Hazing Prevention Education
What is Hazing?
Hazing is defined as any action taken or situation created intentionally or unintentionally, whether on or off campus, to produce mental or physical discomfort, embarrassment, harassment or ridicule. Hazing includes servitude, which is often defined as “personal favors.”
Specifically, hazing includes, but is not limited to, the following:
- Activities and situations which create excessive fatigue or enduring extreme conditions.
- Physical abuse and psychological shock.
- Wearing apparel which is conspicuous and not normally in good taste.
- Morally degrading, humiliating or embarrassing games, stunts, jokes or activities, irrespective of whether performed in public or in a private setting.
- Pledging/member intake activities may only occur between the hours of 7am – 11pm, Sunday through Friday, regardless of on-campus or off-campus location. Hours spent in intake activities must allow for a minimum of eight hours of sleeping time.
- Any activity which requires an unreasonable or inordinate amount of the individual’s time, impairs the individual’s academic efforts or requires the individual to miss work.
- The placement of any liquid or solid matter in the mouth or the rapid consumption of food or liquid.
- Any action which would place the individual in immediate danger. Obstructing vision is strictly prohibited.
- Paddling in any form.
- Requirements which compel the individual to participate in any activity which is illegal, contrary to the individual’s genuine moral or religious beliefs, or which is contrary to the rules and regulations of the University and the State of Mississippi.
- Use of alcohol.
- Quests, treasure hunts, scavenger hunts, and road trips.
Refer to Section 3.8 – Hazing Prevention within the MUW Student Handbook.
Examples of Hazing
Many times, people believe that hazing is difficult to define. They think there is a lot of gray area. Here are some examples of hazing taken from StopHazing.org:
- Forced or coerced consumption of alcohol
- Being yelled at or cursed at by other members of the team or group
- Sleep deprivation
- Ingestion of vile substances
- Simulate sex acts
- Associate with certain people and not others
- Forced or coerced shaving of heads or other body parts
- Personal servitude
- Inflict violence on someone
- Be whipped, kicked, or beaten
- Perform sex acts
- Public nudity
- Make prank phone calls or harass others
- Wear embarrassing clothing
- Deprive self of regular hygiene practices (e.g., brushing teeth, bathing/showering)
- Destroy or steal property
- Cheat or help others cheat on an exam
- “Drop-offs” or “dumps” in unfamiliar locations
- Being paddled
- Lock-ups or being confined to small spaces
- Being duct taped or some other physical restraints
- Sacrificing or injuring animals
- Burning skin
This is by no means an exhaustive list. There really is a wide continuum of hazing behaviors from those that are kind of hidden or subtle, to those that are threatening, embarrassing or harassing and finally to those that are violent or dangerous. Particularly with the more hidden to subtle types of hazing, context is important. Remember the power and control dynamic.
To help you identify whether something is hazing or not, the following questions should be asked. If the answer to ANY of these questions is YES, it is very likely that the activity is hazing.
- Would active, current members of the group refuse to participate in this activity with the new members and do exactly what they’re being asked to do?
- Does the activity risk emotional or physical harm or abuse?
- Would you object to the activity being photographed for the school newspaper or filmed by the local TV news crew?
- Would I feel comfortable participating in this activity if my parents were watching?
- Would we get in trouble if the Dean of Students walked by?
- Am I being asked to keep these activities a secret?
- Am I doing anything illegal?
- Does participation violate my values or those of my organization?
How to Report Hazing
The health and safety of all members of the campus community are the University’s primary concern. Hazing is a violation of MUW’s Student Code of Conduct and Mississippi Law. If you have experienced hazing, witnessed hazing, or suspect that someone you know has been hazed, you can report to university officials.
Mississippi University for Women’s ability to investigate reports and enforce university policies depends on the information provided by reporting. You are encouraged to provide as much specific detail as possible so that appropriate action can be taken to address the reported behavior.
Consequences of Hazing
General Consequences of Hazing
Hazing can take many forms, but typically involves some degree of physical risk or mental distress that can be disruptive, demeaning, or dangerous. Many times, alcohol and secrecy are part of the hazing. No matter what it looks like, hazing is never okay.
Some people argue that hazing behaviors promote group bonding but hazing can also create lasting physical and/or emotional damage. Hazing behaviors are varied and fall along a continuum of harm. It happens in different ways, at different times, and to new and current members.
Some of the detriments to hazing can be seen in the list below, as offered by Stop Hazing.Org:
- Physical harm and death
- Emotional harm
- Student attrition
- Breading of mistrust among group members
- Cultivation of a school/campus culture of abuse
- Bad press for individuals, organization and school/campus or community
- Lawsuits and liability
One does not know the personal histories of every person in their organization, and different hazing practices will affect each person differently, often causing more hurt than good.
