What is hazing in our society?
In the 1976 movie Carrie, a young girl who does not make friends easily is humiliated, harassed and abused by her peers and classmates. There are scenes of boys taunting Carrie and girls throwing objects at her. One girl even locked Carrie in a closet and forced her to pray. The most heart-wrenching scene is when Carrie is tricked to attend a prom with Tommy Ross. While at the prom, the queen and king ballots are rigged so that Carrie and Tommy can win the crown. Just as it appears Carrie is finally accepted among her senior classmates, she is drenched with a bucket of pig’s blood with the majority of the student body and others laughing at her.
So the questions to be asked are: What is hazing in our society? What percentage of students experience hazing on college and university campuses? What are the myths about hazing? What can be done to prevent hazing?
According to research, hazing is illegal in 44 states and comprises, of “any activity expected of someone joining a group that humiliates, degrades, abuses or endangers regardless of the person’s willingness to participate” in the activity. The activity is normally affiliated with an individual being physically and psychologically abused, depriving of sleep, carrying unwarranted objects, consuming alcohol and participating in sexual acts. Hazing is a popular culture in higher education. In a national study on student hazing, consisting of 11,482 undergraduate students from 53 colleges and universities, 55 percent of college students affiliated with groups, organizations and teams experienced some type of hazing. In about 95 percent of the hazing incidents, students did not report their cases to the campus officials. Half of these hazing incidents are placed on the internet by the offending group.
Joining groups, organizations and teams are about gaining acceptance, belonging and affection, as a part of students’ social needs. Students willingly or unwillingly do about anything to gain membership in an organization. According to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), “many student-athletes believe the myths that hazing will accomplish team building and bonding, instill needed humility in new team members, establish a hierarchy for leadership and decision-making within the team, allow individuals free choice regarding their participation and be fun and harmless.”
To support their argument, hazing is a continuing tradition in the NFL and other professional sports without any sanctions. In the NFL, rookies are hazed by veteran players as part of the initiation and acceptance into the league. Some examples of hazing rookies include cutting their hair in peculiar ways and having them to carry veterans’ football workout gear. In some teams, rookies are taped to the goal posts while sprayed with mustard, ketchup, mayonnaise or whipped cream. Because of the potential psychological and physical harm to the athletes and the refusal of players such as Dallas Cowboys Dez Bryant to carry Roy Jones’ workout gear, two NFL coaches banned the traditional hazing ritual. Dallas Cowboys’ first-year coach Jason Garrett and Jacksonville Jaguars’ former coach Jack Del Rio opposed the ritual. Del Rio apparently felt compelled to protect first-round draft choice and rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert from any undue stress or harm especially since he was drafted to compete for the starting quarterback position against veteran quarterback David Garrard.
To eliminate the myths of hazing on college and university campuses, the NCAA recommends that higher education administrators employ comprehensive strategies to hazing preventions at all levels (individual, institution, group, community and public policy). They recommend that schools clearly define the consequences for documented hazing occurrences and establish an effective method for investigating allegations of hazing incidents. Finally, schools should assure legal steps are followed in line with allegations of hazing incidents.
Similarly, the findings in the national study of student hazing recommends that higher education administrators make hazing prevention inclusive to all student groups on campus and that they extensively educate all stakeholders of the campus community about the seriousness and dangers of hazing. The study also recommends that schools create hazing interventions that are researched-centered and evaluate them periodically to measure their effectiveness for hazing preventions.
In the Carrie movie, the victim was reluctant to attend the school’s prom and was warned by her mother that everyone at the school would laugh at her. However, Carrie wanted to be accepted among her peers especially since she was not getting the necessary affection and love at home. So she attended the prom despite her mother’s wishes. In this movie and other facets of entertainment, we can see that hazing is about taking advantage of someone who desires to be part of an activity. The Carrie movie shows that hazing can have a disastrous impact on all who are involved. Hazing is a criminal act and thus we must teach our students to abolish these archaic practices for the safety and welfare of the student body. We must also partner with community organizations and campus officials to create researched-based anti-hazing preventions to help our students overcome the myths that hazing will foster team building and bonding.
Photo courtesy of Auburn University.