One of the biggest problems that our children face these days is hazing. A hazing definition that is clear and unmistakable is vital to putting a stop to the behavior. Hazing is a major problem in schools today, not just on the University level, but also in High School and middle schools.
We can define hazing as bullying behavior that happens when someone joins something exclusive, such as a sports team, club or school organization. Someone is hazed as part of an initiation process when they join an exclusive organization. Hazing behavior can include making the initiate, or person being hazed, do something embarrassing, something dangerous or even can include physical violence in some cases.In many cases, the hazing definition is some kind of sexual abuse. The most basic way to define hazing is putting someone under physical or emotional duress as part of a rite or ritual.
The History of Hazing
The history of hazing probably goes back to the beginning of civilization. Some forms of hazeing has been found in early Greek writings, but the first recorded major incident was in 1684 when a Harvard student named Joseph Webb was expelled for hazeing. The history of hazing is a particularly disturbing and bloody one, with incidents running the gamut from minor injuries to death, paralyzation and everything in between. Most of the notable hazeing incidents that resulted in serious injury or death were at a college or university, particularly as part of a fraternity or sorority ritual, or as part of military service. Many of the most well known incidents were recent, happening in the last ten years. Here are some of the worst incidents of hazing in history.
- In 1975, a 22 year old female student at the University of Peradeniya in Sri Lanka became paralyzed after jumping to escape the hazing that she was exposed to. The incident that caused her to take such an extreme action was a threat to insert a candle into her vagina. The student eventually committed suicide.
- In 1978 Alfred University student Chuck Stenzel died as a result of a hazing incident, choking on his own vomit after passing out after a night of drinking.
- In the years spanning 1993 to 2007, 35 people died from hazing at the Institute of Public Service. The most recent was a student named Cliff Muntu, who died after being beaten up by Seniors.
- In 1997, a engineering student at the University of Peradeniya was murdered in a hazing incident. The autopsy revealed a large amount of toothpaste in his rectum.
- In 2004, several players of a high school football team in Sandwich, Massachusetts faced felony charges after a teammate lost his spleen in a hazing incident.
- In 2005, a student named Matthew Carrington died as a result of hazing at Chico State University.
- In 2011, thirteen students at Florida A&M beat drum major Robert Champion to death on a bus after a marching band performance.
- In 2012, three teenagers were charged with a crime after sexually hazing four students. At Northern Illinois University, a student died in a hazing incident which led to 22 students being charged with a crime, and in Plano, Illinois, five high school students were charged with sexual assault and battery as a result of a hazing incident.
To Define Hazing: Why Hazing is so Prevalent
At least one person a year dies as a result of a hazing incident in the United States, and many, many more are injured. Thousands are emotionally damaged by hazing incidents, even if they never sustain any real physical injuries. But why is hazing so common in high schools and universities? What makes this behavior so prevalent among students?
Take the case of Robert Champion. Although hazing is a form of bullying, Champion’s death by beating wasn’t because students were retaliating at him for something, nor was it done because he was disliked by students, Instead, it was simply a normal thing that happened to new students as part of the school’s marching band, the Marching 100. Although hazing that results in death is a felony charge, most students don’t know that. Institutional memories are extremely short, because even though an incident may have happened recently, in the last three to five years, new students coming into the college or university have no way of knowing that.
Although schools define hazing, and ensure that the hazing definition is available to students, not enough is done to ensure that it doesn’t happen. In some cases, coaches or teacher supervisors even support or condone the hazing, because “that’s the way it has always been.” But more and more schools are starting to understand how dangerous hazing really is and are starting to take steps to eradicate it, especially now that there is so much research on hazing and it’s consequences. Hazing author Hank Nuwer has totalled up 104 deaths from hazing between 1970 and 2012, and the problem isn’t just in America. It is also quite common in the UK.
So, why is hazing so prevalent? The short answer is that it provides both those doing the hazing and those getting hazed with a sense of bonding and unity. Those who “pass” the hazing ritual are considered part of the group. When people have sacrified and endured something difficult, it provides a sense of cohesion that is difficult to match otherwise.
To Define Hazing: Why Hazing is Such a Big Deal
The thing about hazing is, if it wasn’t taken so far, it wouldn’t be that unhealthy. You could argue that military basic training is a form of hazing. Soldiers are awoken at all hours of the night in order to march, required to do grueling PT in the early hours of the morning and are forced to do pushups when they make mistakes. This creates a bond between the soldiers, knowing that all of them had to do basic training at one time or another. This is actually quite a healthy thing, especially because soldiers have to trust each other with their lives.
However, hazing in universities, colleges groups, organizations and other places is not only unneccessary, it is also dangerous, because while the military has hundreds of years of experience designing a basic training course that will push and challenge the soldiers, without actually putting them in serious danger, high school or college students do not, and they design hazing that is dangerous, illegal and can result in serious injury or death.
Hazing someone as part of a ritual to become accepted in a group is extremely dangerous and it is modeled on behavior that is practiced by street gangs in Los Angeles. Often to join a street gang, the initiate must undergo a severe beating at the hands of the gang members before being able to join the gang, often resulting in hospitalization or death. This results in a “only the strong survive” mentality and causing initiations to become more and more dangerous.
The best way to stop hazing for good, especially in high school or college, is to make students aware of serious incidents that have happened in the past. It is difficult to imagine a group of college students hazing with the intention of causing serious harm or death, and in fact, most of the participants in a hazing ritual that has gone bad have stated that they didn’t mean for the incident to go the way it did. This doesn’t excuse their behavior, but it does call to attention the need for schools to be more vocal and clear on what hazing does. Here are some of the ways that schools and other organizations can control or eliminate hazing completely.
- Making students aware of what hazing is, and what kind of dangers it can pose, especially in extreme cases.
- Ensuring that rules are in place to make hazing illegal or against the policy of the institution, and to set clearly defined rules for what happens when a student or group of students is caught hazing.
- Making sure that teachers and other supervisory personnel are aware of the possibility of hazing and ensuring that they are in a position to monitor students who might haze others, especially in locker rooms, on buses or in other areas that might be used for hazing.
- Participating in long term strategies with other institutions and governments agencies to prevent hazing and eradicate it completely.
To define hazing or to define hazed is no easy feat. Hazing used to be a classic ritual in prestigious colleges designed to test loyalty to one’s sorority or fraternity. Now , when attempting to define hazing, you will discover these esteemed rituals are turning into grounds for bullying, harassment, physical violence and leaves a long term effect of abuse that is hard to erase once you graduate. We should no longer be looking to define hazing but to end hazing worldwide.