All reports of hazing will be reviewed by the Dean of Students Office in accordance with the Student Code of Conduct procedures. Refer to Section 6: Student Code of Conduct & Judicial Process in the MUW Student Handbook. Any person may file a complaint of hazing.
There is no time limit to filing a formal complaint; however, persons are encouraged to promptly report alleged acts of hazing in order to maximize the University’s ability to investigate and respond. The University strives to promptly resolve all complaints. The resolution time may vary depending on the complexity of the investigation and severity and extent of the alleged misconduct.
All formal reports of alleged hazing, regardless of whether the complainant chooses to pursue resolution through the student conduct process, will be investigated and steps will be taken to provide support to the complainant. This support may include taking appropriate interim action prior to the completion of the investigation and conclusion of the student conduct process.
Hazing Myths & Reality
Myth: The definition is so vague that anything can be considered hazing.
Realty: Read the definition of hazing and then ask yourself the following questions:
- Does the activity involve mental distress such as humiliation or intimidation?
- Does the activity involve physical abuse (e.g., sleep deprivation)?
- Is there a significant risk of injury or a question of safety?
- Would you have any reservations describing the activity to your parents or a university official?
- Is alcohol involved?
- Would you be worried if the activity was shown on the evening news?
Myth: Hazing only “a little bit” is not really that bad.
Reality: While there are more and less severe forms of hazing, even low-level hazing crosses the line. Even a “little” hazing can have an unintended negative impact on new members. And if the action meets the definition of hazing, the group will get in trouble if caught.
Myth: Hazing builds unity among new members.
Reality: Hazing may create unity among new members, but often there are costs as well. The effect of hazing on a group can be like the effect of a hurricane on a community: residents feel closer to each other afterward but some may be suffering.
Myth: Hazing is okay as long as it is not physically dangerous.
Reality: Mental hazing can be brutal and leave lasting psychological scars. Some hazing victims report that the mental hazing they endured was worse than being physically abused.
Myth: As long as there is no malicious intent, a little hazing should be okay.
Reality: Even if there is no malicious intent, safety may still be a factor in traditional hazing activities that are considered to be “all in good fun.”
Myth: If someone agrees to participate in an activity, it can’t be considered hazing.
Reality: In states that have laws against hazing, consent of the victim can’t be used as a defense. This is because even if someone agrees to participate in a potentially hazardous action, it may not be true consent because of peer pressure, intentional or unintentional threats, and the withholding of information about what will occur.
Myth: Hazing is no more than pranks that sometimes go awry.
Reality: Accidents happen during hazing, but hazing is not accidental. It is premeditated abuse that can be emotionally traumatic, physically dangerous, or even life-threatening.
Myth: Hazing practices preserve the uniqueness and exclusiveness of the group.
Reality: Since hazing practices are secret, group members often do not realize that their “unique” practices are typically variations on common themes: extensive memorization with verbal abuse for incorrect answers, sleep deprivation, servitude, isolation of members, theft, inappropriate clothing, unpalatable food, and physical violence.
Myth: Hazing only exits in fraternities and sororities.
Reality: Hazing incidents have occurred across the country in athletic teams, military units, performing arts groups, religious groups, and other types of clubs and organizations.
Myth: Since alumni and current members were hazed, it is only fair that the new members go through it too.
Reality: “Tradition” does not justify subjecting new members to abuse. Traditions are created by groups, and groups hold the power to change or eliminate them. It only takes one year to break a hazing tradition. Remember that the founding members of organizations were not hazed.
Myth: Eliminating hazing makes an organization just like any other social club. It will be too easy to become a member.
Reality: Hazing is not necessary for an initiation experience to be challenging and unique. A well-organized, creative program will build group cohesion and foster character development. Any group can haze new members-that’s the easy way out. It takes vision and commitment to run a good, non-hazing program.
Hazing Prevention Resources
Office of Student Life
MUW Police Department
MUW Counseling Center
Dean of Students Office
National Hazing Prevention
HazingPrevention.Org is a national organization dedicated to hazing prevention. They provide excellent information, including personal stories and media resources. HazingPrevention.Org also sponsors National Hazing Prevention Week and regular webinar programs.
StopHazing.org provides information about hazing laws, news, myths and facts, and about different types of hazing, including athletic, high school, military, and fraternity/sorority.
Inside Hazing provides educational information about hazing and describes the “psychology of hazing” in school, the military, and the office.
The Gordie Center for Substance Abuse Prevention is dedicated to preventing alcohol abuse and hazing.