The Dangerous World of Hazing

February 18, 2013
Humiliating, harrowing, and heinous; these words can be used to describe hazing, a dehumanizing practice. So what is hazing? Hazing is considered to be any act that, “forces a person to endure some sort of physical or mental abuse, harassment or humiliation as a condition of gaining membership or acceptance into a group” (“Hazing”). Normally occurring in fraternities, sororities, military institutions, sports teams, and other groups, hazing affects thousands of people every year (“Hazing”). Extremely dangerous, hazing can be a life or death situation. In the 2012 article by Peter Applebome titled At a Campus Scared by Hazing, Cries for Help, Sunni Solomon - Binghamton University’s assistant director of Greek life - agrees with the previous statement when she wrote that her, “. . . entire tenure from start to finish, I was scared to death that someone was going to die” (Applebome). Why should someone feel like they are going to die just from “harmless fun?” Although illegal in 40 states, it is not met with severe enough punishment (“Hazing”). Hazing is a cruel practice that should be made illegal in every state so that no person can be harmed both physically and mentally.

Those who participate in hazing condone violence and brutality. Using hazing as a way to initiate someone into a group is wrong because it promotes the use of violence. The problem is that people confuse hazing and initiation and believe they are the same but they are not. They are completely different in that initiation is harmless whereas hazing is harmful. Defined as “admitting into a society” (“Initiate” 210), initiation does not include subjecting a person to heinous crimes in order to be part of a group. As soon an initiation turns violent or becomes degrading, it is hazing and should be punished. From this, the advocation of violence arises because hazing sends the message that it is permissible to belittle and demean a person using violence. However, this is inexcusable and should be dealt with by using strong punishments. Under no circumstance is it acceptable to maim a human being, physically or emotionally. Therefore, hazing is completely different from initiation and is dangerous because it condones using brutality.

Due to the violent nature of hazing, it constitutes a major health risk that causes critical harm to those affected by it. The violence that occurs is scary enough, but the effects it can cause are even more frightening, and those consequences were seen in a female student named Tracey. In the 2003 article by Dirk Johnson and Susannah Meadows titled Girl fight: Savagery in The Chicago Suburbs: A teen ritual spits out of control. Who will pay?, Tracey and her fellow female students at Glenbrook North High School, located outside of Chicago, were hazed so severely at a football game that they were sent to the hospital. One of the perpetrators shoved coffee grinds into Tracey’s ears, forced a bucket over her head, and hit her repeatedly with a baseball bat that caused her to lose consciousness for two minutes. She sustained a severe concussion and is still suffering from headaches and memory loss. If that was not enough, the other girls were pushed, kicked, and hit with human feces and pig guts (Johnson, Meadows). Similarly, horrifying violence was seen at Binghamton University in New York when pledges joining a fraternity developed pneumonia and frostbite from being waterboarded and being forced to walk barefoot in the snow (Applebome). These elder fraternity members used the same torture tactic - waterboarding - that is used on terrorists at Guantamano Bay. Unfortunately, injuries are not the only repercussions of hazing, but death is also a consequence. On February 2, 2005 at Chicago State University, Matthew Carrington - a student studying there - died because of hazing. When he was pledging to a fraternity, Carrington and the other pledges were forced to exercise in raw sewage for hours in an isolated basement while fans blasted cold air on them. They were demanded to repeatedly drink water from a five gallon jug that was constantly being refilled and the students began to urinate and vomit on each other. Their cries resonated and clashed off the walls in the basement, but it did not stop the felons from hurting them. Lungs and brain swelling, Carrington collapsed, suffered a seizure, and died due to water intoxication (Korry). The unwarranted physical abuse that Carrington and others suffered from is despicable and further exemplifies the dangers of hazing. Your moral compass should tell you that hazing needs to be stopped to ensure the safety of others.

Not only is hazing a physical hazard, but it is also emotionally abusive and can have a detrimental effect on students for the rest of their lives. Emotional scarring is more damaging due to the memories that the students will have for the rest of their lives. According to Eileen Stevens, the president of the Committee to Halt Useless College Killings, the psychological effects of hazing are very troubling and can lead to serious abuse, accidents, and even suicide (“Hazing”). The psychological distress that females went through at the University of Northern Colorado illustrates how abusive hazing is and the psychological repercussions from it. Beth Hellwig-Olson, the student activities director at the University of Northern Colorado, described some of the psychological torment pledges went through to join a sorority. According to Hellwig-Olson, the females were forced to strip down while older sorority members circled them and marked their bodies with a magic marker to indicate their flaws (“Hazing and Sororities). These women were stripped of their clothes and their dignity. Additionally, Hellwig-Olson describes another demeaning practice in which the students were forced to have their body weight written on their foreheads for everyone to see (“Hazing and Sororities”). What person would want to feel degraded like this? As one can imagine, the emotional stress of hazing affects students’ behavior. A study released from Alfred University by Dr. Nadine C. Hoover - the survey’s lead investigator - illustrates the crippling effects of hazing on students’ behavior. The survey found that seventy percent of the 1,541 high school juniors and seniors interviewed felt emotional distress as a result of hazing. Students reported fighting with fellow comrades and parents, trouble eating, sleeping or concentrating, and feeling angry (“Hazing study suggests pervasive”). Why should someone be subjected to feeling like this? This psychological abuse needs to stop in order for a student to live a healthy life.

However, those who engage in hazing believe that it creates unity within a team and builds solidarity. James Olgoff - a psychology professor at Simon Fraser University - suggests that the “whole idea with hazing, the purpose of any kind of team activity . . . is the process of of de-individualization, in which one must lose his identity and emerge as a member of a collective” (“Hazing”). Olgoff’s statement is true in saying that building solidarity is the psychological factor behind hazing, but hazing does not build unity; it tears it down. When people are hazed they lose their identity and their dignity. How can that build camaraderie? Violence cannot build team spirit because it demeans and debilitates a person. There are alternative methods to build unity within a group that are safe and efficient, like volunteering or team outings.

As any ethical and smart person can see, hazing is wrong in all senses. The detrimental effects of hazing can cause students to be haunted by it for the rest of their lives. Some of the universities where hazing is seen turn a blind eye to it and do not issue punishments severe enough for hazing. Hazing requires more than a slap on the wrist because it condones violence, abuses physically, and scars emotionally. Abolishing hazing in every state would ensure the safety of students all over the country. Write to your state legislature today about ending hazing in your state.

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