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If Your Organization Hazes

Members of organizations that haze may hold a range of views about their practices. If your organization hazes new members, you may support those practices, oppose them, or have a mixture of feelings.

The choices individuals make about whether to haze other people can be influenced by their perception of what others in the group believe. Sometimes hazing continues because members mistakenly believe that everyone in group supports it. Without knowing what others think, members must make assumptions. When they see the entire group engaging in hazing, members might understandably assume that everyone in who is participating approves of the activity.

In reality, there may be some or even many members who do not approve but nonetheless go along with the activity because they believe everyone else agrees with it. This “reign of error” helps to perpetuate hazing. Those members who support hazing may create a climate in which other members do not feel comfortable or safe expressing their concerns or opposition.

If you are not sure whether your group’s activities constitute hazing:

Read about the Campus Code of Conduct and review the descriptions of hazing.

If you know that your group hazes, but are not convinced that it is a problem:

Consider the arguments for and against hazing and think about the following ten reasons to stop hazing:

  1. Regardless of potential benefits of hazing to the group, there are costs as well.
  2. Hazing is either harmful or creates a significant risk of harm, whether mental or physical.
  3. Getting caught can result in the suspension or elimination of your organization.
  4. You may be charged as an individual under the Campus Code of Conduct or Pennsylvania law (lawyers are expensive even if you are found not guilty).
  5. A lawsuit can ruin your group and financially devastate you and your family.
  6. A reputation for hazing can negatively impact members’ future employment or graduate school applications.*
  7. There are effective ways to achieve the group’s pro-social goals without hazing.
  8. Learning ways to build group cohesiveness without hazing will develop skills that can be used after graduation.
  9. You will be more likely to generate committed alumni support.
  10. You won’t have anything to hide or regret and will leave a positive legacy for future generations of members.

*When members graduate and develop professional lives, they often do not want to be associated with an organization that hazes. As one alumni who owned a major software company said, “If I were reviewing applicants and found out that one had been involved in hazing during college, I wouldn’t want him in my firm.”

If your group hazes and you want to challenge it:

  • Raise your concern with other members that you trust. Form an informal subgroup of members who would be willing to raise their objections to the leaders and larger group.
  • If the group has relationships with alumni members, seek their support.
  • Frame your argument at multiple levels. You may be able to convince some members that hazing is intrinsically wrong and harmful to individuals. Other members may only be persuaded that the risk of getting caught and the consequences that could result make hazing not worth continuing.
  • Take a stand that you do not believe that new members should have to go through what you did.
  • Offer ideas for alternatives to hazing that can achieve the positive outcomes of initiating new members while eliminating the risks and costs that come with hazing.
  • Seek support outside of the group. Talk with friends and ask their advice.
  • Refuse to participate in the hazing.
  • Do not feel obligated to keep the hazing a secret. You may want to let new members know what is going to happen to them.
  • Consider quitting in protest.
  • Consider reporting the hazing to university officials.

Be aware that challenging hazing can evoke considerable resistance from some group members. It is possible that other members may pressure, harass, or threaten you in an attempt to preserve the status quo. Getting support from at least one other person in the group who will stand with you can help considerably. Challenging hazing takes courage.

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