negative aspect of Greek culture.
Fraternities and sororities are often seen as the pinnacle of the American college experience, but in recent years, the media has focused light on the cruel world of college hazing, inspiring a call to action throughout the country. The 2017 Penn State hazing incident, which resulted in the death of 19-year-old Timothy Piazza and the arrest of 26 fraternity brothers, is one well-known case.
So far this year, two college students have passed away from alcohol-related hazing: Adam Oakes, 19, from Virginia Commonwealth University, and Stone Foltz, 20, from Bowling Green State University.
Hazing in fraternities progressively becomes a rite of passage to a lethal ritual. At least 50 college students have died away from hazing since 2000, many of which were caused by alcohol.
A Hazing Definition: What Is Hazing and Why Did It Start?
Hazing was once and continues to be now a rite for initiation into a secretive community. Dr. Michelle A. Finkel defines hazing as “committing acts against an individual or forcing an individual to commit an act that creates a risk for harm for the individual to be initiated into or affiliated with an organization” in a study published in The American Journal of Emergency Medicine.
Hazing is not a recent phenomenon, even though it has existed for thousands of years. This may help to explain why such behaviors continue in institutions with strong historical traditions, such as fraternities and sports teams.
55% of college students participating in groups or sports reported experiencing hazing, according to data from StopHazing. A significant portion of the occurrences featured drinking, lack of sleep, humiliation, isolation, and sex activities. Additionally, 95% of these incidents were undetected.
Why Do College Students Participate in Hazing?
The active participation of students who may otherwise be seen as ethically “good” is one troubling feature of hazing.
Author Hank Nuwer gave an interview with NPR in which he outlined the rationale behind why people engage in hazing practices. The influence of a group-think attitude, he said, “leads to people behaving in ways they wouldn’t typically behave because they’re in the group.”
Jenny North, Ph.D., interviewed fraternity and sorority members at the University of Arizona for her 2014 dissertation to comprehend why young men and women participate in hazing rituals.
The significance of tradition in collegiate fraternities was one of Nirh’s discoveries. Her dissertation states, “Tradition had a crucial impact on how students described hazing in their organizations.” They were able to justify the significance of the events by connecting the hazing to what they saw as long-standing customs.
How to Prevent College Hazing
Call 1-888-NOT-HAZE, a discreet, toll-free anti-hazing hotline, if you’ve seen or been involved in hazing (1-888-668-4293). Remember that each call is converted into an email and sent to the fraternity or sorority mentioned in the call.
Visit Hazing Prevention and StopHazing for additional information on how to participate in initiatives to stop hazing.
By doing the following, you can prevent hazing on college campuses:
- Start a hazing prevention movement on your campus;
- Research and comprehend university anti-hazing rules and state/local regulations;
- Become acquainted with the indicators of hazing;
- Learn what hazing is;
- Take the hazing prevention pledge.
Regardless of the rationale, people subjected to hazing often see the experience as proof of their high pain tolerance.
Over 250,000 college students reported being subjected to hazing while attempting to join a university sports team, according to a 1999 Alfred University research. Over half of the hazed students stated that “tolerating psychological stress” and “tolerating physical pain” were significant, whereas just one-third did.
Hazing’s initial intent was to humiliate new organization members to gauge their loyalty and foster a sense of community. Hazing, however, transformed the turn of the century when violence became a crucial component of initiation. Following the Civil War, young men began utilizing military hazing techniques at universities.
According to Abby Jackson’s article for Business Insider, “Hazing fatalities are not a new phenomenon.” “One of the earliest well-known fatalities happened in 1873 when a Cornell University Kappa Alpha Society pledge was abandoned in the dark and blindfolded in the countryside. He died after falling down a cliff while traveling.”
Of course, not all fraternities engage in hazing. However, the increase in hazing-related fatalities in recent years, whether from alcohol or physical abuse, has sparked public outrage about how the American judicial system addresses hazing.
Notable College Hazing Scandals
While hazing is often portrayed in the media as exclusive to college fraternities, many other campus organizations also participate in initiation ceremonies. The most well-known hazing controversies from recent years are listed here.
Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (2011)
Drum major Robert Champion passed away after being brutally beaten by marching band members in a hazing rite called “Crossing Bus C,” which was intended to win the respect of more senior pupils.
Champion’s death is noteworthy that FAMU’s once-proud marching band was disbanded, its 2012 season was halted, the university president and band director resigned, and some band members were found guilty of criminal hazing. While Champion’s passing illustrated the negative aspects of hazing, it also highlighted the elaborate rituals involved and led to arresting those who engaged in them.
Pennsylvania State University (2017)
The death of Timothy Piazza altered the public dialogue on hazing, maybe more than any other occurrence. Piazza, a Penn State student and Beta Theta Pi pledge, had participated in “the gauntlet,” a ritual in which he drank much alcohol. He continued to fall and strike his head when falling down a staircase and passed on the next morning.
The Timothy J. Piazza Antihazing Law passed at the beginning of 2019, gives fraternity and sorority members in Pennsylvania more stringent penalties and a system of graduated fines.
Virginia Commonwealth University and Bowling Green State University (2021)
Due largely to the shift to remote learning, 2020 was the first year in 60 years without any hazing-related fatalities, but 2021 quickly reversed any feeling of comfort that schools and parents may have had. Adam Oakes, a first-year student at VCU, and Stone Foltz, a new initiate of BGSU’s Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity, perished due to alcohol-fueled hazing in less than two weeks.
Both incidences received public attention, particularly the one involving Foltz, who was kept alive so that his organs could be given, which rekindled calls for schools to strictly prohibit hazing.
Will Hazing in College Ever Disappear?
Parents around the nation are becoming more incensed by the lack of action institutions are doing to safeguard kids as the number of deaths from hazing climbs. As a result, more states are passing anti-hazing legislation and promoting harsher penalties for hazing.
Currently, hazing is illegal in 44 states. However, the majority classify it as a misdemeanor rather than a crime. Even though hazing may occur outside of fraternities, many anti-hazing statutes expressly include initiation ceremonies. Alaska, Hawaii, Montana, South Dakota, Wyoming, and New Mexico are the six states that don’t have any anti-hazing legislation.
Florida approved anti-hazing legislation in 2019 that makes it possible to take legal action against students who participate in hazing, whether or not they were present during the actual hazing. Andrew’s Law honors Andrew Coffey, a Florida State University student who passed away in 2017 from alcohol-related hazing.
In February, the Georgia Senate unanimously voted to support a bill that would increase penalties for those involved in hazing.
In February, a measure that would toughen the punishments for individuals who engage in hazing was supported by the Georgia Senate in a unanimous vote. Max Gruver, a student at Louisiana State University who passed away in 2017 from alcohol-related hazing, inspired the creation of the legislation.
However, many feel that more than state legislation is needed. A nationwide anti-hazing measure that would force institutions to disclose details about any hazing events on campus or in student organizations to their websites was reintroduced by legislators in March.
According to the Gruver family, the Abolish All Hazing Act aims to “educate on the risks of hazing, expose the organizations who haze, and be the catalyst to end all hazing.”
Although hazing may never fully cease, the current increase in anti-hazing legislation throughout the U.S. gives optimism that the long-standing “custom” may one day be recognized for what it is: a risky and sometimes lethal crime.