“Hazing” refers to any activity expected of someone joining a group (or to maintain full status in a group) that humiliates, degrades, or risks emotional and/or physical harm, regardless of the person’s willingness to participate.
You are on Facebook and see some of your teammates’ posts about upcoming “initiation” for this year’s freshmen, as well as pictures from last year. You know it’s actually hazing and you’re not comfortable with what they are planning.
It seems they push the limit a little more every year but justify it by saying it’s what makes the team close, that it’s “tradition.” You want to say something but feel intimidated and don’t want them to think less of you. What do you do?
- How many would now consider a team activity, by definition, hazing?
- How could you break a long-standing “tradition”? What activities could be introduced to start a new tradition and replace a questionable one?
- How do hazing activities get passed on? Have you been hazed? If yes, do you think it means you are permitted to pass it on to the next class? Is there an expectation to participate?
- How could the competitive or risk taking nature of being a student-athlete impact a hazing situation (alcohol consumption, water chugging, high risk activities AFTER alcohol consumption)?
- Does your team have a unique culture? If yes, what is it? How does hazing fit into that?
Team building/initiation “type” activities can be a good thing and very beneficial. They should be serious and challenging, help the person find an identity in a group of athletes and give them a sense of belonging. These types of activities, however, are different from hazing in very fundamental ways. Without careful consideration, they can too often degenerate into hazing where they humiliate, embarrass, degrade or endanger people. Ask yourself:
- Is there secrecy around the activity?
- Is there pressure to participate?
- Is a specific group or individual singled out?
- Do members justify it as being a “tradition”?
- Does this activity promote and conform to the ideals and values of the team/athletic department/university?
- Will this activity increase long term feelings of friendship between new and initiated members of the team?
- Take the perspective of your parents – would they be proud? Your Coach? Athletic Director? The University President?
- Would you be willing to defend the merit of this activity in a court of law?
- Does the activity meet both the spirit and letter of the standards prohibiting hazing?
How Hazing Is Justified
Moral Disengagement (Bandura, 2002): Gradual disengagement of moral self-sanction. Behavior normally viewed as immoral, even reprehensible, over time becomes more benign, acceptable or worthy in a particular social setting through cognitive restructuring.
- Moral Justification – make it socially worthy (e.g., creating bonds, building unity).
- Euphemistic labeling – sanitized language of non-responsibility (e.g., “team building”).
- Advantageous comparison – War analogy – “We’re going to battle.”
- Displacement of responsibility – “We’re just carrying on tradition”; surreptitious sanctioning (wink and nod); intentionally uninformed – “We don’t have a problem with hazing here,” or “I don’t want to know.”
- Diffusion of Responsibility – Normative conformity; avoidance of personal responsibility.
- Disregard/distortion of consequences – Athletes are good at hiding pain, physical, emotional, or otherwise.
- Dehumanization – Perception of freshmen as “less than”; use of masks, costumes, etc.
- Attribution of Blame – Blame the victim – “They agreed to it.”
Did you know…?
- Student-athletes have been dismissed and teams have been dropped because of hazing incidents. Is it really worth it?
- Survey results state that 49% of students say they have experienced a hazing that made them feel uncomfortable.
- Almost 80% say hazing bothers them yet only 20% say they try to stop it.
- Action Steps
- Define up front what is acceptable and what is not acceptable.
- Ensure the activity that is planned could not be considered, by definition, hazing.
- Don’t let others justify hazing as “tradition”.
- BREAK THE SILENCE and voice your opinion.
- Choose to not participate.
- Speak with teammates/captains about your concerns.
- Talk to an administrator/coach/trainer, etc.
- Come up with new activities that promote team bonding without any risk of it being considered hazing.
- Get those involved to stop and think about the people they are hazing (perspective taking). Is there any chance hazing could trigger something in terms of personal/ emotional challenges they have had to face in their life?
Quoting the Captain
“In terms of hazing, something that I am strongly opposed to, as a senior I had the ability to dictate whether any initiation activities would go on and used my standing as a senior captain to put to rest any negative hazing activities, and instead started new traditions that involved bringing the team together rather than forcing people into awkward situations.”
Life Skills Director
Coach, Assistant Coach, Athletic Directors, Administrators, Advisors, and/or Trainers