Some students who haze contend that hazing results in positive outcomes for the group (e.g., increased closeness), the individuals who are hazed (e.g., personal growth from overcoming challenges), and the persons who do the hazing (e.g., pride in continuing traditions). But these positive outcomes can be achieved through non-hazing activities that avoid the negative effects that often result from hazing.
Strong group unity and a sense of individual accomplishment are important for groups throughout society to achieve. Many businesses, for example, invest considerable resources to foster effective group processes and enhance individual motivation. And they generally do so through positive, encouraging strategies that build people up rather than tearing them down.
Let’s say you are a proponent of hazing. Now imagine that you have graduated and are in your first job as a sales representative for a major corporation. At a staff meeting your boss asks for suggestions on how to strengthen the functioning of the sales team. You recommend that he blindfold the team members, make them form a line, and then scream insults and threats at each of them. Would you argue that such an exercise would lead to increased sales? Wouldn’t it be better if you could recommend a set of constructive, group-building strategies that you learned as a member of a group while in school?
Some members of groups that haze say that one of the biggest barriers to changing their practices is that they don’t know what else to do that would accomplish their goals. On one hand, if the desired goals include making others endure the pain and degradation you went through, then there are no real alternatives. On the other hand, if the goals are to increase group unity, promote individual growth, instill positive values, and foster an identity with the group, then there are options. Employing alternatives to hazing doesn’t mean holding hands in a circle singing Kumbaya. A program of activities aimed at replacing hazing will likely need to incorporate some level of challenge or intensity. It may also need to incorporate non-hazing mechanisms of self-governance for holding new members accountable to the expectations of the group.
Below is a list of ideas that can be used as substitutes for hazing or to strengthen a non-hazing program. A few points about the list to keep in mind: